Jan 25, 2022 | Leadership

Leadership Facilitation starts by creating a safe place for people to think and address real issues.

Grow More Leaders

Introduction: the power of facilitation

Facilitation is a fantastic life skill to have. Imagine walking into any meeting or workshop, not being a subject matter expert and helping your participants to solve a real world problem. In this article we’ll explore:

  • How does facilitation differ from training?
  • The 5 skills critical to being a credible facilitator.

Let’s get started.

How does facilitation differ from training?

The experience for participants is different when you’re facilitating vs training.

Typically, a Trainer is a subject matter expert. They’re imparting their know-how and expertise. The Trainer is doing most of the talking and presenting. The audience is passive. Clearly, a skilled Trainer may switch to facilitation and combine the two skills. But in pure training mode, they are downloading information or expertise.

In contrast facilitation is about creating experiences for participants to figure things out themselves. Facilitation is about asking great questions. Setting up activities. Creating opportunities for participants to think of their own solutions and answers and then wrapping up with your own insights and recommendations. In facilitation, the participants are fully engaged and interactive. The hard work of the facilitator is done in the way they plan, think and map out a structure for the workshop. It’s not a question of ‘turn up and teach’.

Leadership Facilitation is…..

  • Asking your participants powerful questions
  • Creating discussions and activities
  • Inviting peers to share their learning with each other
  • Storytelling as a way to get into deeper conversations
  • Creating a process and structure for participants to deepen their learning during a workshop

Leadership Training is….

  • Imparting your expertise and experiences
  • Primarily, ‘talking from the front’ using power-point
  • Using models and research to back-up your thinking
  • Using case-studies and imparting what best practice is
  • Suggesting there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to lead

The 5 Skills To Becoming A Credible Leadership Facilitator

This will be relevant to any Coach, Consultant or individual who wants to improve their ability to run engaging workshops – even if this is not a core skill or capability. By following some simple steps, you can learn how to deliver highly interactive and memorable leadership workshops

  1. Start with the end in mind
  • You’ve got to be clear on the problem you’re trying to solve. What learning do you want participants to take from your workshop? What do you want them to be talking about one month post the workshop?
  • Have a clear line of sight: by the end of this workshop they will be better able to……..(finish the sentence)
  • Identify the real world problems or challenges your participants are facing. The more real the workshop, the more your participants will see the importance and relevance of engaging with the workshop.
  1. Learn to pose powerful questions
  • Once you’re clear on the desired outcome, what are the powerful questions you need your participants to work through?
  • What is the logical order and sequencing of those questions
  • How will working through the questions help them solve the big problems or challenges you have identified?
  • The key to asking questions is to encourage personal reflection. Take 2-3 minutes to jot down your individual thoughts. Next pair people up to interview each other. The risk of posing an open question to all your participants, is the extraverted thinkers take up all the air-time and the introverted thinkers simply don’t have a voice. By pairing people up, you overcome this risk.
  1. Use storytelling to get to the ‘truth faster’
  • Storytelling is simply sharing your real-world experiences. Actual events, encounters, opportunities which were learning moments for you.
  • The whole purpose of the story is to get to a ‘moment of truth’, a revelation, or insight which allows your workshop participants to really start talking from the heart.
  • Once you share your story, you can ask participants to reflect on their key insights or take-aways. You can also ask them to start sharing their own stories. Chances are your participants will all have powerful stories they can share, which enriches the experience for everyone.
  • The skill in storytelling is not down to the flair and charisma of the storyteller. It comes down to the colour, richness and depth you can paint a picture – which draws your audience into being there with you.
  1. Park your ego
  • As a Facilitator – you do not have to be right. You don’t have a monopoly of great ideas. Work on the basis your No1 job is to create a safe environment for your participants to talk about the things they truly care about and the things they are striving for.
  • Never under-etsimate the importance of remaining neutral. Your role is to encourage participants to co-develop insights and learning. This way they’ll remember them, long after they have left the meeting.
  • Facilitation is a collaborative experience. Your skill is to build on other’s ideas. To remain open to alternative points of view.
  • As the Facilitator, it’s never about you. It’s about your participants. How can you create a truly inspiring environment for learning and sharing?

Running leadership workshops surrounded by nature does something special. We begin to focus on what matters. We put challenges into perspective and realise leadership starts from within.

Grow More Leaders


  1. Get creative
  • As a Facilitator your only constraint is the limit of your imagination. The more creative and imaginative you can be, the more the experience is memorable for your participants.
  • Find ways to create some fun and humour into your workshops. When participants are relaxed, ‘off duty’, able to be themselves, they open-up and talk about the things they deeply care about
  • How can you create PowerPoint free workshops?
  • How can you use experiential learning, activities, tasks, simulations as a way of bringing the learning experience to life?
  • How can you create some competition between teams, in terms of solving problems or generating the best solutions?
  • How can you use nature and the outdoors to inspire participants? Can you build in walk and talks in your workshops, where colleagues get to coach each other?

By continuously experimenting and practicing these 5 critical skills, you will keep learning and evolving as a leadership facilitator.

Drop me a note if you have any questions:

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