Facilitating Transformation: 30 Examples of Group Facilitation Skills
by Martha Lasley
Originally published in Facilitating with Heart
A wide range of skills gives us multiple options in any moment. To follow are 30 transformational facilitation skiils with examples.
Acknowledging – helping people see things they may not see about their values or needs.
Example: “It sounds like this group cares deeply about team spirit and making a meaningful contribution.”
Articulating – succinctly describing what is happening in the moment and validating the client’s experience.
Example: The group expresses both fear and excitement about confronting the board. You say, “I sense excitement as well as fear and a desire to be understood.” Follow an articulation with an empowering question. “How can you use all the energy of the group to request what you want?”
Asking Empowering Questions – asking open-ended questions to evoke clarity, insight, and action.
Example: “What is next?” “What is important about this?” “What stands out about the group process?”
Brainstorming – generating ideas, expanding new possibilities, or developing strategies.
Example: “Let’s come up with all the ways you can have fun while getting the results you want.”
Challenging – requesting that the group stretch beyond their perception of their limitations. A challenge is more than a simple request. It pushes people beyond what they think is possible. It usually results in the clients’ stepping into more than they originally thought possible.
Example: “The challenge is to utilize every single person’s talents to get over this hurdle. Instead of leaving some people out to get to the finish line, I challenge you to find new ways to include everyone.” Your client can accept or deny the challenge, as well as re-negotiate it.
Championing – believing in and encouraging the resourcefulness of the client and highlighting the client’s desire or ability.
Example: “This group has demonstrated a lot of creativity throughout the planning process. How can you use that creativity now?”
Clarifying – articulating what the group needs and values. More than repeating what has been said, clarifying speaks to the deeper message or implication in the words. Clarifying can include articulating, reframing, and asking empowering questions.
Example: “I’m hearing that members of the group want both autonomy and a sense of community, and you’re looking for ways to have both?”
Creating Trust – developing safe space, including the five elements of trust: reliability, acceptance, openness, straightforwardness, and caring. When we consistently do what we say, accept others without judgment, openly give and receive feedback, speak our truth, and show we care, we build trust.
Example: “Standing on a continuum, on a scale of one to ten, how much trust are you experiencing in the group right now? What’s one request you can make to build trust?”
Choosing Curiosity – stepping into the space of childlike wonder and not knowing, for the sake of opening up possibility for the group. Instead of responding to the situation as a problem, the coach explores with a beginner’s mind and resists the temptation to problem solve.
Example: “One person said she wants to slow down, another wants to pick up the pace. What really matters here?”
Discovering the Wisdom – creating opportunities for the group to explore and discover, or share insights, regrets, and celebration.
Example: “It sounds like the group learned a lot from the experience. What pearls of wisdom stand out?”
Embracing Polarities – naming needs that appear to be in conflict and holding them precious without making one side more important than the other.
Example: “So group members want freedom and security. How can you have both?” You may ask the group to first step into the experience of freedom and then into the experience of security and notice the difference in each place.
Establishing Accountability – creating structures to verify the action plan is on track or to remind people to actively live their values, vision, or goals.
Example: “What will you do? When will you do it? How will you hold yourselves accountable?
Focusing – paying attention to the group’s desires and what matters most.
Example: “Let’s go back to the relationships between group members. What is emerging right now?”
Holding Silence – knowing when to be quiet in order for the client to look internally.
Example: A group member says, “We seem lost and confused. Maybe we should get ask the coach for the answer.” You hold silence while the group discovers its own answers.
Identifying Groups’ Agenda – listening for what matters to the client, both in the big picture and in the moment.
Example: “The purpose of our meetings is to establish a long-term strategic plan, and right now two people have expressed a desire to clarify the outcomes of today’s meeting.”
Interrupting – cutting through storytelling or reporting to focus on what the group already knows in order to capture the essence of what’s expressed. Interrupting is done in service of getting the group back to working on what matters most.
Example: “Joe, you’ve said almost the same thing three times. I’m imagining that’s because you don’t feel understood. Would you like someone to reflect back what’s important to you?”
Intuiting – trusting your inner knowing and expressing your gut reactions.
Example: “I have a sense (hunch, intuition) that there is a black veil over this whole situation. What are you NOT saying?”
Listening Empathically – listening and reflecting back feelings, needs, values, and vision. Different from offering sympathy, the coach doesn’t focus on what’s wrong, but rather focuses on what the group wants at the core.
Example: “I’m hearing a wide range of feelings about Jose leaving the group. Some are hurt or disappointed, and others are excited. Underneath these feelings I’m sensing a group need for inclusion and relationship-building. Does that resonate with you, or are you experiencing something else?
Co-creating Metaphors – using images, stories and pictures serves to deepen the client’s learning and reflect the essence of the situation.
Example: “You’ve hauled this baby around for nine months; put your heart and soul into it, and now that the baby is in the birth canal, a few parts of this collective body have given out from exhaustion. The baby wants to be born. Every body part is needed for this last monumental effort to bring the baby forth. What do you need to fully function?
Exploring the Metaview – helping the group see the big picture or birds-eye view of a situation in order to move out of tunnel vision. You can take your client to the metaview in either space or time.
Example: “Imagine you are flying above this situation, like a hawk, and can see the whole system. What do you see?”
Moving into Action – requesting actions that are aligned with the expressed group values. Action might come from a request or from brainstorming all the possible ways the group can create forward movement.
Example: “What can each of you do this week so that we can launch this initiative on time?”
Offering an Inquiry – asking a reflective question that helps the group explore new learning and insights more deeply. Inquiries are empowering questions that help people look deeper over time. An inquiry focuses on learning and awareness, not action.
Example: “How do your relationships impact the quality of the work?”
Planning – eliciting the direction, the goals, and the action plan to monitor progress.
Example: “What are all the action steps needed to accomplish this goal?”
Reflecting – mirroring back what the group members have said, sometimes verbatim and sometimes with fewer words. To move the group toward deeper wisdom, the coach fully receives what each person says and reflects back not just the words, but the energy. Reflecting often creates an energetic shift in the client.
Example: Jen says she’s tired of being so nice and wants people to listen to her. Coach listens, takes in her longing, then reflects back: “Jen, you want to express yourself more freely and you want to be heard. Lily, can you let Jen know what you heard?”
Re-framing – sharing a new perspective that opens up broader possibilities for the group.
Example: “You said you think the facilitator is not contributing. Perhaps. Or maybe the facilitator believes the group can come up with its own solutions.”
Requesting – asking for a specific action without being attached to the outcome. Group members respond with yes, no, or counter-offer. Requests begin with “will you?”
Example: “To deepen the learning, will you find a peer coaching partner that you coach every week?”
Self-Managing – setting aside your own internal reactions by giving empathy rather than expressing judgment, opinions, or advice. Even when triggered, the coach holds the group’s agenda.
Example: Two members in the group have become romantically involved and others complain that the quality of the work is slipping. As coach, you are triggered because you’re a romantic and decide to take time for yourself after the session. Then you step into curious client-focused listening where every member’s needs matter.
Separating Distinctions – identifying when two or more concepts are collapsed together and helping the group separate them.
Example: “You say that you weren’t invited to be on the committee because your work isn’t valued. I hear you that you’re hurt and want to be included. I haven’t heard anyone say they don’t value your work. Joe said he didn’t put you on the committee because your other projects have priority and he appreciates all that you’re doing. Would you like to be appreciated AND included? Let’s look at each need separately.”
Setting Goals – setting intentions for desired outcomes that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time bound, and communicated.
Example: “What will you create and how will that look when it is complete?”
Visioning – exploring the big picture and creating a visual picture of a better future. You take clients into the experience of the vision before asking what they see.
Example: “Take away all the limits and imagine you are successful beyond your wildest dreams. What if this team were the best team of all time? What do you see?”
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