Some people think of a facilitator as someone who presents ideas to a group, rather than someone who helps a group develop their own ideas. In truth, a facilitator serves as a thought counselor and a mediator. If you are considering hiring a facilitator for an upcoming meeting, but you’re not familiar with how facilitators operate, below are key components that a good facilitator does and does not perform:

Does not Provide Ideas

Whereas speakers supply inspiring ideas, facilitators help group members express their own ideas—a practice that can impact a group’s thought quality and ability to communicate in a lasting way. Instead of supplying great thoughts, facilitators help people become great thinkers.

Dissuades Dominant Speakers

If a group member’s loquaciousness prevents other members from speaking, a facilitator will dissuade the person from over-talking. This can be accomplished respectfully, however, if the person’s verbosity persists, he or she may be asked to not speak unless called upon to do so.

Does not Chastise Ideas

The easiest way to sabotage a team report is to chastise the ideas of team members. If team members are headed in the wrong direction, a facilitator will pose questions or remind them of key points to get them back on track. However, group members are never made to feel wrong for, or embarrassed about their ideas.

Keeps the Conversation on Course

Group facilitation meetings are often thought of as brainstorming sessions, which is partly true. While team members do brainstorm ideas, they do so within a formal context. Prior to a meeting’s commencement, a facilitator sets the meeting’s rules, expectations, and goals, and makes them known to the group.  If team members diverge from the rules, the facilitator will guide them back on course.

Does not Promote Personal Ideals

Some facilitators have decades of experience in their area of facilitation, but they refrain from promoting solutions from their own experience for two reasons: they haven’t investigated whether the solutions would work, and the point of facilitation is to make a group self reliant, not reliant on a facilitator.

Fosters a Sense of Teamwork

Many teams have a few members who try to instruct the rest, even when their status is equal. Facilitators can eliminate this dynamic by dissuading dominant members and encouraging submissive ones. Just as over assertive members may be asked to temper their speech, non-assertive ones may be asked to offer more thoughts and be called on to speak.