We want to share a bit more about the design behind our program, how its different components fit together to provide a robust learning experience, and share a few tips to help you in your growth as a facilitator.

It’s a common refrain in training circles that “practice makes practice.” In order to get better at your craft, to build the necessary skills and competencies to excel in your field, you must practice. You succeed and fail. You reflect on those successes and failures. And you get better. It was this frame that inspired our VP of Learning Experience, Erik Skogsberg, when he designed our recently-launched Facilitator Certification Program. We wholeheartedly believe that facilitation is the future as companies continue to transform amidst the pandemic and rapid technological change. And we want to help facilitators across industries thrive in their craft.

As a facilitation agency that leads with the value of facilitation for helping a whole spectrum of clients, we’ve gotten many requests over the years for providing a robust facilitation certification program. Growing facilitators wanted to build their skills with our unique guidance and wanted to be recognized for it. So, this summer, we started the process of designing a practice- and cohort-based Facilitator Certification Program. And now, over a month into our first cohort, we’re having fun and learning a great deal. In this post, we’ll share a bit more about the design behind the program, how its different components fit together to provide a robust learning experience, and share a few tips to help you in your growth as a facilitator.

Focus on the Right Facilitator Outcomes

As seasoned facilitators, we have a common set of skills we regularly draw on in our work. We used those skills to anchor the outcomes for the program. Overall, we want facilitators coming out of our program to know and be able to:

  • Identify a spectrum of game-changing facilitation methods and approaches
  • Select the best facilitation methods for your facilitation context
  • Implement the right facilitation methods to meet optimal facilitation outcomes
  • Reflect on areas of personal facilitator strength and growth
  • Cultivate a valuable professional facilitator identity

These course outcomes bring into focus the key steps that an effective facilitator takes time and again to support clients across contexts in their work. Facilitators know and draw from a variety of facilitation approaches and traditions. Then, based on client needs, they select the right facilitation methods to best support clients in their articulated needs . Next, they implement these methods and maximize their impact in the moment with clients. After that, they reflect on areas of facilitator strength and growth to get better. And finally, with the first four outcome areas as a foundation, they are able to cultivate the optimal professional facilitator identity to thrive in the ways that facilitators hope to out in the world. To meet these outcomes, we crafted various learning experiences for our learners.

Dive into A Spectrum of Facilitator Learning Experiences

We introduce and model a spectrum of methods through readings, playbooks, case studies, and class immersion to reach these outcomes. We provide opportunities for facilitators to practice these methods in class and in their work contexts, receive feedback and coaching from both course instructors and course colleagues, and finally produce a professional portfolio that not only shows how facilitators have met course outcomes, but also is crafted in a form and manner that would resonate most with their facilitator audiences (could be LinkedIn, professional website, and/or internal HR employee portfolio spaces). It’s essential for us to support our cohort members as they create a portfolio that will be meaningful for them.

It was important to us from the beginning that the certification would be portfolio-based, asking students to show us and the world their growth through the course. We’ve found that a real difference-maker for facilitators in our industry to not only be able to practice their craft but also to talk about it in a manner that is compelling to the audiences they care about. Building a compelling narrative and facilitator story around practice is essential.

Facilitate and Tell a Purposeful Facilitator Story

Our certification is comprised of both synchronous and asynchronous course components, readings from facilitation texts such as The Art of Gathering, Gamestorming, Liberating Structures, and Rituals for Virtual Meetings, homework assignments to practice methods in facilitator contexts, and colleague and instructor coaching, all in service of creating a professional portfolio. And we base our overall instruction in what is known as a gradual release model of teaching. Our VP of Learning Experience uses this approach extensively, as he has trained hundreds of teachers and facilitators over the years.

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The purpose is to envision an ideal future state for your organization. Let go of all doubts and imagine a future state that is so awesome that it landed your organization in a well-known magazine.

What this oftentimes looks like in practice is the introduction of a method by our instructors, immersion in that method that provides students with an opportunity to not only try it out from the participant’s role but also from the vantage point of the facilitator, and then gradually turning over the work of the facilitator to learners both inside and outside of the course. We then build in both reflection and feedback along the way all geared toward facilitators using that reflection and feedback to grow and get better at talking about their work as facilitators in their portfolio and to outside audiences. We find that this storytelling component is an essential part of the work of a facilitator that pays dividends both inside and outside of the facilitated session. And this storytelling is strongest when it is anchored in a strong purpose.

Anchor Your Practice in Purpose

In fact, so much of our work as facilitators is anchored in purpose. What are the purposes that our clients have for their work? What are the purposes for our work as facilitators with our clients? What are the purposes of each activity and method  we’ve chosen to best help our clients meet their purposes and goals? Being clear on and articulating  these purposes in a consistent narrative is essential to the work of an impactful facilitator. And so much of our work with learners in the certification program is focused here. We not only help our students to build competency in the work of a facilitator, but also to be able to gain deeper perspective and self-awareness about what they are doing and communicate that to a wide variety of audiences. It’s that vantage point on practice we’ve found to be the differentiator between run-of-the-mill facilitators and facilitator-leaders who are able to thrive across a variety of contexts.

Jumpstart Your Facilitator Growth

There are some initial ways you can jumpstart your facilitator growth using techniques from our program. As we mentioned above, so much of what we do is anchored in cultivating purpose(s): you in your work, those of your client, and for your growth. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to begin this process: 

  • What purpose(s) do you have as a facilitator? Why do you do what you do?
  • What purpose(s) do your clients have in asking for your facilitator support?
  • Based on your purpose(s) where do you excel, and where do you want to grow?

Beginning to answer these questions can help you put a finer point on just where you might best lean into facilitator growth. These questions nudge you in defining what may have just been tacit or assumed. This also begins your process of building a compelling narrative for your facilitated sessions and, your own professional identity. Your answers and recursive asking of these questions can help you build focused practice and reflection and jumpstart your journey for deeper facilitator growth.

Commit to Your Facilitator Growth

The answers to the above questions can be a great launching point for your individual growth journey. They are also an excellent precursor to making a deeper commitment to your growth through our certification program. If you’re ready to dedicate the necessary time to take your facilitation to the next level and would like to do so with seasoned instructors and a supportive cohort, then submit your application today. Applications are due for our next cohort on January 14th, 2022, and then begins on February 11th, 2022. We’d love to see you in our next cohort.

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