Facilitation Skills: Role

What is the role of a facilitator?

The facilitator is often seen in a variety of roles such as coach, trainer and mentor. As a facilitator you often find yourself crossing the boundary into other roles. Listed below are brief descriptions of behaviors you may exhibit as part of these various roles: 

Facilitation, as it is normally understood, refers to managing and maintaining a group process. The primary focus of the facilitator is on “how” things are going in the group. The facilitator will help the group adhere to their ground rules and guidelines that bound the process they have agreed to use to achieve some end result. In addition, he or she uses a variety of facilitation strategies to assist the group in working their way through the decision-making process.

Coaching is typically practiced with individuals, and tends to be a bit more directive than facilitation. Coaching focuses on helping individuals to take immediate action, while addressing barriers and providing support that they may need to get moving quickly. The coach usually asks more of the person than pure facilitation—often challenging the person to produce more or be more.

Group Coaching supports individuals who are part of groups with common interests or issues. While coaching focuses on individuals in the group, the remainder of the group receives indirect benefit from witnessing individuals being coached.

Training requires that the trainer have specific knowledge and skills in the subject of interest. The job of trainers is to impart knowledge or skills to learners using a variety of methods at their disposal. Effective trainers will often utilize facilitation and coaching skills. Note that facilitators do not necessarily have experience in, nor do they focus on, the technical content in which their clients are involved.

Mentoring involves instructing, guiding, and coaching someone who wants to master a particular field that you, as the mentor, have already mastered.

Facilitation is a complex, multifaceted process that integrates various skills and talents. It is both an art and science, and takes time, effort, and practice in order to become proficient.

Adapted with permission from Soil and Water Conservation District Outreach: A Handbook for Program Development, Implementation and Evaluation. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Soil and Water Conservation, 2003.