An impactful and memorable team building event starts with effective facilitation. Having an experienced, engaging facilitator is vital to creating an experience that teaches leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills to participants while also being fun and engaging.
Why is that person called a “facilitator” instead of something else, like a team building leader, organizer, or instructor? Because facilitator is the most descriptive term and encompasses all the different roles involved in creating an enjoyable and valuable experience.
An effective team building facilitator is able to transition through several distinct roles very quickly, ultimately going from initially being the focus to transitioning to making the team members the focus seamlessly. Here are four essential roles that the facilitator progresses through during the course of the team building exercise.
The Four Roles of a Facilitator
The facilitator’s first role is that of organizer. This happens before the team members even arrive or any activities begin. In this role, the facilitator has spoken to the client/meeting planner (if necessary) and has assured that the activity(s) that have been chosen is the best one for the team based on goals and shared outcomes. Upon arrival, the facilitator will spend time making sure the room/outdoor space is set up ideally for the participants to enjoy and will get the most out of the experience, including making makes sure the tables and chairs are arranged properly and the sound system works. They ensure that all of the materials and equipment needed are on hand. That the room isn’t too hot or cold. They know where the bathrooms are.
The critical objective in this role is to create an environment for success. The facilitator works to make sure the room or other event venue is comfortable, organized, and as free of distractions as possible so that the participants can focus on working through the activity (and on having fun doing it).
The second role is that of (temporary) leader. Once the team members arrive and are ready to take part, the facilitator introduces the activity, explains the objective, answers any questions, and provides the team members with the information and materials they need.
The third role is to be a coach. As quickly as possible, the facilitator makes the participants the focus. In this role, the “coach” applauds team members, celebrates their successes, gives feedback and guidance, keeps the activity running smoothly, allows fun and friendly competition, and, if applicable, recognizes team members when they come up with solutions that everyone in the group can learn from. Like any good coach, they put the spotlight on the “players,” making the team members the superstars of the activity or program.
The final role of the facilitator is to be a role model. Part of the way they teach communication, collaboration, problem-solving, and engagement is by modeling that behavior. They communicate clearly, answer clarifying questions, and collaborate with the participants.
A facilitator needs to be able to adjust to any situation that arises once the program has started. They problem-solve on the spot, manage change on the fly, and demonstrate everything they want from the participants, so those team members know they are in the hands of a facilitator who can confidently and competently “drive the bus.”
Bringing It All Together
Through the course of the team building program, what the facilitator asks from team members evolves as well: from attention and observation to participation and collaboration. Great facilitation is key to enabling participants to walk away with a valuable and enjoyable experience.