Facilitator Training to Improve Your Consulting Skills

When most people think of a facilitator they envision a person who specializes in conducting meetings that help teams reach a solution and/or work through issues that may be preventing productivity. The leadership skills and management techniques that these professionals receive-typically through facilitator training courses-are not just beneficial to their chosen profession. In fact, facilitator training can help consultants improve their project management skills as well as client relationships.

So, what is a facilitator? Facilitators are often confused with trainers, and while there are many similarities, they are actually two distinct skill sets. A trainer typically instructs a group of people on a new set of skills or provides information to help improve their knowledge in a particular content area. For example, if your company has a large number of salespeople, a sales trainer may be needed for educating new salespeople or helping existing salespeople improve their sales techniques.

Much like a teacher in a traditional classroom setting, trainers deliver specific content at the request of the organization and attendees to the training session are expected to learn the nuances of the content.

A facilitator, on the other hand, is there to listen to the needs of the group and help them reach agreement regarding a project solution, new company direction, and many other tasks. Unlike trainers who help a somewhat unconnected group of people learn a new skill or improve an existing one, a facilitator works to help the group achieve and implement a singular goal.

Facilitators help identify group members’ strengths and weaknesses, keep the group engaged-even during times of disagreement-and eventually help the group coalesce to solve the problem at hand. Following such a session (or sessions), attendees should come away with a clear plan of action that outlines group members’ tasks and responsibilities for implementing the agreed upon solution.

Clearly, the skill set needed to mediate and guide a group to a resolution is exceptionally useful regardless of the industry that requires your particular consulting skills. As a consultant, you are usually brought into an organization by a member of management thanks to your expertise in a particular area, which could be IT, content development, graphic design, or even facilitation itself.

Regardless of your consulting area, you will more than likely be asked to interact with a team and possibly lead it. Facilitator training helps you learn:

How to create an agenda for meetings,
Methods for helping people stay on task,
Techniques for encouraging creative problem solving,
Skills for dealing with disagreements,
Ways to address dysfunctional behavior, and especially
Ways to designate tasks to the team and to successfully complete your project.
While there are a variety of books available that discuss facilitation tools and techniques, enrolling in actual facilitation training courses is one of the best ways to develop your facilitation skills since you would be learning from professional facilitators who are able to offer real-world experiences and personal feedback to questions or concerns that you may have. Best of all, these classes can be taken on-site with a group or online at your own pace.

When consulting, your number one priority is keeping your client satisfied. This often requires a diverse set of consulting skills. Training in facilitation adds invaluable tools and techniques to your skill set that help you manage client relationships, effectively lead teams, and most importantly get the job done.