Extraordinary Team Blog

When You Need One of Four Types of Facilitators

Posted by Kristin Arnold on February 14, 2012

Have you ever been in a meeting that lasted forever?  Or one person dominated the discussion?  Or hijacked the team to go in a completely different direction?  Or a meeting that was a waste of time because there were no clear agreements made?

That’s because no one was responsible for watching the “process”: Clarifying the objective, creating a plan or agenda to achieve the objective and then following the plan!

It is always helpful to designate one person on the team to be at the very least a “process observer” – someone who can remind the group when they aren’t following the agenda, timeframes or stated ground rules.  Often times, participants get all caught up in the “content” of things and are quick to scurry off into rabbit trails of interesting information – which doesn’t contribute one cent to the meeting objectives.

For your more typical meetings in the workplace, you may want to have a facilitator on the team.  It’s a bit more than a simple process observer as a facilitator has developed process skills to assist the group from getting from the current state (Point A) to the desired state (Point B).  For a highly developed team, the facilitator role may rotate amongst team members.

You can also use an internal facilitator – someone from within your company who is trained in facilitation and management.  Many of my clients develop a cadre of facilitators scattered throughout their company (many of them trained by me!) or aligned with the Organizational Development department.  Optimally, this person should NOT be part of your team.  Why?  Because it is a lot easier to get dragged onto one of those rabbit trails when you have content knowledge and a vested interest in the outcome.

And then there are the high stakes meetings – REALLY important meetings that you can’t afford to mess up.  When time is of the essence and commitment is paramount, it makes sense to invest in a professional facilitator to make sure you achieved your desired outcomes.  You use a professional facilitator when it is important to you to achieve the results, to have an unbiased, non-partial, objective person guiding the process so that all can participate and put their fingerprints all over the final product.  People will execute that which they have created, and professional facilitators are all about having the group create sustainable agreements that each team member is willing to deliver.