“Now that we have contracted with your firm to do facilitation training, how do we go about finding facilitator candidates? What traits should we be seeking? Is there a set of target characteristics for trainees?”

At Leadership Strategies, we get this question often, and for good reason. If an organization is going to invest significant dollars and person-hours in a training program, it makes sense to try to maximize the investment by selecting participants with a high likelihood of becoming strong facilitators. Participants in a facilitation training class typically receive detailed instruction in energizing a group, establishing the process, maintaining focus, asking questions, building consensus, gathering information, dealing with dysfunctional behavior, etc. While all the participants receive the same instruction, inevitably some individuals in a class are more readily able to master the techniques and quickly demonstrate proficiency in the practice sessions. What separates these individuals from the others?

From the hundreds of people we have trained in public and private classes, we have identified seven specific characteristics that tend to distinguish the trainees who excel from those who struggle to achieve proficiency.

  1. Enjoy working with people and have a genuine desire to help people feel good about themselves and achieve their desired results
  2. Think quickly and logically with the ability to analyze comments, understand how they relate to the topic, and develop appropriate responses
  3. Communicate clearly and expressively by making specific, concise points, using appropriate levels of energy to build excitement and enthusiasm
  4. Practice active listening skills by engaging a speaker, listening attentively, and asking probing questions
  5. Convey warmth to others by using smiles, praises, and gestures in one-on-one and group interactions
  6. Demonstrate self-confidence and leadership when working with others, being the person others look to for direction and counsel
  7. Have a business-orientation with an interest in finding methods to improve the way things are done, looking beyond the narrow focus of a job to the greater scope of the business

Please note: These characteristics should not be construed as mandatory requirements for trainees. Instead, they are intended to serve as a guideline or starting point for identifying potential training candidates.

Of the seven characteristics, we believe the first three are most important. Time and time again, participants who come to us strong in these three areas tend to rise above their peers when exposed to the structured facilitation techniques we teach. Ironically, of these three most important characteristics, the first two involve traits that we do not impact in the classroom! We can not teach people to like working with others and we don’t teach analytic skills. These are characteristics that the trainees quite literally have to bring with them.

Our recommendation to our clients, therefore, is to be aware of the seven traits listed above, but to focus primarily on the first three. And, if you have to choose between people strong in two of these three areas, consider selecting the one stronger in the first two.