How organizations benefit from an outside facilitator

Apr 10, 2018Eric Morgenstern

Leadership

You're stuck. You have an important problem to solve. You need consensus where there is none currently. These are all great opportunities to consider engaging an outside facilitator.

We all know doctors shouldn't treat their own families. And often, leaders shouldn't facilitate planning sessions for their own team. Frequently, when leaders ignore this advice it leads to unfavorable results.

Leaders need time and space to work "on" their business, instead of working "in" their business. They also need time to gain the most comprehensive perspective of their challenges, and to get buy-in and engagement from the entire team.

We've learned that the answers to most business problems reside in the gray matter of those closest to the problem. The challenge – or opportunity – is to find a way to extract that good thinking, synthesize it, aggregate it, and then articulate it to the entire group. Then, the group must simply clarify actionable next steps on the path to success. This helps ensure everyone is moving in the same direction.

Although this may sound simple, it’s often not. But when an outside facilitator does a great job, it’s almost magical.

Here are 10 reasons organizations should engage an outside facilitator and the benefits of doing so:

  1. There's no one internally who can effectively facilitate this discussion. You've tried to solve this problem, or similar challenges in the past without success. You know in your gut that you need to do something different.
  2. You need a new perspective. "We can't solve the problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them," said Albert Einstein. Facilitators can draw upon years of real-world experiences to help change the vantage point of participants. These techniques help the participants "see" things from new perspectives.
  3. You need THIS discussion to be taken more seriously than just another meeting. Engaging an outside facilitator elevates the level of perceived importance. Facilitators bring a freshness, as well as a high level of enthusiasm and energy. They can help everyone achieve a "beginner's mindset," which often allows people to break through to new solutions.
  4. This topic is emotionally charged. It’s often a challenge for people close to a situation to maintain a sense of objectivity. A skilled facilitator won't hesitate from skewering a sacred cow or questioning a taboo topic.
  5. Achieves laser focus. The specific goal for the session becomes the facilitator’s purpose, 100 percent. Rabbit trails or tangents are placed in the parking lot.
  6. Everyone's voice is in the choir. A skilled facilitator ensures that everyone participates. Proper preparation and insight into each participant allows the facilitator to draw out the introverts and keep the meeting dominators from taking control. "None of us is as smart as all of us," as the management guru, Kenneth Blanchard said. This is the cornerstone for exceptional results.
  7. Participants often "play" nicer. With an outsider in the room, better behavior often ensues to help eliminate negative norms.
  8. Keeps the process moving. There's a solid roadmap to completion, ensuring there is accountability and SMART action steps.
  9. Participants learn new skills. The team is exposed to new techniques and processes for group decision making, which often leaves participants with new skills they can apply later.
    And finally...
  10. It's more fun! I often say that "work is a four-letter word, but you darn well better enjoy it." If work isn't fun for you, go do something else. Life's too short. Most of the groups we help facilitate tell us that the session was fun. That's great. We all do better work when we enjoy it.

So, when you are stuck, facing a big challenge or you need everyone to get to the best solution, consider engaging an outside facilitator.

Onward...