Who is a facilitator?

Who is a facilitator?

Vivek Jayaraman
30th Jan, 2022

After the Scrum Master, Agile Coach, and related roles got traction; people understood that these roles were associated with facilitators. So, who are these facilitators? What is their essential skill set? 



Sam Kaner states "A facilitator is an individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy. They are a 'content-neutral' party who, by not taking sides or expressing or advocating a point of view during the meeting, can advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group's work. A facilitator can also, be a learning or a dialogue guide to assist a group in thinking deeply about its assumptions, beliefs, and values and about its systemic processes and context." 

By definition, a facilitator has three key attributes, and they are,

  • No Authority 
  • No Bias 
  • Accepted By All 

In the presence of authority, people will not be thinking at their best. Instead, they move away from thinking and move towards being compliant. Voicing out opinions, sharing ideas, choosing what is best, and identifying suitable solutions may not happen in the presence of authority.  

People will be in disciplinary nature with the company of control. So, to help people to do their best thinking, the facilitator will not have authority. Think of the reporting manager trying to facilitate a meeting. The facilitator does not make a decision or have decision-making authority.  

Suppose the facilitator benefits from the group's decision or influences the outcome. In that case, a severe bias persists with the facilitator. Considering a subject matter expert facilitates a brainstorming discussion, they can influence the group to think what they want them to think. Thereby influencing the outcome. Also, if they have a stake in the end result, it is natural to be biased. So, a facilitator always remains neutral and stays unbiased during facilitation. The facilitator thus doesn't get a vote or opinion on the core topic of discussion.  


The facilitation process will go ineffective if the group does not accept the facilitator. By being substantively neutral, the facilitator gains the group members' acceptance. The facilitator is not a group member, but the entire group is a client of the facilitator.  


Key Skills 

There are a few critical skills that are a must for a facilitator. It's an exhaustive list, but they are a must for a facilitator. They are, 

  • Listening  
  • Observing 
  • Communicating Clearly 
  • Not colluding 
  • Identifying similarities and differences between statements 
  • Understanding different perspectives 
  • Analyzing and synthesizing issues 
  • Identifying Assumptions 
  • Patience 
  • Intervening ineffective and ineffective behavior 
  • Being a model of effective behavior 
  • Providing feedback without creating effective reactions 
  • Accepting feedback without reacting defensively 
  • Developing the trust of group members 
  • Empathizing with group members 
  • Monitoring and changing one's own behavior 
  • Providing support and encouragement 

To support the group in their problem-solving and decision-making, the facilitator does 

  • Encourage full participation 
  • Promotes mutual understanding 
  • Cultivates Shared responsibility 
  • Fosters inclusive solutions 

Full Participation 
In a group, every member must voice out their opinions and thoughts. Diversity in ideas helps the group identify the best possible solutions at all times. It also allows group members to voice out even the problematic issues more courageously. The facilitator helps the group with full participation.  
Mutual Understanding 
Helping people understand each other's ideas and thought process is vital in group decision-making. It strengthens the bond among group members, and they eventually understand the needs of one another.  
Inclusive Solutions 
The collective wisdom of every member is the group is termed group wisdom. Harvesting the group wisdom is an artistic work that a facilitator performs. The integration of group members' perspectives, ideas, needs, and thoughts leads to group wisdom.  
Shared Responsibility 
Every one of the group members assumes responsibility for the thinking process that eventually leads to the decision-making. Every group member is accountable for the outcome of the discussion and the decision.  

The role of the facilitator is to provide groups and organizations with fair and inclusive procedures so that they can collaborate and achieve synergy. A facilitator is very crucial for businesses as it depends upon the facilitator only if the companies Will do business together or not. Thus, having the right facilitator has a large impact on how a company will collaborate with other organizations and therefore, succeed. 

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