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Three Qualities of a Good Facilitator in Team Building

Sometimes they are used and sometimes not, however, effective facilitators can guide any team building activity to achieve great, long lasting results. How do they do this?

There are many qualities that really good facilitators possess.  Three important ones are:

1.  Keep the desired outcome in sight.  Good facilitators must be in full command of the outcomes that are to be achieved by the team building activity.  If the goal is to improve communications within a department, the facilitator must ensure that all activity must be directed to accomplish that particular goal.

You’ve heard the adage created by Lewis Carroll “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” If the facilitator, the guide, takes any road and is not competent about leading the participants in the right direction, your goals will not be met.  What a shame.

Often when I see companies spending a lot of money on team building activities, they have no specific goal to achieve.  Some companies believe that teambuilding activities are “good for morale.”  They aren’t good for morale unless that’s the goal!  So if the goal is to build morale, the right team building activity must be selected on that basis.  And the facilitator must be cognizant of the goal and actively involved to guide the team toward achieving those better attitudes.

2.  Include all voices.  I’ve attended many teambuilding activities as a participant – often unwillingly.  Nothing aggravated me more than to not be heard.  Okay, part of that is my own personal gripe, yet it’s the job – the requirement – of every facilitator to make sure every voice gets heard and incorporated into the overall direction the group is taking.  If all participants do not have a chance to express themselves and have their opinions included in the effort, it could not be called a “team building activity.”  That would be a meeting.

Good facilitators know how to get people to speak up and contribute.  I can’t tell you how many times a client has told me “You’ll never get Mary or Tom or Henry to speak up.”  Heh heh.  A good facilitator has that skill set.

One of the things I always ask a client before I facilitate an activity is “Do you honestly want everyone to speak up?  Are you willing to listen to every voice?”  If the answer is “no” or a hesitant “yes”, I have information that tells me I will be disabled as a guide for the group. And yes, I have walked away from the opportunity if the client is insistent on filtering opinions under my watch.

3.  Balance the activity with the clock.  Team building activities always have at least one limitation – time.  Whatever time is allowed for an activity is the time a facilitator must honor.  In the discussions that take place during the planning of the activity, the facilitator will be able to judge whether or not the time allocated for the activity is appropriate.  He/she may recommend a different activity based on the length of time scheduled.  I have had to tell clients on more than one occasion, “What you are trying to achieve using that activity is just not possible in the time you have allowed.”  Then, of course, I suggest an alternative activity.

Again, I’ve had to sit through many teambuilding sessions with a facilitator who led us straight into over time while we stretched and yawned and dreamed of that margarita afterwards all while knowing we had yet to complete the agenda.  That’s torture!

The good facilitator not only helps the team members benefit from the activity but honors the goal, all voices and keeps an eagle eye on the clock.

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One Response to Three Qualities of a Good Facilitator in Team Building

  1. I like Maeghan’s reply very much about empowering the team to solve the porelbm. One of the best learnings I took from my recent Foundations and CALC 1 class was that Action Learning is only one tool in the tool box. I was in class for 4 days straight and found myself completely exhausted at the end of every day. The brain needs some stimulation in order to keep functioning. And in the absence of caffeine or sugar (which are my favorite brain pick-me-ups smile!), changing up how you do things gives the brain a fresh perspective.I’d build on Maeghan’s reply by suggesting that when you introduce Action Learning you find a way to slip in that it’s a very strong tool in the tool box and can be used in conjunction with all tools at your disposal to make a breakthrough impact. Then, in session, after you ask your way to the root porelbm, you may ask, What other tools do we have at our disposal to help us at this point? (Example: I’m certified in InsideOut Coaching. I love some of the questions from that process and can see introducing them as good questions to ask during the action to solution phase of Action Learning.)Good luck!

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