How to Gain Experience as a Facilitator

So, you’ve started to grasp parts of what facilitation is about.

Now the question stands: How do I become a facilitator?

First off, there is no right of passage or a board of facilitators that will give you a badge and say: “You are now a facilitator!”

Here’s part of my journey and what I believe helped me gain the experience and confidence to call myself a facilitator.

Facilitation was something that came naturally to me as a kid. I always wanted to bring the whole group together & create together, never wanting to make the decisions or make people do things. I never really understood why I should force things. 
Though not until recent years did I understand that there was a word for what I was doing and that I could actually apply it to businesses & change the people around me.

First, I started reaching out to people who called themselves facilitators, talked to people, interviewed, searched for tools and asked for reading material; there are a lot of tool books out there but understanding the mindset and process of facilitation was a bit harder to find.

Secondly, I was lucky enough to be in a creative business school who encouraged facilitative leadership. So I decided to make the room and time to develop that skill. First I started by asking to lead team development sessions, wrap ups of projects and shadow our program managers when they would start off projects.
I listened and analysed how and why they would use certain tools, questions and looked at things such as timing & their workshop designs.

Though the biggest game-changer in my development was to get a mentor. That mentor was Sarah Gregersen, whom I work with today at The Other Potential.
She came to our school to teach a 5-day facilitation course and 5 minutes in I knew I had to pick her brain. She not only taught facilitation, she also applied it everyday. 
I wanted it to be a mutual exchange of time, knowledge and favours and presented it like that. I had no idea of what I could give her but one thing that was apparent was that I wanted to learn. Facilitation isn’t only about being on the floor and by getting to help a mentor I got that experience. I got the experience of doing the nitty-gritty work; some of it I enjoyed, some not as much. But just like eating is a lot of fun, you can start finding joy in the cooking, the prep work and even doing the dishes if you allow yourself to look at it differently, especially if you’re curious. 
Facilitation is all about the process so look at the process. Look at the bigger systemic process and also look at the process of how facilitators work. I would have never gotten the experience of designing a spreadsheet for a workshop if I hadn’t reached out to do work for my mentor and I would have never gotten the feedback & tips when working the floor.

TL:DR or to summarise it:

1. Reach out, read, interview, discuss.

2. Create the opportunities to try & use facilitation

3. Take a course which focuses on foundations and your tailored needs

4. Get a mentor, work for them and do all the nitty gritty stuff.

5. Once again, get a mentor.

I would like to highlight that facilitation is about transformational leadership and leaders are chosen when the roll & situation asks for it, some days it might be your mother taking charge of the family dinner or that quiet guy in the corner who knows how and where to go to safety in an office fire.

One thing facilitation does focus on is growth, setting a learning or creative environment for the participants. With some thought and reflections I believe you can imagine those situations and find where you can grow yourself and apply your art of facilitation.

Good luck and if you want to discuss, get tips on material and more then feel free to contact me either on Twitter @kblimling or here.