One of those skills that may genuinely determine the success or failure of a group is the ability to facilitate. It has the potential to transform an "average squad" into an excellent one. A group that is misaligned, disorganised, and dysfunctional can be transformed into a team that is unified around a common purpose and performance target via the use of effective facilitation. One of the most effective ways to foster outstanding performance is via the use of "low tech, high touch" communication and leadership techniques. Group facilitation is one of the most potent of these methods. It has the capacity to inspire and motivate individuals as well as teams to overcome challenges and achieve new levels of performance. The role of the professional sports coach is similar to that of a facilitator in certain respects. They interact with each and every member on the team on a human level, and they engage with the team as a unified whole. They analyse the issues, tease out potential solutions, and spark both action and excitement. These qualities or traits are also linked with effective leadership. In point of fact, excellent facilitation is equivalent to excellent leadership, and excellent leadership necessitates excellent facilitation. Have you ever seen a brilliant leader in action inside a group? They are the ones who choreograph, inspire, guide, probe, push, and encourage their followers. They make things easier. It's not often that you come across a good leader who isn't also a good facilitator, and conversely, it's not often that you come across a good facilitator who isn't also a good leader. Having stated that, what are some of the abilities that a great facilitator (or a great leader who facilitates) employs that set them apart from the skills used by the typical facilitator? The crew here at Expert Toolkit believes that the following six talents are what separate outstanding facilitators from excellent ones, and we'd like to designate them as such:
They make lots of eye contact
They use eye contact relentlessly. Not creepy or uncomfortable eye contact, but eye contact that connects with individuals, draws them in, solicits their input and gains their commitment. It's warm, inviting, encouraging, inspiring eye contact - at a human level.
They know the power of silence
They know that silence is powerful. As a facilitator you have the power to control the pace and vocal energy in any room - your own and that of the group. Great facilitators use silence to create suspense, stimulate ideas and allow for the team to step into the space and contribute, breakthrough barriers, make commitments and take action.
They are masters of human behavior
They constantly read the body language and other nonverbal cues and communication of the audience. They can sense the important clues that are coming through - resentment, fear, anxiety, buy-in, engagement, energy, positivity and commitment. They use this information wisely.
They promote inclusion
Great facilitators never allow bystanders. Equally, they never allow individuals to dominate to the detriment of the team. They create opportunities for everyone to contribute. They level the field, remove hierarchies and cultural barriers to bring out the knowledge, ideas and skills of everyone in the room.
They use their voice to its fullest
Voice, body language, energy and style all make up a powerful mix for the facilitator. Voice in particular is a versatile asset that enables the great facilitator to influence the pace, engagement, intensity and focus of the group. They use all of their voice to keep the group engaged through variation in tone, volume and speed.
They don't fear the tactile
Great facilitators don't fear space or touch. They use it confidently to engage with different parts of the audience, to control attention and even engage directly with specific participants. They might walk near or even touch a challenging participant - to get them onboard or to get what's on their mind out into the open.
There you have it, the 6 facilitation skills we see in the most exceptional facilitators. Master them if you want to be a great facilitator. They will also add to your leadership capabilities in ways you hadn't expected. For more on becoming a great facilitator, check out Expert Toolkit's How to be a Great Facilitator.