Like any occupation, facilitation is a valuable skill for the right personality. But if you’ve ever sat through a meeting run by a bad facilitator, you also know it’s a lethal weapon in the wrong hands.
A successful facilitator has several distinct qualities. They aren’t necessarily skills to teach as much as they’re inherent personality traits. You’re born with them – or you’re a really good actor.
If there’s a specific skill to teach, it’s juggling. The very best facilitators do all ten skills at the same time.
Here’s my list of the ten qualities of a brainstorm facilitator, roughly in order.
1. Protective. An ability to immediately establish a constructive environment of trust that protects ideas from negativity, ridicule and presumptive criticism.
2. Collaborative. Can bring people together, to elicit productive conversations that create ideas and concepts. Treats everyone with equality, regardless of status or expertise.
3. Positive, with an engaging sense of humor. Acts as the engaging dynamo for the meeting without ever overwhelming the participants. They ignite imaginations with their enthusiasm, and keep attention and momentum high, often by using humor and laughter, until the meeting is finished.
4. Resourceful. They plan and organize in advance. Logistics and administration are handled with discretion.
5. Structured. Their silent focus is always to accomplish the meeting’s objectives in the time allotted. They stick to the rules of the brainstorming, enforcing them gently but swiftly.
6. Flexible. Surprises are handled as expected. More than thinking fast on the feet, they also break rules by switching gears and changing direction if they think the atmosphere can be improved.
7. Sensitive. They listen, for spoken ideas and tacit thoughts. They balance extroversion and introversion, without robbing either of their strengths. They tactfully read body language and empower people to speak comfortably without fear of risk or rebuttal.
8. Creative. They themselves are creative. They understand the process and alchemy of producing good creative ideas, but don’t force their own ideas on to the group unless they have the group’s full approval to do so – and certainly never their opinions.
9. Positive and perseverant. Things will go wrong or not as planned, but they never lose their optimism or their cool.
10. Bring closure, Without becoming the decision maker or task master, they are responsible for bringing the group together at the end, to a solution, to a series of options to test, or to a mutually agreed conclusion. This always includes a set of activities, a calendar for completion, and articulated roles and responsibilities.
Are there other traits or qualities that you’d suggest?