35 Facilitation Skills

Acknowledging – helping people see things they may take for granted or are unable to see about their values, contributions, or impact on the group.

Example: “This group cares deeply about team spirit and making a meaningful contribution.”

Articulating – succinctly describing what is happening in the moment by sharing observations, naming group dynamics, or group process.

Example: “The group seems both afraid and excited about confronting the director. I sense fear, excitement, and a desire to be understood. How can you use the group energy to request what you want?”

Asking Empowering Questions – using open-ended questions to evoke clarity, insight, and action.

Examples: “What is important about this?” “What stands out about the group process?” “What is next?”

Brainstorming – generating ideas, expanding new possibilities, or developing strategies.

Example: “Let’s come up with all the ways you can have fun while getting the results you want.”

Challenging – requesting that the group stretch beyond their perception of their limitations.

Example: “The challenge is to utilize everyone’s talents to get over this hurdle, without leaving some people out. I challenge you to find new ways to include everyone.”

Championing – believing in and encouraging the resourcefulness of the group and highlighting their desire or ability.

Example: “This group has demonstrated a lot of creativity throughout the planning process. How can you use that creativity right now?”

Clarifying – succinctly articulating the essence of what has been communicated, and speaking to the deeper message or implication in the words.

Example: “I’m hearing that members of the group want autonomy and a sense of community, and you’re looking for ways to have both?”

Creating Trust – developing safe space to embrace five elements of trust: reliability, acceptance, openness, straightforwardness, and caring.

Example: “What are some requests you have of the group that will allow you to work well together?

Choosing Curiosity – stepping into the space of childlike wonder and “not knowing” for the sake of opening up possibility for the group.

Example: “One person said she wants to slow down; another wants to pick up the pace. I’m curious what really matters to each of you?”

Discovering the Wisdom – trusting the group to explore and discover fresh insights, new understanding, and alternative perspectives.

Example: “It sounds like the group learned a lot from the experience. What insights are beginning to form in you?”

Embracing Polarities – valuing needs that appear to be in conflict without making one need more important than the other.

Examples: “So group members seem to need both freedom and security. How can you have both?” or, “Imagine the experience of freedom and then envision the experience of security and notice the internal differences.”

Establishing Accountability – creating structures to verify the action plan is on track or to remind people to actively live their values, vision, or goals.

Example: “What will you do and when will you do it?” or “ How will you stay on track with your plan?”

Expressing Vulnerability – honestly expressing your internal experience to deepen authenticity and build connection.

Example: “I’m feeling overwhelmed right now and I really want to hear each of you clearly. Can we slow this down so that I fully understand each of you?”

Holding the Focus – keeping the group’s attention on the original agenda and what is important.

Example: “Let’s come back to the group’s original intention – how do you support each other as change agents?”

Holding Silence – knowing when to be quiet so the group can fully experience the power of the moment and discover their resourcefulness.

Example: A group member says, “We seem lost and confused. Maybe we should ask the facilitator for the answer.” You hold silence while the group experiences confusion and discovers its own answers.

Identifying Group’s Agenda – listening for what matters, both in the big picture and in the moment.

Example: “The purpose of our meeting is to establish a long-term strategic plan, and right now two people have expressed a desire to clarify the outcomes of today’s meeting.”

Interrupting – cutting through storytelling to capture the essence of what was communicated, support the group’s agenda, help them stay on track, or develop connection.

Example: “Hold up a minute. Joe, you said something similar a moment ago. I’m imagining that’s because you really want to be understood. Would you like someone to tell you their understanding of what you said?”

Intuiting – trusting your inner knowing and expressing your gut reactions.

Example: “I have a sense (hunch, intuition) that there is a black veil over this whole situation. What are you not saying?”

Listening Empathically – listening for what the group wants at the core and reflecting feelings, needs, values, and vision.

Example: “I’m hearing a wide range of feelings about José leaving the group. Some are hurt or disappointed, and others are relieved. Underneath these feelings I’m sensing a need for inclusion. How does that resonate with you?”

Metaphor Making – using images, stories, and pictures to deepen learning and reflect the essence of the situation.

Example: “You’ve hauled this baby around for nine months; put your heart and soul into it, and now that the baby is in the birth canal wanting to be born, but a few parts of this collective body have given out from exhaustion.”

Moving into Action – requesting actions that are aligned with the expressed group values.

Example: “What can each of you do this week so that we can launch this initiative on time?”

Observing – articulating what we see or hear and allowing the group to make their own meaning and choices about it.

Example: “Five minutes ago the group was physically very close and everyone was leaning forward. One person left the room, several people leaned backward and a few people looked at the floor when Tamal suggested you give each other feedback. What are you moving away from?”

Offering an Inquiry – asking a reflective question that helps the group explore new learning and insights more deeply.

Example: “How do your relationships impact the quality of the work?”

Planning – eliciting the direction, goals, action plan, and method for monitoring progress.

Example: “What are the action steps needed to accomplish this goal?”

Reading the Energy – paying attention to the flow and what is emerging, trusting your intuition (including the wisdom of your body, senses, emotions) to connect with the underlying forces.

Example: “The group energy has shifted several times during this process, tentative at the start, animated as you engaged in the dialogue, and subdued as you start to look at the action plan. What is the elephant in the room?”

Reflecting – receiving and mirroring back what people have said to move the group toward deeper wisdom or energetic shift.

Example: Jin says she’s tired of being so nice and wants people to listen to her. You take in her desire, then reflect, “Jin, you want to express yourself more freely and you want to be heard. Lily, will you let Jen know what stood out for you about what she said?”

Re-framing – sharing a new perspective that opens up broader possibilities.

Example: “You said you think Paolo and Mary are in a stalemate. Perhaps they care deeply about this environment and want to create a solution that works for everyone.”

Requesting – asking for a specific action without being attached to the outcome.

Example: “To deepen the learning, I request that each of you find a peer coaching partner that you coach every week. How many of you say yes? No? Counter-offer?”

Self-Managing – setting aside own internal reactions when triggered and staying connected rather than expressing judgment, opinions, or advice.

Example: Two members in the group have become romantically involved and others observe that the quality of the work is slipping. As facilitator, you feel challenged because you’ve been putting your own romantic relationship ahead of your work, and decide to take time to process your internal reaction after the session. Then you step into curious, focused listening where every group member’s needs matter.

Setting Goals – setting intentions for desired outcomes that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound, and communicated.

Example: “What will you create and how will that look when it is complete?”

Synthesizing – summarizing, weaving in contributions, and creating synergy.

Example: “I’ve heard three areas of concern: including the business dimension, prioritizing academic honesty, and setting a realistic time line.”

Tracking – knowing where you are in the process, remembering what’s been said, what’s complete and what’s still open in the group.

Example: “I’m tracking that we aren’t finished talking about the goals for the day, Sonya wants some time to talk about transportation and Gillian wants to brainstorm new ways to build teamwork. Can we finish with the goals and then come back to transportation and teamwork?”

Visioning – exploring the big picture and creating a visual picture of a better future.

Example: “Take away all the limitations and imagine you are successful beyond your wildest dreams. What if this team were the best team of all time? What do you see?”

Written by Martha Lasley, Originally published in Facilitating with Heart

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