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What Is a Facilitator in a Business? - Definition, Role & Quiz

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Shawn Grimsley

Facilitators help get things done. In this lesson, you'll learn about what a facilitator is and his role in business. You'll also have a chance to take a short quiz after the lesson to reinforce your knowledge.

We also recommend watching Business Ethics in Contemporary Businesses and Henry Mintzberg's Managerial Roles

Definition

A facilitator helps a group of people in a business to reach an outcome or decision for which everyone will take responsibility and be fully committed. A facilitator helps by providing a structure to a process enabling cooperative decision-making. You must note that a facilitator doesn't lead, but rather guides. The facilitator doesn't offer solutions or recommend decisions, but rather helps the group discover solutions. In the simplest terms, they are consensus builders.

Roles

Many view a facilitator as someone who can help the group view the matters they must confront as learning experiences and not as antagonistic or confrontational experiences. If you ever act as a facilitator, you will serve three functions:

  1. Intervention: You help the group learn from one another by intervening when necessary to calm tense situations or situations that are threatening to collapse the process. You intervene by guiding the conversation to a more productive avenue. You also create a safe environment that is receptive to the exchange of constructive feedback.
  2. Encourage objectivity: You help the group take a step back and observe itself and its interactions objectively. You help it theorize and experiment with new approaches of accomplishing goals, objectives, tasks or problem solving.
  3. Understanding the learning process: You help members understand their respective learning processes. Once someone understands how to learn, we can change many different types of situations into learning experiences. This should help put issues before the group in a more positive light and help facilitate a resolution by each member learning about the issues from different perspectives and different approaches to solutions.

Skills Necessary for a Facilitator

A good facilitator needs a set of core competencies, which include the following:

  • Careful observation skills
  • Active listening skills, which is where you provided feedback to the person communicating to you by restating or paraphrasing what has been spoken to confirm your understanding
  • Having a good since of timing--knowing when to intervene and when to refrain from intervening
  • Being sensitive to the groups dynamics
  • Permitting a group to move in directions or areas that you may not agree or feel uncomfortable about

Example

You have been brought into a small company that is controlled by its only two owners. Their business has suffered over the past few years and is on the brink of bankruptcy. They vehemently disagree on what to do to save their company that they have spent decades building. Your role is to help facilitate, or guide, the owners to a solution to their problem. You do not tell them what to do or even offer possible solutions. Rather, your role is to facilitate the structure and process by which they mutually agree to a solution to their problem. You do this by actively listening to their concerns and making sure they understand each other's perspectives. You have to pay attention to how these two interact and try to guide their interactions in a positive direction. You need to know when to intervene and stop a hostile situation from developing and when to let things simmer a while to see if they can work through a roadblock on their own, which, in itself, can be empowering. With your guidance, they agree on a plan of action to which they both are willing to pursue and be committed.

Summary

A facilitator is someone that is brought into to help guide a group to resolve an issue or solve a problem. A facilitator's role is actually quite limited, though rather important. A facilitator does not lead the group or offer solutions. Instead, a facilitator acts as a guide and structures a process that will help the group members reach a solution on their own. Core competencies necessary for an effective facilitator include keen observational skills, active listening, a good sense of timing, a sound knowledge of the group dynamics and being willing to go in a direction that the group wants even if you don't want to go there.

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