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3 Facilitation Tools Put to the Test

Posted by Steve Flanagan on 1/30/12 4:07 AM
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As a Langevin instructor, one of my favourite courses to teach is Facilitation Skills for New Facilitators . This workshop is a little different from other Langevin offerings in that Langevin primarily delivers training to trainers; this course is for anyone, not just for trainers.


Think of all the jobs that require facilitation skills: trainers/facilitators, team leaders, project managers, teachers, parents, and all levels of politicians. The facilitation tools and techniques covered in this workshop can be applied in business, the community and in your personal life. The core element of this course is built around the facilitation process: generate ideas, analyze and prioritize ideas, and make decisions.

There is a lot of skill involved in running a facilitated session. One of the key elements to set the session up for success is to select the appropriate facilitation tools to achieve the goal of the session. From the 45 facilitation tools in the workshop, described in the “tool book,” the skilled facilitator must choose a combination of tools they will use to make the process easy for the participants because, after all, that’s what facilitation is all about – generating ideas, solving problems, and resolving disputes as smoothly as possible.

For those of you who follow my blogs you know I usually talk about the soccer team that I coach, so here goes. You might remember that my team is struggling; we haven’t won a single game this season.

When teams aren’t winning, competitive athletes are not happy and often problems will arise among the players. This is the case with my team. I decided to arrange a team meeting that I would facilitate to see if we could resolve some of our issues. In preparation for the session I got out my facilitation tool book to select the appropriate tools for my session. For the first phase of the session I chose a tree diagram to explore the cause and effect of the relationships on our team. The players, young men between 18 and 23 years old, were able to provide input and took a leading role in building the diagram. We dismantled a big problem into manageable units and were now able to move to the next phase.

In the analysis phase of the facilitated session I chose the “5 Why’s” technique. Using this tool, we were able to examine the potential causes of the problem and quickly isolate the actual cause. (Oh, by the way we didn’t have to ask all five why’s to get to the cause; this group did it in 3).

For the decision-making phase I chose a decision- making tool that would get buy-in from all players—consensus building. Keep in mind that consensus building doesn’t mean that everyone agrees with the solution, but the decision is one that everyone can live with. I used the “5 finger” consensus building technique to get 18 young men to come to a decision. So after two hours of discussion, debate, give and take (as well as lots of pizza), we were able to come up with a decision that the team agreed upon is the best way we can address our issues.

Sometimes we don’t like to bring our work home with us but this time I will say that I enjoyed applying the skills from my professional life to my community coaching life. I enjoyed the process and the end result. The players did lots of high fives and left the session with a sense of accomplishment and optimism for the next game. My coaching colleague said, “That was cool, then asked, “How did you do that?”

All of the techniques and tools that I used in that facilitated session are covered in the Facilitation Skills for New Facilitators workshop and I can honestly say that I have had several situations where this skill set has been very useful.

Why don’t you check out our Facilitation Skills for New Facilitators workshop so you, too, can benefit from these valuable tools and techniques?


Steve has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education and dreamed of being a pro soccer player. Steve translated his love of soccer and physical performance to the corporate sector and became a trainer. He’s had the pleasure of training within the government, large corporations, and as an independent consultant. Outside of training, Steve’s two biggest passions are his family and guitars, which he collects and plays!

Topics: facilitation, instructional techniques

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