Have you ever been asked “What do you do?” and upon answering “I’m a group process facilitator”, gotten a blank stare or the follow-up question “What is that?”

We probably all have our “elevator speech” answer — mine is “Remember your last awful meeting? My job is to make sure that doesn’t happen – that people listen to each other and have productive meetings in a short time.” This usually gets a nod and sometimes a wry smile. Or if they say, “like a mediator?” I say “Facilitation is to conflict resolution as health promotion is to a medical response to a health problem – we are about conflict prevention.”

But of course, group process facilitation involves a lot to make that happen.

First, we work carefully with the client or meeting sponsor to make sure we have a common understanding of what the group needs. Often this takes as much time as the event itself, to truly understand the aims of the meeting or event.

Then we use all the group process tools at our disposal to plan a specific, clear process appropriate for this group to get them to the results they need.

We ensure our plans will create and sustain as much authentic participation as possible, so that everyone is engaged creatively, diverse perspectives are heard and respected, and conflict is managed.

We use our plans to guide the group to outcomes that are appropriate and useful to the group, making sure our own opinions on content are set aside so the group can come up with its own results.

Behind the scenes, we take time to build our knowledge of group processes and a range of facilitation methods. We maintain our professional standing.

And finally, we continually practice self-assessment and awareness, and act with integrity, trusting group potential.

As Beatrice Briggs says at the conclusion of her video “What Do Facilitators Do?”:
“It’s not necessarily an easy job, but it’s never boring!”

The International Association of Facilitators drew together a set of competencies that define what a competent facilitator knows and does. Then the organization built a performance-based certification process to discern how well a facilitator manifests these competencies. You can find more about this on the IAF website.

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