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How to be a great facilitator

Don't neglect the critical skill of facilitation as you strive to become a great business leader.

Facilitation is one of those capabilities that can truly make or break a team. It can lift an 'average team" to become an exceptional team. Good facilitation can take a misaligned, uncoordinated dysfunctional unit and turn it into a team united behind a single purpose and performance objective. Of all of the "low tech, high touch" communication and leadership tools that can promote exceptional performance, group facilitation is one of the most powerful. It has the power to lift individuals and teams to overcome obstacles and reach new levels of performance. In some ways, the professional sporting coach is like a facilitator. They communicate at a human level, with each and every individual on the team and they engage with the team as a single unit. They dissect problems, coax out solutions and generate action and energy. These characteristics or attributes are also synonymous with good leadership. In fact, great facilitating is great leading and great leading needs great facilitating. Ever see a great leader in a group setting - they orchestrate, they motivate, they guide, the probe, they push, they encourage. They facilitate. It's rare to see a good leader who isn't a good facilitator, or a good facilitator who isn't a good leader. That said, what are the skills that a great facilitator (or great leader facilitating), uses to set them apart from the average facilitator? In the eyes of the team at Expert Toolkit, we'd like to nominate these 6 skills that make good facilitators great facilitators: 

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.

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