What Does It Mean to Be a Facilitator? A Story About Unlocking Your Team’s Potential!

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Have you ever heard about facilitators? Ever wondered what they actually do and what their purpose is? Maybe you’re thinking about hiring a facilitator for your team. Or searching for a dream job and the idea of facilitation has piqued your interest enough to do further research?

Well, you’ve found just the right place to find your answers. In this post, we are going to dive deep into the role of a facilitator, the undercover hero who guides group discussions and makes sure every voice is heard and respected.

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What is a facilitator?

A short answer would be that a facilitator is a person who guides and manages group meetings and discussions in order to achieve certain, previously determined goals.

But to dive even deeper into the topic, we need to understand how exactly a facilitator is supposed to act. The most crucial aspect of this role is to serve as a neutral party, promote open communication among group members, and make sure that all participants’ opinions are not only heard but also valued. If we were to draw a comparison to a more “traditional” profession, it would probably be a mediator – a neutral third party that assists others in reaching an agreement. The difference is that while in mediation, you typically deal with participants having different objectives, in facilitation, the main goal is shared among every team member. Whether it’s coming up with new ad campaign ideas or creating a fresh interface for an online brand, it’s up to the team to determine.

As you may probably guess, a facilitator typically shouldn’t take an active role in the conversation or provide solutions (even though it might be tempting sometimes). Their purpose is to support a team and help them make their own steps toward success, all while balancing between encouraging active participation and producing real results.

But… If the team has to come up with their own ideas, why would they need a facilitator? Let us explain.

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Why does facilitation work?

  • It certainly makes the meetings more effective! By having a facilitator encourage participation, guide discussions, and share non-conventional exercises to stimulate creativity, the team may reach meaningful outcomes even faster than expected.
  • It greatly improves interpersonal dynamics by fostering open communication and partnership between team members.
  • Facilitators help mitigate risks through certain exercises. For example, the “Six Thinking Hats” method allows the group to consider ideas from six different perspectives, enabling them to anticipate and address potential obstacles before implementation.
  • They increase individual participation by making sure that all team members are actively engaged and invested in achieving shared goals.
  • As neutral observers, facilitators manage conflict constructively, transforming disagreements into opportunities for growth and consensus-building.
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How does a facilitator work?

1. They prepare:

They begin by interviewing their client and team members to understand their needs and expectations. Then, it’s time to design meetings, pick the best exercises and activities, and define desired results. Based on everybody’s input, they can conduct thorough research on the topic to facilitate meaningful discussions during the meeting.

2. They lead the meeting:

Starting with welcoming participants, facilitators begin to work as a guide, throughout the workshop. They’re here to make sure the ideation process runs smoothly and help the team reach consensus on what the best solution might be.

3. They moderate conversations:

The facilitator is here to direct the flow of conversations. They can do it using various techniques, like open-ended questions or active listening. Facilitators also observe group dynamics in case there is a need for mediation – sometimes conflicts will occur naturally, and it’s the facilitator’s job to ensure that even a negative opinion is still constructive and respectful.

4. They show results:

It’s time to gather meeting notes and share the resources with participants to support ongoing efforts. There might also be a report to write, but we’ll skip the unpleasant bureaucracy.

team discussing a project
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Meet the facilitator’s best friend: A whiteboard

Yes, we know, we talk about whiteboards on this blog quite a lot. But there is a compelling reason for it!

Along with a simple marker, a skilled facilitator, and eager participants, this humble tool can transform an ordinary meeting into a dynamic and productive event! How is that? Well…

  • Boards are irreplaceable in capturing and organizing thoughts during brainstorming sessions. Participants can quickly write down their ideas, draw connections, and visually organize concepts on the spot.
  • It’s common knowledge that creating visual diagrams helps you understand complex ideas much faster. After all, boards are used in schools for that exact reason—to help explain intricate concepts simply. Whether it’s by drawing diagrams, flowcharts, or sketches, boards allow us to illustrate ideas in a way that’s easily digestible for everyone.
  • Physical writing surfaces are your go-to tools in facilitating group activities, such as mind mapping or prioritization exercises. They help the teammates not only grow closer together but also develop critical thinking and decision-making skills.
  • Whiteboards promote active participation by giving everyone a platform to share their input. Even though sometimes it might be stressful to come forward, a good facilitator and a welcoming team will make sure that even their most shy member will want to contribute. They also nurture a sense of ownership and commitment among participants, leading to more robust results.

But maybe, just maybe, a board and markers are not enough for you. We totally get it, sometimes everyone might feel a little bit fancy. When it comes to face-to-face meetings, pastel note stickers, fun magnets, and bright voting dots might do, but what happens when you need to turn your physical board into a digital canvas?

team brainstorming ideas on a whiteboard
Image: Canva.com

A board is great and all but this meeting is online

We hear you and we understand your worry. That’s why we would like to recommend ShareTheBoard. And here’s 7 reasons why you should consider it:

  1. Basically, all you need is a laptop. STB works with any camera you have, whether it’s the one built into your computer or a fancy PTZ, STB is going to work for you either way.
  2. You don’t even have to own a whiteboard, actually. We’re not kidding, any surface will do. Whether it’s a blackboard, flipchart, or a simple piece of paper, STB doesn’t discriminate.
  3. It transforms everything you wrote, drew, or doodled from your working space into digital content, keeping everything legible for future reference.
  4. STB automatically saves your work as you go, and allows you to securely share your scribbles with others.
  5. You can also still work on this whiteboard, even with remote team members. How? STB allows everyone to add digital annotations directly to your whiteboard. You’ll be able to see them on your laptop, in real time.
  6. STB can turn your handwritten work into an ACTUAL digital form, whether it’s text, tables, flowcharts, or code.
  7. To go even further, STB can actually interpret what you wrote on your board. It can generate a summary or detailed analysis of your handy work, making the worst part of facilitation – reports – not so bad.
a whiteboard with sticky notes on it
Image: Canva.com

So… Now what?

Do you feel inspired by the idea of facilitation? Thinking about finding some facilitators for your upcoming team workshops? Do you feel like giving it a shot yourself?

Or… Maybe you would like to try out ShareTheBoard? If that’s the case, we’re offering a 7-day free trial! You can spend a full week experiencing STB’s benefits firsthand, whether you’re a facilitator or just a tech enthusiast. Go on, give it a try – you won’t regret it!

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