Focus: How can I act like a leader for others in my unit and on work teams?

If you want to do good planning, keep members involved, and create real leadership opportunities in your organization and skills in your members, you need facilitator skills. The more you know about how to shape and run a good learning and planning process, the more your members will feel empowered about their own ideas and participation, stay invested in your organization, take on responsibility and ownership, and the better your meetings will be.

The Role of the Facilitator

The definition of facilitate is "to make easy" or "ease a process." What a facilitator does is plan, guide and manage a group event to ensure that the group's objectives are met effectively, with clear thinking, good participation and full buy-in from everyone who is involved.

The role of the facilitator involves four basic principles:

  •  A facilitator is a guide to help people move through a process together, not the seat of wisdom and knowledge;
  •  A facilitator does not offer opinions, but draws out opinions and ideas from the group;
  •  Facilitation focuses on how people participate in the process of learning or planning, not just on what gets achieved; and
  •  A facilitator is neutral and never takes sides.


Some authorities describe the facilitation process and the role of the facilitator as a 5 phase process:

  1. EXAMINE: Dig into the problem. Look at the history, context, the objects, and (most importantly) the people.
  2. UNDERSTAND: Go deeper and find patterns. Create open questions to build on.
  3. IDEATE: Have lots of ideas. Don't stop at the obvious.
  4. EXPERIMENT: Try some things out. Fail cheap and fast.

    5. DISTILL: Strip your solution down to the essentials and tell the 



Facilitators' Toolbox of
Liberating Structures


(Click the book cover to view inside)

Liberating Structures are tools that a facilitator can use with a group to include and unleash everyone:

  1. 1-2-4-All: Used to tap into the groups collective intelligence
  2. Wicked Questions: Engage everyone in sharper strategic thinking
  3. Appreciative Interview: Energize the group by sharing success stories (vs. depressing talk)
  4. Fishbowl: Informality of the bowl breaks down communication barriers and facilitates the flow of questions and answers
  5. Critical Uncertainties: Used to prepare a group for strategy thinking

There are 33 liberating structures that can be used by leaders at all levels to create conditions for people to work at the top of their intelligence and creativity. View web site.

 Liberating Structures are rooted in 10 guiding principles or rules. These rules govern how we can choose to relate to each other and work together to create a great organization.

  1.   Include and Unleash Everyone
  2.   Practice Deep Respect for People and Local Solutions
  3.   Build Trust As You Go
  4.   Learn by Failing Forward
  5.   Practice Self-Discovery Within a Group
  6.   Amplify Freedom AND Responsibility
  7.   Emphasize Possibilities: Believe Before You See
  8.   Invite Creative Destruction To Enable Innovation
  9.   Engage In Seriously-Playful Curiosity
  10. Never Start Without a Clear Purpose

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas.
I’m frightened of the old ones.  -- John Cage