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Global Flipchart


September 2016
| Issue #5

Facilitation is a Leadership Skill

By Beatrice Briggs

Today´s leaders do not have followers, they have teams. These teams need effective leadership, but not of the old, top-down kind. They need leaders who can bring the team together to clarify goals, set priorities, assess progress, seek solutions for problems, assign tasks and be accountable to one another.

Simply being the boss is not enough

Team leaders and others in positions of responsibility for delivering results must convene and facilitate meetings, where relevant information is shared, dialogue and debate are encouraged, and decisions are made. 

Yet too often team meetings are a frustrating waste of time and energy for all concerned.

To transform this dismal situation, leaders need the mindset and skills of a process facilitator.

A leader who realizes that “we need everyone´s contribution to be effective”, will plan meetings that elicit this collective intelligence and bring it to bear on the challenges the team faces.

The Facilitative Leader’s Skill Set

Facilitation requires a set of skills that professionals in almost any field can use, including:

  • Defining the purpose of the meeting
  • Designing a results-based agenda
  • Reaching agreement on how the group will work together
  • Encouraging the participation of all team members
  • Modeling effective listening
  • Being genuinely open to the ideas of others
  • Identifying and transforming conflict
  • Dealing with “difficult participants”
  • Clarifying next steps, assigning action items
  • Carrying out the decision-making process
  • Conducting evaluation of the group´s process

Becoming competent in these skills can reduce wasted time, improve team communication, encourage creativity and support collaboration.  Given that meetings are a fact of life in every organization, leaders should be prepared to make them as dynamic and productive as possible. Learning the basics of facilitation is a good place to begin.

Take action now!

To get started, here are few questions to consider when planning your next meeting.

  • What do we really need to accomplish in this meeting? (Be specific and results oriented.)
  • Who needs to be present in order to have a productive conversation? (Do not invite all the “usual suspects”. Invite only those who can make a significant contribution at this stage and engage the others later.)
  • How will we use the allotted time so that it justifies taking the participants away from their other work responsibilities? (Create an agenda that prioritizes interaction over merely listening.)

For more ideas, read Guide to Excellent Meetings at Work, a free resource available at

Beatrice Briggs, Certified Professional Facilitator, is director of the International Institute for Facilitation and Change ( A native of the USA, she has lived in Mexico since 1998. She works all over Latin America with civil society, international NGOs, and public and private sector organizations, helping them make their meetings, forums and assemblies highly interactive, participatory and productive.

She is the author of the book, Introduction to Consensus, the 4-minute illustrated video “What do facilitators really do, and editor of the Bonfire Collection: a complete reference guide to facilitation and change.