Facilitation Skills – Definitions and Dangerous Words

Key Definitions 1

arbitration the process by which the parties to a dispute submit their differences to the judgment of an impartial person or group appointed by mutual consent or statutory provision. An arbitrator hears the evidence, facts and / or positions and renders judgment-an arbitrator is not a facilitator.

consensus an opinion or position reached by a group as a whole. Generally, a consensus is not reached until everyone can accept the decision. It is not necessary for everyone to agree fully. The most common criteria for a facilitated consensus include:

  • most people agree
  • everyone can accept
  • everyone will support

facilitate to make easy or easier.

facilitation the act of making easy or easier. The job of facilitation is to make the group’s job easier than it would be otherwise.

mediation a process of dispute resolution in which a neutral third party assists the parties involved in a dispute to negotiate their own settlement. The mediator facilitates the discussion between the parties, the parties devise their own solution with the help of the mediator.

motive an emotion, desire, psychological need, or similar impulse that acts as an incitement to action. Powerful motivation comes from within the person. Externally imposed motivation elicits avoidance of pain or greed-and lasts only as long as the carrot or stick are in the area. Groups are most powerfully moved to action when they discover that their individual motives are aligned. Facilitators help group members explore areas where their motives are, and are not, aligned.

team a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. A group of people does not become a team by adopting the name. All the elements of the definition must be in place in order for a team to be built.

Dangerous Words

audience the spectators or listeners assembled at a performance. Implies a passive role for the participants and a very active role for the presenter. An audience has no accountability for any result from the meeting. The audience is in attendance to be entertained or to learn, but not to set any action in motion.

buy-in audience acceptance of a position or idea. When asked to facilitate a meeting to achieve “buy in” you are being asked to sell an idea or position to the group. When you are the meeting leader attempting to achieve “buy in” be an effective advocate for the idea, but do not present yourself as a facilitator.

control 1. to exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; direct. 2. to hold in restraint. The facilitator is servant of the group, not the controller. The facilitator helps the group decide their purpose and intended outcomes, and helps the group create ground rules, then the facilitator helps the group work within these boundaries.

motivate to provide an incentive, move to action, impel (to urge to action through moral pressure; drive). In general, when the purpose is to “motivate the group,” the leader sees his or her job as finding an incentive to cause the group to move in a particular direction. This usually implies the selling of a pre-established position.

1 Definitions from The American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd Edition, 1992.