By Carole Spicer, Spicer Facilitation & Learning
“What do you do?”—the age-old question we all ask and are asked. I sometimes struggle to describe what I do. My response, “I am a facilitator,” is often met with a blank look. “You know, the person at the front of a room full of a group of people?” Nods usually follow.
A facilitator is a guide: someone who can move an individual or a group of people through a process to attain results. A facilitator is not the leader of a group, the boss, or decision-maker. A facilitator can resolve conflict or, ideally, prevent conflict from occurring at all. A facilitator adds value.
The biggest value I bring to a client as a facilitator is the planning and design that are developed before I ever step in front of a group. I meet with my clients beforehand to discuss an approach. I ask two questions: What is your desired outcome? What does success look like?
The desired outcome will provide me with insight to design a process to achieve that outcome. Is the client looking to engage others, make a decision, brainstorm ideas, share information, or build partnerships? Each outcome requires a different technique.
Last year I had a humourous response when I asked the success question of a client. This client was a steering committee of five people seeking the public’s feedback on its recommendations. One of the co-chairs responded, “I want everyone to hate us,” while the other co-chair responded “I want everyone to love us.” This told me that the discussions were going to be controversial and emotional and that many folks in the room would have differing viewpoints. In the end, we experienced both love and hate, and the client was happy with both the quantity and quality of honest, open feedback.
Another value that a facilitator brings is neutrality. I don’t have a personal stake in the outcome my client desires. My role is not to influence or judge participants and their responses. In fact, knowing less about the topic at hand is an advantage. I can take the information at face value and leave it up to my clients to apply it in the correct context. Neutrality allows me to manage the room and any potential conflicts. I can respond to the diverse personalities without this discussion getting personal, and I can ask for clarification as needed without being confrontational.
Facilitation is being flexible. The best design doesn’t always work the way it is intended. Is the energy in the room lagging? Are participants getting agitated? Are we reaching the desired outcome? I have had to switch gears on the fly and pull another technique out of my toolkit. I remember a session with a participant with literacy concerns. All my techniques required individual reading and writing. To protect his dignity, I switched techniques. My client still achieved the desired outcome, just in a different manner.
I have worked with a diverse group of clients in many industries. I’ve learned about agriculture, offshore oil drilling, beekeeping, municipal amalgamation, mental health, affordable housing, and business startups. Thankfully, I do not have to be an expert in any of those areas. My expertise, and value as a facilitator, is to make it easier for my clients to be successful.
Carole Spicer Spicer Facilitation & Learning
Strong relationships are one of the core values of Carole R. Spicer. Carole is the owner and founder of Spicer Facilitation & Learning. A certified master trainer and facilitator, Carole uses her experience to help her clients achieve desired outcomes. She has worked in both private and public sectors and prides herself on the ability to customize solutions to meet the unique needs of the people she works with. A natural storyteller with a passion for her heritage, Carole often says she is in her dream job as she gets to talk for a living. She currently resides in Pasadena, NL, with her husband and their two cats. When not volunteering she can be found snowshoeing, kayaking, reading, or watching her beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.