How to be a good facilitator

If your organisation is of sufficient size, and there are willing people, it is a good idea for your Parent’s Group to have more than one facilitator. This will spread the potential workload and also ensure that if one facilitator moves on from the role or leaves the company then knowledge and momentum can be kept up.

The facilitator should be good at aorganisation and communications. They will need to arrange the location and dates of meetings, and help manage communications and marketing for the group.  The facilitator will also need to run meetings as well as potentially moderate online contacts to ensure that discussions remain on topic and everyone can be involved.

Being a facilitator

The key role of the facilitators in the meetings will be to set the tone and agenda for the meeting. Starting the meeting with possible discussion questions, promoting an inclusive non-judgemental atmosphere and encouraging equal participation. They need to acknowledge that no parent is a perfect parent all the time. They will also need to practice acceptance and compassion, ensure good timekeeping and adherence to an agenda.

Structuring the session

The agenda for meetings should be driven by group members, as well as other stakeholders – for example if HR wish to give a presentation on SPL, this would be an excellent forum to do so.

In each meeting, the facilitator should:

  • (Re)define the purpose of the group and the meeting
  • Present an agenda that covers topics to be discussed and allow sufficient time to do so
  • Make sure that the session starts and ends on time

Example agenda

Opening x 5 min, circle questions and issues x 10 min, discussion x 20 min, action step brainstorming x 10 min, writing down your action steps x 5 min, feedback x 5 min.

Running a meeting / moderating an online group

A facilitator should be a person confident in talking or posting in a group, but should also be aware that they are there to encourage others to take part, and not dominate discussions themselves.

  • Be unbiased in discussions – parenting can be a topic where people can feel wary of being judged, and the facilitator should be a role model in accepting others’ points of view.
  • Practice “active listening” – where appropriate, repeating and summing up what speakers are saying and checking that it has been understood fully by the group.

With input from members, the facilitator can establish and embody the ground rules for the group:

  • Emphasising whatever confidentiality rules the group wishes to use.
  • Speaking from their own experience, but also emphasising that all parents and children are different and that the group should be a non judgemental space.
  • Demonstrate respect for all members, addressing people by name.
  • Show that they are listening actively, and encourage others to do the same. Using open-ended questions, and letting all participants have a say. Use language such as “Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?”
  • Do not worry if there are silences in the session – this may allow time for people to think. After asking a question allow time for parents to consider before they answer.

Maintain a focus on the subjects under discussion…but allow time for informal networking

  • Using an agenda will allow key subjects to be discussed.
  • But parents may well also wish to chat about their experiences, which may include subjects outside of workplace parenting specifics. The facilitator should encourage this, but to do so at an allocated time, after the agenda topics have been discussed.
  • If running an online group, perhaps there could be separate forums for informal and formal topics.