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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0038| January 29, 2002
7,700 Subscribers


Select the Right Facilitator for the Job.

We all benefit by educating our potential clients about what to look for in a facilitator.


It will only improve our profession to help educate those potential clients that might be seeking a facilitator. To assist in that effort,  we've compiled some of those things we think a client should look for when making this selection. You might want to draw on this information and create your own guide to assist potential clients in making the right selection. This effort will not only increase the probability that you are a good fit with client needs, but will also demonstrate your desire to make the client's needs a priority over "getting the gig."


While the primary focus of facilitation is on process, selecting a facilitator who understands the jargon and technical scope of a particular project can be invaluable to keeping things moving and to determine the relative importance or triviality of what's being discussed. 

Questions useful to determine appropriateness of experience: What is your general experience as a facilitator? What is your experience with issues or situations like this? With participants like ours? How long did those processes take? What kinds of results were achieved? If you do not have specific knowledge, do you think it will hinder your effectiveness? If so, how would you propose to address this?

Since neutrality is a key to effective facilitation, the "right" facilitator for the job should not only be skilled in facilitation techniques, but also be free of any vested interest in the topic being discussed that might impact the process.

Questions useful to determine process approach: Do you specialize in one approach? Describe what kind of process you usually use in these circumstances. What are some things that would not work here? Why? Do you generally conduct assessments before conducting a facilitation? If so, describe the assessment process.


Questions useful to clarify roles. What role will you play and what impact do you want to have on the outcome? Do you think we have the necessary groups involved? If not, what do you suggest we do to involve others?

How can the parties get in touch with you? What kind of staff will be assisting you? What is your availability? Will you handle logistical arrangements for meetings? What kind of help from our staff will you need?

. How do you charge for your services? How would you estimate the costs for this project? How could costs be kept to a minimum?

Personal characteristics
A good facilitator will exhibit strength combined with flexibility, whereby they're able to take a stand on their observations and be willing to adjust their thinking to create win-win relationships.

They should be focused on process and product to the extent that a group works effectively, stays healthy, while getting the job done.

They should be able to communicate unwelcome news clearly and concisely, confronting inappropriate behavior gracefully. 

They should have enthusiasm and interest in helping people grow and develop by achieving good results for themselves and the organization. 

Ask questions like this of yourself to determine your comfort level with this facilitator: How did they interact or, how do you think they will interact, with the different constituencies that are going to be part of the process? Will they be able to gain the confidence and trust of the participants? What kind of listeners are they? Did they ask good questions? Did they seem able to grasp the situation? Will their style be compatible with yours and others in the group? How neutral do you think they will remain on the issues? Do you think they will be good at encouraging participants to come up with their own solutions? What kind of personality did they project? Did they have a sense of humor? Did they seem patient? Flexible? Were they well spoken?

The "Organized Change Consultancy" provides excellent summaries and distinctions between "Core" and "Supplementary" skills and knowledge. This division allows organizations to rate facilitators in essential competencies that might help them to make the best selection of a facilitator for a particular project.

Core skills and knowledge

  • active listening, encouraging open communication

  • group dynamics

  • meeting management
  • problem solving
  • knowledge of costs of quality, "chain of customers" concepts, role of measurement
  • project management
  • political sensitivity and tact

Supplementary, specialized knowledge

  • team building
  • one-on-one coaching
  • organizational development
  • survey and interview techniques
  • statistical process control, quality function deployment, experimentation


Your assignment this week is to ask yourself the above questions and to note any of those you had difficulty answering.  We'd love to hear your perspective on this important subject.  Please email your comments to us.

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Reader Survey 
What problem solving models do you employ?

Please share any models you use with your groups to solve problems. Please email us your responses. All those who respond will be sent the entire collection of responses. We may use your responses as a resource for future issues of the journal or for other works.  Thanks so much for your consideration of our request.

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picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.

About the Author: 
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to reach  their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. Or call me at 800-216-3854. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 

In the Spotlight

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Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on February 5, 2002. 


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