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Shine as a leader with strong facilitation skills

Want a promotion? Consider being a facilitator within your organization. Meetings are a great place to start.

6 min read



Ingrid wanted to position herself as a leader in her company. In her workplace, meetings often lost focus, and some team members remained silent while others never seemed to stop talking. She knew that boosting her visibility in meetings would help her get noticed more at work. She also realized that if she could keep meetings on track, her boss would see her as indispensable.

To reach this goal, Ingrid began learning about facilitation skills. Then she put them into practice by volunteering to facilitate meetings and mediate conflicts. Soon, colleagues began seeking her advice about how to handle interpersonal issues. Six months later, seeing that she’d become a valuable leader and a role model for others, her boss gave her a promotion.

Facilitation skills are a must for every aspiring leader. They make for productive meetings, motivated teams and solid results. That’s why developing stellar facilitation skills is a key component of developing executive presence. By volunteering to facilitate meetings, and doing it well, you’ll help your boss and colleagues to see you as a natural leader. Facilitation skills are great for mediating conflicts and curbing bad behavior, too, which will also help others to see you as confident and capable. As co-workers and your boss come to rely on your skills, you’ll take on increased responsibilities, strengthen relationships and boost your chances of promotion.

Here are 10 ways to shine as a facilitator in your company.

1. Set ground rules

In a meeting or conflict mediation session, set ground rules or remind the team of rules that already exist. For instance, make it clear how decisions will be made. Set ground rules for participation, reminding the team that everyone should participate and no one should dominate the conversation. In some contexts, you might help the team to articulate its own ground rules, while in others, you might remind the group of existing company procedures.

2. Summarize, summarize, summarize

Summarizing is key to clear communication. When facilitating a meeting, summarize its purpose and articulate the agenda. Summarize group feelings periodically as the team moves toward a decision, and then summarize what has been decided. Distilling this information for the group will help everyone stay focused on the topic at hand.

3. Remain objective

Facilitating means staying objective and guiding the conversation toward a productive result. Refrain from interjecting your own input, as your role is to be unbiased. That doesn’t mean you won’t have an opinion about what’s happening. However, to facilitate effectively, you need to keep your opinion to yourself and strive to see from different points of view.

4. Solicit input

You know who has expertise on which topics in your company, and, as a facilitator, you should solicit this input. A good facilitator asks pointed questions, often directed at particular group members, to efficiently get the information that will move the group forward.

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5. Find ways to compromise

In some cases, like in a meeting focused on developing creative, innovative solutions, it’s valuable to continue debating until the group finds an ideal solution. In other cases, compromise is essential. When that’s the case, solicit suggestions for compromise from all parties involved, including more neutral team members. Voice your own suggestions, as well, and guide team members to arrive at a decision that everyone can accept.

6. Take pulse checks

Periodically take a “pulse check” of how the group feels about the issue being discussed. This can be as simple as asking everyone in favor of an idea to raise their hands. Solicit feedback from those who have been quieter. Then sum up the group’s feelings about the issue.

7. Be firm but tactful

To uphold group rules and keep discussion on track, you’ll need to be direct. Clear communication and assertiveness are key. Always strive to use tact when steering discussion or behavior in the right direction, though. For example, if one person always rambles, gently remind him of the time constraints and ask him to get to the point, assuring him you’re eager to hear his input.

8, Have tricks up your sleeve

Keep a secret stockpile of ideas to use if discussion stalls or disagreement becomes too intense. Choosing just the right team-building exercise for the situation can help the group focus and stay productive. For example, if your team takes a while to warm up and get conversation going, use an icebreaker to help people loosen up.

9. Boost morale

Recognize progress the group has made, from making an important decision to learning how to communicate more effectively. Remember to have a sense of humor, too, which will lighten the whole group’s mood.

10. Think on your feet

Facilitation requires fast and logical thinking, a skill that can be strengthened with practice. If you’re not confident in your ability to think on your feet, remember that lack of confidence is often the main issue. Practice using this skill in less intimidating settings than leading a large group meeting, and work your way up.

As you strengthen your facilitation skills, your team will shine too, and your boss will come to see you as indispensable. Facilitating meetings and mediating conflicts will show your coworkers that you’re someone they can rely on as well. Your interpersonal relationships, and your career, will both benefit greatly.


Joel Garfinkle is available for speaking and training. He is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Oracle, Google, Amazon, Deloitte, The Ritz-Carlton, Gap and Starbucks. He is the author of 300 articles on leadership and nine books, including “Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.” More than 10,000 people subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!” His website has over 200 free articles on leadership, work issues and career advancement.

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