From Good To Great

What is the difference between a good facilitator and a great facilitator?

Getting to the top isn't your only challenge.

Whether on a zip line, in team-building initiatives, throughout a high-ropes course or at a climbing wall, dedicated facilitators are needed to manage the risk and enjoyment of each participant.

Campgrounds, climbing gyms and other recreational facilities often have dedicated staff on hand that are certified to facilitate these events, in addition to their contact list for the part-time help that is scheduled as needed.

But in evaluating these personnel, are they truly meeting high standards, or merely getting the job done?

Although the assistance necessary to keep such programs running is certainly appreciated, instructors and camp managers often recognize that a high-quality team of facilitators is one that goes beyond simply following procedural guidelines and remembering how to tie the proper knots.

Great facilitators practice not only the skills required for certification, but some noteworthy intangible qualities as well.


This characteristic may seem obvious, as it is so often asked of participants. Climbers are told to encourage one another, team-building groups are instructed to keep comments positive, and a high energy level is generally a pleasant goal to set for any event.

Facilitators can usually identify students who need an extra boost of confidence for motivation, or the one member of a corporate group who needs a verbal pick-me-up.

But how often do the facilitators recognize that they, too, are being singled out by their participants? Everyone on the ropes course can likely tell which facilitators are truly passionate about their position, and which are already checking their watches for the next break.

How encouraged can a nervous ropes-course guest feel when noticing that the facilitator is already checking out? Through long days, bad weather and unanticipated difficulties, great facilitators consistently maintain an enthusiasm that not only enhances their day, but often provides an infectious attitude for others to catch.


Camp professionals can be a quirky bunch, with passions that few others may understand and a particular mindset that most may never quite grasp. Sometimes, on the business side of camping, the charm of these idiosyncrasies is lost amid the supposed obligation to exude professionalism at every opportunity. Except, of course, during summer camp, at which point it is perfectly acceptable and even encouraged to put a spotlight on the bizarre quirks and oddities of counselors.

Although a level of seriousness should always be exhibited on the ropes course, there should still be room for creative presentation and facilitator individuality. Whether this is exemplified in the humorous manner in which the introductory explanation is given, the goofy hat that a particular facilitator wears that makes him easily identifiable, or the general conduct of a young woman with a gift for keeping attention spans, great facilitators are unique and know how to use their uniqueness as a strength to garner attention, rapport and respect.

A great facilitator can make all the difference.

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