Step One: Figure out if you are a group facilitator or a facilitative leader
In my decade of exploring facilitation spaces I’ve learned that a lot of people call themselves facilitators. A lot of people don’t know what a group facilitator really is.
A group facilitator defined in industry jargon is…
“A facilitator is a substantively neutral third party acceptable to all members of the group, who has no substantive decision making authority. The facilitator’s purpose is to help a group increase its effectiveness by diagnosing and intervening largely on group process and structure.” – Roger Schwarz
“Facilitators serve as guides, leaders and enablers. They play an important part in a well-run meeting by ensuring the meeting is productive, focused, inclusive and effective.” – The International Institute for Facilitation
“A facilitator is a person who helps a group of people to work together better, understand their common objectives, and plan how to achieve these objectives, during meetings or discussions. In doing so, the facilitator remains “neutral”, meaning they do not take a particular position in the discussion” Wikipedia
Key characteristics of a group facilitator:
- They are not content or industry experts, meaning they do not need to have any knowledge about the content the group is working on.
- They are impartial and neutral to the ideas, opinions, and decisions the group makes.
- They have no decision making authority.
- They are a third party to the group, they are not an official group member.
When I think about all of those people who don’t fit the traditional definition of a facilitator, but they are still “facilitating,” I consider those people to be facilitative leaders. They are still facilitators, but they are not “group process facilitators.”
A facilitative leader is any professional who is guiding groups using facilitative approaches and promoting collaborative cultures. This includes group facilitators, educators, trainers, consultants, coaches, managers, supervisors, etc…
Figuring out whether you are a facilitator or a facilitative leader is important because it helps you understand what role you want to play in your profession. Questions to ask yourself:
- Do you want to be just a process expert? (Group facilitator)
- Do you want to be a process and content expert? (Facilitative Leader)
- Do you want to be neutral and impartial to group decisions? (Group facilitator)
- Do you want to influence the decisions the group makes with your knowledge and expertise? (Facilitative Leader)
Now you’ve thought about those questions let’s move onto step two:
Step Two: Figure out what your goal is as a facilitator
When figuring out your niche you have to ask yourself what you’re most excited and passionate about. What gifts do you want to share with this world?
Examples of facilitator’s goals would be helping people ….
- Learn a subject or skill
- Experience development, therapy, or healing
- Share and expand their perspectives
- Navigate conflict
- Make decisions
- Design their future
You can take our quiz here which asks you more thought provoking and introspective questions to help you discover your authentic facilitator mission.
In addition to identifying the goal you are moving towards in your facilitation practice, you should also assess your skillet.
Step Three: Figure out your skillset
You can always grow your skill set. To be a great facilitator you have to push your comfort zone and develop skills that may not feel natural to you. However, it’s also helpful to assess what you naturally have strong abilities in and what you prefer to do. What do you like and not like doing?
Some examples of facilitative skills are:
- Are you able to handle people’s intense emotions without getting triggered?
- Are you able to maintain impartiality when you are facilitating with people who have very different political ideologies than you?
- Are you able to keep focused when the group starts going off track and bring people back to the topic?
You may have heard of Ikagi, a japanese concept meaning “a reason for being.” As shown in the chart below, finding your niche in facilitation looks like finding the intersections of what you love to do, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.
Understanding your goals and skill sets is one piece of the puzzle. Understanding why that goal is so important to you is monumental when it comes to rooting into your story. Which leads to step four.
Step Four: Figure out your why
By understanding your “why” you can start to share a compelling story. When you market yourself to clients you can say…
“I’m a mediator, I help people move through conflict.”
Why: “Because I believe in supporting a culture that sees conflict as a normal and inevitable part of life that can lead to deep relational transformation.”
Finding your why helps you find purpose. It helps you find authentic facilitation approaches and techniques to use in your practice. It helps you discover what clients are aligned to your deeper mission.
When trying to figure out your “why” think about this question: What cultural shifts do I want my work to create in this world?
I’m one of those people where I find myself saying, I want to do it all! All of those facilitation goals sound interesting to me. If you are one of those people too, know that you can absolutely be a broad range generalist. You can have lots of skills across many disciples. Multidisciplinary professionals are the future.
However in the market, when it comes to making money. A client(s) wants a specific deliverable. They want things like a strategic plan, a planned dialogue, or professional training. Knowing what your niche product or service is helps you market yourself in the industry.
“Do what compels you, strategically.” ~ Malia Josephine