Five Finger Model of Facilitation - January 2013

By Steve Zuieback · Posted Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Core Facilitation Skills

I developed this simplistic model of the core facilitation skills after being asked a critical question - “What are the most important skills to be an effective facilitator?” I ticked the skills off the fingers of one hand, and this became known as the Five Finger Model. Click here to watch a 7 minute video clip on the Five Finger Model.

What is the most important finger?

Absolutely the most important skill and factor in group facilitation is defining both the rational and experiential outcomes. You need to ascertain both the product (rational) that is expected by the end of a process as well as the experiences (experiential) that you would like people to have in working toward the product. Click here to learn more about the importance of outcomes.

Questioning Skills – The Second Finger

Almost all facilitation processes are composed of a set of sequential high quality questions. People often ask, “Where do I find such high quality questions?” The questions need to be designed specific to your outcomes, however there are a couple of wonderful sources of questions – Dorothy Strachan’s, Questions that Work and both of my published works, Leadership Practices for Challenging Times and Facilitation Skills for Chaotic Times – Process Flash Cards.

Surfacing Values and Beliefs – The Third Finger

The most powerful work in facilitation comes from assisting groups to change their perspectives and points of view that they bring to their work. This means surfacing, and sometimes challenging, their values and beliefs. It is our values and beliefs that filter our perspectives and points of view. This type of work is assisted by the facilitator’s skills in questioning, process design and in creating experiences for individuals and groups.

Observation and Sensory Acuity – The Fourth Finger

Groups “speak” volumes about what is happening through their verbal and non-verbal behaviors. Facilitators need to be able to observe and ultimately interpret behavior of individuals and groups in order continually adjust what they do in service of the team outcomes. This comes down to the sensory acuity and observation skills of the facilitator. In order to be effective at “reading behavior” a facilitator must be fully present to the group rather than lost in their own thoughts, ideas and recommendations. One of the biggest blunders is to be stuck in what is called first position. Click here to see a prior blog post that humorously examines this perceptual position. 

Flexibility on the Spot – The Fifth Finger

Closely tied to the fourth finger, a facilitator must be able to adjust their agenda and process on the spot. This does not necessarily mean changing the outcomes but changing the approach. Many times the facilitator has done all the pre-work and planning to walk into a meeting where a real-time crisis supersedes the planned agenda. In order to do this you must have a great “tool bag” of process strategies as well as a clear theory of practice that allows you to diagnosis and adjust on the spot. Click here to learn more about Theory of Practice.


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