The Good, the Bad and the Tricky… finding the right process facilitator

In my last blog I distinguished a process facilitator from others whose role also uses the term, e.g. learning facilitators in the education world.

Let’s look a bit closer at the process facilitator role and what to look for… and look out for! when choosing one.

Identify needs, purpose and outcomes

Source: The Noun Project

First and foremost, the effective process facilitator will take time to fully understand a client’s needs, purpose, and desired outcome (the nature of what is required.. not the content!)

Selects the right methods and tools

They will carefully select, and if necessary create from scratch, the methods and tools to help the client’s group(s) fully and authentically engage in the subject matter.

Source: The Noun Project

Shows care for the group

The effective process facilitator will take care to find out what will work for all the people gathering. They will show that they value inclusivity and equity and reflect this in the design.

Focuses on sense making and consensus creating

The effective process facilitator will demonstrate excellent listening, communication, questioning and prompting skills: they will apply these skills in a way that enables the group to synthesise and make sense of its situation, and which supports the group to generate outcomes that everyone owns.

Source: The Noun Project

What to look out for…

 Now you’ve got some ideas about what to look for in an effective process facilitator.. what do you look out for? Like any profession, not all facilitators are created equal…

The facipulator… 

Like any field and profession, it pays to be aware of the snake oil merchants. Some providers, calling themselves facilitators, can actually be facipulators in disguise.

These individuals tend to use their charisma and charm with a group to provide a guise of engaging, whilst leading the group towards a predetermined outcome of either the client’s, or their own making. You’ll leave that gathering feeling ‘done to,’ or ‘done over.’


Source: Clipart Max

The sticky note farmer…

Then there are those calling themselves facilitators that like using lots of fun methods to create heaps of ideas, pictures and nice little diagrams virtually or on a board or paper. Unfortunately, to borrow the words of one of our clients, this is where the ‘sticky note farmer‘ stops! Those ideas aren’t synthesised, and clear decisions and next steps aren’t reached.

You’ll leave this gathering feeling flat, that you’ve wasted time, and you may feel cynical if this wasn’t your first such rodeo.

Source: Freepik

I have the newest hammer! And everything’s a nail…

Sometimes it’s a client coming to us who falls into this camp… “I saw a great method, can you use it to…?”

Knowing how to select a method that will serve the group’s purpose is a skill in itself. Clarifying purpose, however, must always come before choosing a technique or method. Be cautious with those quick to leap on the latest bandwagon as the answer to every need. If you’re the client, allow the facilitator the professional courtesy of suggesting an alternative if they aren’t quite so enthusiastic about the tool you liked the sound of!

Source: The Noun Project

OK, so how can I tell?

You could ask if the facilitator knows about, and if they do, whether they adhere to the International Association of Facilitators Code of Ethics. If they give you a blank stare, that’s your prompt to probe a bit more deeply.

International Association of Facilitators

Ask what your prospective facilitator sees as important, and check that against the ‘things to look for’ outlined above.

Get a feel for how well they are listening for your needs. Find out what formal training they have had. If you’re not sure, seek a reference or two, to satisfy yourself before you decide.

What we offer

We provide independent, professional facilitation services. We also teach group facilitation skills through our Technology of Participation Facilitative Leadership Program courses. We offer the globally recognised Certified ToP Facilitator award.

To find out more about our services or training, see more here.