Top 12 Suite of Tools for the Competent Facilitator


In my 24+ years of running a facilitator business, I feel there are 12 top skills you require as a facilitator to meet the needs of your clients. When you develop these skills, you grow in your own ability to connect with people from all walks of life. Below I offer my brief thoughts of what the core learning areas are, why each is important and what a few of my favorite resources are. There are so many good ones. I offer just a sampling of ones I use regularly.

1. Conflict Resolution and Negotiation

Every client group usually has some internal struggle or several interpersonal conflicts going on. When a client asks you to do team-building, you can usually bet this is a code word for conflict. If you are not comfortable handling and accepting conflict, you might want to consider some skill-building in these areas. Some of my favorites:

Non-violent communication (

Dynamic Facilitation (

Sarah Peyton’s blog,

See our Facilitator Tools on the category “Conflict Resolution” with many titles on the topic.

2. Sales and Marketing

You will not be facilitating unless you have some clients whether you are an internal or external consultant. Know how to “sell” the gift and resource of facilitation and the concept of a neutral third party to help groups think well together. Find out how to help the client see what is lost everyday in productivity without this essential tool and skill. Know how to close a sale.

My favorite local person is Kathie Nelson, She has an excellent blog and is a first rate coach for your business.

3. Cultural Competency

There are many ways to be more skillful with people who are different than yourself.  Another important aspect of cultural competency is the need to be aware of your own biases and places where you might get triggered by a particular type of behavior in a group. Much of this is related to what was hard for us as young people. It got set into our amygdala’s and darn it, those nasty habits/patterns keep showing up and prevent us from really establishing strong relationships with races, generations, religions, etc. different from our own. Doing this self-discovery work is key to us being able to be authentic and powerful facilitators.

Check out Ann Marie Lei’s blog, She gives us “insights, ideas and inspiration for culturally diverse teams.”

Visit Nanci Luna Jimenez’s blog often reviews key books and resources helpful to facilitators and those wishing to build cultural competency skills

Our Facilitator Tools Modules offer many titles including “Designing for Diversity”, “Open the Door to Cultural Competency”.

4. Problem-solving and Decision-making

Every group at some time is going to need to solve a problem and/or make a decision. My least favorite decision-making tool is dot voting. Ask me why sometime. 🙂 My favorites include:

Tools from ICA’s Focused Conversation Method in their ToP Facilitation Methods course

Dr. de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

Check this video link out also:  Video description: At Detroit SOUP, more than the broth is simmering—ideas are, too. Each month, creative thinkers, artists and neighbors gather to share project ideas over five-dollar bowls of soup & bread. As the meal winds down, the voting winds up, and winners go home with the soup-money, a micro-grant of sorts, to get their project going. As a result, Detroit’s arts, parks, social justice, and urban farming scenes are thriving. Founder Amy Kaherl says her organization was often credited for funding these projects. “[But] we didn’t do anything,” she clarifies. “Except provide an opportunity for the dinners. It was the people in the community who felt it was safe to share their ideas with other people [that made this happen].”  I found this site on May 14, and was wondering if Portland had a similar activity. Well, it turns out they do since I found a press release the day after. Here’s the link: to the site:  Why we included this? It’s a grassroots model of decision making and community collaboration while sharing ideas and a meal.

Our own module library offers many titles on  Consensus and Decision Tools.

5. Organizational Development Models and Culture Change Models

To ensure you understand what it takes to help an organization make a culture shift or move to new levels of teamwork, collaboration or effectiveness for example, you need to understand systems. My favorites include:

ICA’s ( “Mapping the Organizational Journey”, “Facilitating Change in Whole Systems”.

You can also join your local ODN (Organizational Development Network) Chapter.

We offer very effective tools in the module entitled, “Culture Change: Building Collaborative Organizations” and “Looking Back to Move Forward: The Most Amazing Retrospective Tool We Know”

6. Oral and written communication

Imagine a facilitator who cannot give clear instructions, tell a compelling story to inspire the group to action, articulate clear provocative and thoughtful questions, or write a clear document to synthesize the groups’ work?

For verbal communication try a local Toastmaster’s group.

For writing practice, take a one day course and get coaching.

7. Team-Building self assessment tools and profiles

There are many great tools that benefit teams and individuals by helping them accept and work more skillfully with learning different styles in the group.

My current favorite is the OneSmartWorld 4Di tool ( because it is simple to learn, include 18 different strategies for thinking and has a personal spirit dimension which I’ve not seen in any other tool.

My other favorite is the Herrmann Brain Dominance instrument (

Some people really like the Insights Assessment Tool.

8. Consensus building and planning

Every group will need to build lasting agreement and create plans together. There are many tools.

My favorites have been developed by ToP-ICA (Institute for Cultural Affairs) ( including their strategic and action planning models and consensus workshop method.

Another consensus decision-making model that I like is the Gradients of Agreement Scale in the book “Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making” by Sam Kaner.

Check out our own YouTube on a simple ToP Consensus Building Tool use a flipchart,

9. Interpersonal Neurology

Everyone learns differently. The art of getting a group to really process quickly now requires that we as facilitators understand this science of learning and thinking. Lately I’ve been intrigued by interpersonal neurobiology. Here is one organization that gives us resources on this new science.

10. Gaining meaningful participation from every group member

Do you know how to work with both dominant and reluctant participants? Do you know sure-fire techniques for making sure every voice is heard for every topic? There are many courses available to help you figure this out. Most basic facilitation skills course cover the processes you can use to do this well.

Our own Meetings that Rock LIGHT and Meetings That Rock ESSENTIALS covers this well. Offered virtually, in-person and as a self paced study course.

ICA – ToP courses are great models of this. (

Free resource from  The Leader-Member Exchange Theory: Getting the Best from all Team Members

11. Creativity

One of our best “gifts” as facilitators is to be able to help a group play at their work, laugh together and enable their creative spirits.  Are you able to help a group break out of their usual grooves of thinking? Do you know great techniques to push them out of their comfort zone in a fun and compelling way?

See our cool module set on Brainstorming and Creativity.

12. Strategy and Strategic Planning

One of the most valuable models or systems you can learn is how to do excellent strategic planning. There are many good models band my favorite because it produces consistently good results and implementation is the ToP course. Along with this, comes also the need to know how to help a group develop mission, purpose and values, do an environmental trend analysis and much more.

Michael Wilkinson’s Video on Strategic Planning:

Core Strategy Tools, Strategic Options, Organization Design, Strategic Prioritization, and Executing Strategy:

See our Tools Modules that help you develop strategy under the category Strategic Planning

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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