Strictly speaking, a facilitator makes a process easier. A facilitator does not add or subtract from the process, but helps bring about an outcome by providing guidance and assistance.
“How” something happens is just as important, if not more important, than “what” happens. The process of communication, team building, leadership, etc. can change the outcome, so spending time understanding and improving the process is incredibly valuable.
A great facilitator helps participants experience and discuss the “How” so better choices can be made to the process and create a better outcome.
At their best, a facilitator is like an artist – an amazing result occurs but we never saw the brushstrokes.
Teacher vs. Facilitator
Consultants/teachers tell people what they should do, what the solution is and how to arrive at answers. Unfortunately, we have been trained in this system since we went to kindergarten. That there is a right and wrong way to do things with ‘correct’ answers. This is really only true in limited circumstances and the rest of the answers/solutions are up to us to discover.
Facilitators challenge this paradigm by asking open-ended questions so that people can come to their own solutions and come to new ‘correct’ answers.
Learning to facilitate is like learning to sail. Sailing is actually quite simple with just a few principles necessary to learn. However, as a sailor, you will never stop learning the nuances because there are unlimited variables.
Learning to facilitate is fairly easy but becoming a master facilitator is lifelong learning.