Leaders in every organization come to a point where they need to make tough decisions in order to move the company forward. These decisions may involve downsizing, moving in a risky new direction or revamping the culture of a company.
Hiring a facilitator for these discussions is a great option. Not every difficult decision requires professional facilitation. The following factors are good indicators that you need a facilitator.
- You’ve fallen victim to the “Assumption of Competence” in the past. It’s human nature for people to pick and choose evidence and information that justifies the beliefs they already hold. This commitment to “rightness” can be especially dangerous if professionals enter a decision-making process convinced that they’ve already found the best option. Facilitators are pros at helping executives and groups see different viewpoints and consider pieces of information that create a more complete, accurate picture.
- You’re short on time. It can take organizations years to reach a major decision. Most companies don’t have the luxury of such a long decision-making timeline. They need to respond to a problem or implement a change quickly, before they fall behind the competition. A good facilitator keeps team members on track and makes sure they stick to their timeline.
- You need a neutral voice. Too often employees feel the need to agree or choose a side because they’re afraid of losing their jobs or getting on a manager’s bad side. A facilitator is a voice of neutrality who can ensure that everyone’s voice is heard without bringing any biases to the table.
- You’re struggling with effectively planning the process of change. Even the strongest decision can be completely futile if you fail to create an effective plan for implementing it. Often the implementation can take years and veer off course before anything meaningful has taken place, often leading executives to abandon a good idea. Facilitators help teams organize the ideas and create clear, effective action plans for implementing decisions. A great facilitator will even follow along with your progress, ensure that you adhere to the plan, and help you to make improvements and adjustments along the way.
Effective facilitators organize the conversations that other people have. Their role is to guide the conversation by defining the desired outcomes, deciding the sequence of topics, ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard, asking relevant questions, limiting non-productive communication, and summarizing the conclusions reached.
Highly effective facilitators focus on doing the following 15 things regularly. They:
- Establish the goals: both of the meeting itself and of the process overall
- Define the agenda (in advance or at the meeting)
- Deal with ground rule violations quickly and fairly
- Define and manage the ground rules
- Clarify decision-making roles and responsibilities
- Ensure that everyone’s voice is heard
- Keep their own voice and personality in check
- Probe for clarity; make sure everyone understands what’s being said
- Document the key points and agreements so they are visible to the group
- Test and validate consensus as needed
- Help people put their conflicts on the table and address them productively
- Document action steps, responsibilities, and timing
- Clarify what communication needs to happen after the meeting
- Summarize key decisions at the end of the meeting
- Ask people to evaluate the quality of the meeting and what to do differently next time