The Skilled Facilitator,
The Skilled Facilitator is a practical resource for corporate, government, non-profit, and educational practitioners, as well as graduate students in group-focused programs. This edition contains up-to-date material, based on recent studies, to help facilitators move beyond arbitrary tactics to utilize cutting edge, research-based strategies that improve group processes, relationships, mindsets, and outcomes.
The Skilled Facilitator,
Preface to the Third Edition
Since I wrote the first edition of The Skilled Facilitator in 1994, it has become a standard reference in the field. Many readers have told me that the book has fundamentally changed how they help the groups they work with. They return to it again and again when faced with challenging or new situations. I am gratified that many people in different roles across many fields have found the book so valuable. I hope you will be among them.
What The Skilled Facilitator Is About
The Skilled Facilitator is about how you can help groups become more effective, whether you're a consultant, facilitator, coach, trainer, or mediator. When I wrote the first edition, facilitative skills were something you called on a facilitator for. Now these skills are recognized as a core competency for anyone working with groups.
The book describes one approach to facilitation-the Skilled Facilitator approach. It's a relatively comprehensive and integrated approach, so you can learn it and use it as you work with groups. The approach is based on research and theory that I cite throughout the book.
The Skilled Facilitator approach has several key features. It's based on a set of core values and assumptions-what I call mindset-and principles. Whether you're serving as a facilitator, consultant, coach, trainer, or mediator, you can always figure out what to do in a particular situation by turning to the core values, assumptions, and principles to guide your behavior.
The Skilled Facilitator approach integrates theory and practice. Throughout the book, I answer three questions: "What do I do? How do I do it? Why do I do it that way?" By answering the first question, you understand what specific tool, technique, or method to use in any particular situation. This gives you a general idea of how to respond in any situation. By answering the second question, you understand exactly what to say in that situation. Answering these first two questions is necessary, but not sufficient. By answering the third question, you understand the theory and principles that make all the tools, techniques, methods, and your specific behaviors work. When you know the answers to these three questions, you no longer have to use the tools and methods exactly as you learned them-you can modify them and design your own tools and methods to help a group, no matter what situation you're in.
The Skilled Facilitator approach is a systems approach for helping groups. All the parts of the approach fit together and reinforce each other because they are all based on the same set of core values, assumptions, and principles. The logic of the approach is transparent, and you can share it with the groups you're helping. This makes the approach more powerful and practical.
In the Skilled Facilitator approach, the mindset and behaviors that you use to help a group are the same mindset and behaviors that the group can use to improve its effectiveness. There isn't a secret set of principles, techniques, or methods for you and another set for the group. When you act effectively, you're modeling effective behavior for the group. This makes it much easier for you to help the group increase its effectiveness. Recently, I wrote Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams for the groups and teams you are helping. The book uses the very same approach (including the same models and behaviors) that I describe here to help teams develop the mindset, skill set, and team design to create better results. If you find The Skilled Facilitator useful and want to help teams learn how they can apply it in their leadership roles, Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams will show them how.
At the heart of the Skilled Facilitator approach is the premise that how you think is how you facilitate (or consult, coach, train, or mediate). Research shows that in challenging situations almost all of