Article author: Andrei Kolesnikov,
IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator, mentor IAF Global Mentorship Program, expert on creating presentations and public speaking, business trainer, founder and CEO of PowerLexis.
Such requests as “Please, could you recommend a professional facilitator ...” pop up as ever more often across social networks. Dozens and sometimes hundreds of names come up. But looking at most of them you can't help thinking: “What do they have to do with facilitation?”.
The point is that today many people consider themselves to be facilitators - trainers, consultants, psychologists, strategy experts, coaches, HRs, conference speakers… « Oh, it's really very simple: I often work with groups and I know well how to stick cards to the wall…As for the word 'facilitation',well, it's nothing but a hype and there's no challenge about it.»
So, are they actually facilitators? Well, probably, some of them are, but definitely not all.
None of them is a facilitator by default, let alone a professional facilitator.
Trainer ≠ facilitator
Consultant ≠ Facilitator
Strategy Expert ≠ Facilitator
Senior Manager ≠ Facilitator
Conference Moderator ≠ Facilitator
Psychologist ≠ Facilitator
HR ≠ facilitator
Coach ≠ Facilitator
and so on.
Sure enough many of them can use facilitation techniques in their work. However, it does not make them facilitators. If you apply SWOT –analyses, for instance, it does not automatically mean you are a marketer. If you sometimes use Photoshop to polish personal pics, then you do not automatically become a designer. If you speak a little English in your trips, it does not make you an interpretor, especially a simultaneous interpretor.
Some guys from the list above indeed can happen to be not just trainers, coaches, HRs, but facilitators and even professional facilitators as well. Take me for example. I developed into a professional facilitator out of a manager, marketer and trainer, the experience and skills gained in those domains helped me a lot.
Then what is facilitation and who is a facilitator? There are lots of definitions, but I love this one:
«Facilitation ( English ‘facilitate’ – “make easy, render less difficult”; Latin ‘facilis’ – “easy to do”) is a professional organization of a group work process aimed at discussion, clarification and achievement of goals set by the group.”
What is really vital about this process?
- 1. “Organization of the group work process”. The facilitator is responsible for the process. He must know a lot of different group work techniques, as well as be truly able to work with a group. The facilitator has no right to intervene into the content of the discussion, to express his own opinion or to propose ideas on the content, he has to be impartial and neutral. At the same time, he is has got to apply such kind of methods and ask such kind of questions that will deepen the discussions and enable the participants get to the core.
- 2. “Professional” - it is possible to organize the process of group work in different ways. You can just cook at home, and you can be a reputable chef. The same refers to facilitation. The qualifications and ethics of the facilitator are the best things to look at if you want to know whether he is a professional (check the IAF Russia Chapter page). Even when someone is getting his CPF, IAF put their main focus on his/her compliance with the Core Competencies and Code of Ethics.
- 3. “Group” - the facilitator always works with the group (even if it comprises of 2 people), and not just with one person. Furthermore, the facilitator is focused on solving a specific business problem that the group is able to tackle.
- 4. “Discussion, clarification and achievement of goals” - that is one of the tasks the facilitator has to handle. He is to structure the discussion process so that every participant has the opportunity to express his opinion (not only the most active ones). He has to ensure that everyone understands who actually meant what and help them come to a joint and mutually-shared decision.
- 5. “Set Goals” - the customer must clearly set facilitation goals and agree them with the facilitator. If the customer does not have a clear understanding of why he needs the session, then the professional facilitator has no right to hold it.
Why do so many people think facilitation is a hype and believe they can facilitate a process at a professional level?
Well, I suppose, that is all about the Dunning Kruger effect.
It is a “metacognitive distortion, which results in low-qualified people making wrong conclusions and poor decisions at the same time being unable to recognize their own mistakes due to the low level of their qualifications”.
Therefore, the main recommendation for everyone studying this relatively new and interesting profession is to really learn from professional experts, who will be able to uncover the full depth of facilitation and foster your further development.