The Appreciative Facilitator

Your Role

Your role as an appreciative facilitator is to host conversations that can help everyone involved create a shared understanding of what it is you want to change and to agree on the steps required to get there.

An appreciative facilitator's skills therefore differ from traditional facilitator skills that are often focused on creating linear, top-down processes and helping people understand predefined solutions.

Those who are new to the role often find that they must take an important and sometimes difficult step of giving up control. You must forget your role as an expert, a chairman, a trainer or a teacher, and instead become a conversation host. You should try to ask more questions, speak less and listen more.

In Action

Skilled appreciative facilitators:

  • Bring an appreciative focus to conversations and processes

  • Help people focus on what they would like to see more of

  • See each conversation and the movement towards an appreciative mindset as small steps towards change

  • Create an environment that helps people develop new routines based on their strengths

  • Accommodate people's different needs, values and levels of motivation in the process

  • Enable reflection on current practice, routines or beliefs to create new shared meaning

  • Help people collaborate to create a shared understanding and take action together

Sarah Lewis explains how some participants may initially be disoriented by focusing on the positives, fearing that perceived problems will be ignored.

Ground Rules

You may also find that some of your participants need a little time to adjust to this conversational approach.

It can be helpful for you, as the facilitator, to set out some ground rules that will help guide your conversations and sessions.

Here are some simple ground rules to follow:

  • Ask open-ended questions

  • Listen carefully to what everyone has to say

  • Be non-judgemental

  • Focus on the positives and what works well today

  • Give appreciative feedback

It is your job to make everyone feel comfortable and secure. You should provide space for all kinds of people, including the quieter ones, allowing all participants to contribute to the conversation.