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Top 5 Reasons To Use a Professional Facilitator

(posted: March 5th, 2014)

At a mid-sized law firm, one of the two founding partners wants the rest of the partners to take a hand in determining the future of the firm. They have strategic planning meetings, but over the course of several years, nothing really gets done at these meetings. Everyone says they want to participate, yet when it comes to the actual meetings the partners are disengaged, distant, seemingly uninterested in the agenda. How can we bridge the gap between their talk and their actions and get them to participate? (Read the complete Success Story here)

The answer? Professional facilitation.

An experienced facilitator will turn this difficult situation into a successful gathering where important or critical objectives are met or even exceeded.

Facilitation, n.: The act of making easy, or easier

Facilitator, n: One that helps to bring about an outcome (as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision.

Facilitated Session, n.: A highly structured, organized meeting in which the facilitator steers the participants through a series of steps or actions to reach a result that is created collaboratively, and understood and accepted by all.

5 Reasons You Need an Outside Facilitator

1) Frees You To Participate. As a leader, you feel responsible for initiating and leading meetings. But sometimes you are more effective when you sit at the table and participate equally in the discussion with your executive team. This is especially true for strategy meetings, or when you are working on the team dynamics themselves. With a professional facilitator, you can focus on the work that needs to get done.

2) Objectivity. It is impossible for you to remain neutral on the content, process, and results, yet you want the participants to feel free to discuss their thoughts and opinions openly. If you lead the meeting, some people may feel intimidated, because they think they are expected to agree with you. Separating the leader and facilitator roles will help ensure that the meeting sticks to the agenda and that people get involved.

3) They Keep You On Track. A skilled facilitator will guide you through the process, maintaining focus on the issues or the specified topic. When you get a bunch of people together, especially executive teams, you can end up with someone who dominates the discussion, someone who likes to play devil's advocate (inappropriately), and those who clam up and say nothing. Your professional facilitator watches for this, asks the right questions at the right time, and manages participation to ensure that everyone contributes in their own way.

A 50-member board is gathering to do some work on the best direction for their advocacy group. The members are all C-level executives from major companies who are normally in competition with each other, but in this situation, they need to come together and make some decisions.

How do we make this situation comfortable and safe so that these executives are willing to engage?

Professional facilitation. (Read the Success Story here)

4) The Stakes Are High, or Issues Are Complex. When you've got complex issues to deal with, or potential conflict among team members, a skilled facilitator is a must. She will stay alert to keeping the group focused and moving forward, and will be able to handle any conflicts that do arise. A great facilitator can actually help you achieve positive results from meeting conflict.

5) Energy, Engagement & Results. Without a facilitator, your meetings often result in no or little change. With a facilitator, you set your goals in advance, and then your facilitator creates activities that encourage participation, keep the group energized, and get results.

Your Most Successful Meeting

The choice of a facilitator for your next group meeting, workshop, retreat, or conference should be based on your leadership beliefs, your group's history of effectiveness and interaction, the importance or value of the meeting deliverables, and your own desired level of participation in the meeting. With the right facilitator, you can expect your meeting to be the most successful yet.

If you have further interest in the facilitation process, or doubts about using a facilitator, please get in touch with me.

Oh, and what happened to the law firm and the 50-member executive board? Check out their Success Stories, below, to learn how both groups benefited from facilitation!

Success Stories:
The Council
Montgomery & Hansen

Challenge Yourself
  • Do you use a facilitator regularly?
  • What has been your experience with meetings that don't have an outside facilitator versus those that do?
  • Can you share your best practices for working with a professional facilitator?

Images licensed from 123RF



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KLR Post

That's a brilliant observation, Jo!

Companies often waste a lot of money on meetings, initiatives, and plans that end up going nowhere because everyone is too busy with their day-to-day work to retain the focus. As Jo points out, the objective pro facilitator can really save the day, and the budget.

Thanks for contributing!

Posted by Kristi

(on Mar 13th, 2014  8:21 AM)


I completely agree with you Kristy. What most people don't often consider is that the money spent on a facilitator can be more than made back by the focus and productivity gained in the meeting. A meeting that is kept on track with a neutral facilitator has a much higher chance of success both in the meeting and later in implementation. Great points!

Posted by Jo

(on Mar 13th, 2014  8:21 AM)

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