Productive meetings typically don’t just happen organically. A skilled facilitator can coax great ideas out of a management retreat, help managers brainstorm strategies to boost efficiency, or ease the culture clash and build cooperation when your company acquires a former competitor. Certain situations highlight the benefits of a facilitator to manage a meeting or other gathering:

  • Important planning meetings
  • Strategic planning sessions/retreats
  • Meetings to tackle difficult/global organizational issues
  • When results are critical/little margin for error
  • When navigating strong opinions or competing agendas
  • When consensus is critical and there is no clear/best answer
  • When trust hasn’t been established or there’s a culture clash

In-House vs. Outside Facilitator

In some cases, a member of the executive team, HR team, or another in-house employee can serve as a facilitator. They understand the corporate culture. They know the attendees, and they often have established relationships within the organization.

The more difficult or challenging the situation, however, the more likely that an outside facilitator is a better option.

First, an external facilitator is unbiased. An outsider can challenge leaders or the organization’s established practices without worrying about losing their jobs. Such an individual often has no established relationships within the organization and can ask difficult questions.

Most importantly, experienced facilitators can bring best practices from other organizations and industries to the table. They’re likely to understand how to navigate the issues in many types of situations. And, as outsiders, they can promise a level of confidentiality.

Best Practices

Whether using an in-house or outside facilitator, these best practices can help you achieve a successful outcome.

First, match the skills and background of the facilitator to the content. Some facilitators are excellent instructors. Others are excellent at leading discussions and helping groups reach a consensus.

A second, closely related consideration is to match the facilitator to the goals of the gathering. A management retreat to brainstorm ideas for the following year, for example, calls for a facilitator who can create psychological safety to encourage participants in sharing ideas and opinions. Or, if the goal is to revamp operations to meet the requirements of a consent decree, the facilitator should have a deep understanding of the industry and the details of the consent decree and regulatory process.

Finally, the approach and personality of the facilitator should match the audience. The facilitator should understand how technical or complex the meeting’s subject matter needs to be, and whether the audience will respond better to someone more buttoned up or more casual.

To establish credibility quickly, the facilitator’s tone, approach, and personality should match attendees’ expectations. If the facilitator is better at highly structured training and the meeting calls for conceptual thinking, the facilitator may struggle, leading to unsatisfactory results.

For more information on the benefits of a facilitator, or to discuss your facilitation needs, please contact us at 609-730-1049 or send us an email.