Why Hire a Facilitator?

Jen Dodson

Chief Creative Officer

We’ve all had that facilitator. She asked you to rub each other’s backs to show the team is there to support each other, at 8am before coffee. He talked almost the entire time about things you still don’t understand. A lot of time was wasted tossing a ball in a circle to remember insignificant facts. We could go on…

That’s not what this is about. This is about the facilitator that opens doors for your group. The facilitator that gets your entire team excited around a specific initiative.

Why do I need a Facilitator anyway?

  • You need to participate: When you are running a meeting it’s hard to be engaged in the conversation. You’re worried about the agenda, watching the clock, etc. Having a facilitator puts you on a level playing field with everyone in the room.
  • You don’t want to be bad cop: A good facilitator knows how to read the room and constructively tell influencers to pipe down. They call out the quiet person and don’t let a strong personality take over the room. Including your own.
  • You have preconceived views: You know that Suzy thinks XYZ and that Billy doesn’t know much about it. A facilitator brings a clean perspective that doesn’t allow what you believe to be true to influence the room.
  • You’re too close: It’s human nature to stick with what is comfortable. A facilitator can ask the questions you wouldn’t think to ask and force you to step out of your comfort zone.
  • You want everyone included: Teams are more likely to open up when a good facilitator is in the room. It ensures the focus is on solving a problem and removes the perception of complaining to your superior/peers.

How do you find this magical person?

  • Start with your goal: Really understand what problem you are trying to accomplish and find someone with the background to help. Don’t hire someone with a financial background to brainstorm your next marketing campaign.
  • Remember what worked: Think of a time a facilitator really helped the team move in the right direction. What was different about their approach and the prepared agenda that made it work?
  • Ask your network: That doesn’t mean posting on Facebook or LinkedIn for a random recommendation. Ask specific individuals about who they trust and their experiences. Talk through what you hope to accomplish and see who/what they suggest.
  • Interview the person: What experience do they have facilitating groups? What type of people were in the groups and what was the team trying to accomplish? Running a group of entry level sales people during a training is different than a group of industry leaders debating a new product launch. See if he/she will share a bad experience and what was learned from it.
  • Check references: You do this for employees, why not for a facilitator that’s supposed to be part of a pivotal conversation? Ask them what was done to prepare and how the investment helped their organization.

What do I need to avoid?

Like I said, we’ve all had that facilitator. Think about what they did wrong. Did they interject their own perspectives? Were they trying to be part of the conversation instead of guiding the group? When this happens, sometimes the person is trying to consult and build rapport more than facilitate. Other times, it turns into all fun and games…literally. Nothing actually gets accomplished besides “team building.” In these cases, the person was more focused on a positive feeling than an actionable outcome.

Remember, not only are you paying for the facilitator, you are also taking time out of your team’s day. Putting eight executives in a room for several hours is thousands of dollars. Make sure the person running the meeting is prepared, capable, and knows the desired outcome(s).

Please reach out if you think you need a facilitator. I have plenty of experience both facilitating meetings and serving as a consultant for strategy sessions. Even if I can’t help, I know plenty of people I’d trust to work with my team. I’ll help you figure out who would be a good fit for your goals.