Why Use an Independent Facilitator

Innovation, Organizational Leadership, Change Management, Strategy

The CEO of Shell Oil when interviewed recently, discussed how at an offsite meeting, where the executive team got together for important discussions, a key failing was revealed. "None of us had even the simplest skills for talking to each other in a meaningful way. We could debate, but we could not listen or share what we were thinking effectively. Our facilitator helped us to begin surfacing problems and lay out our real feelings."

The problem was that the executive team was made up of engineers and scientists unwilling or unable to link their fields together for the sake of the overall business. What teams often fail to realise is that, "Each person's views are a unique perspective of a larger reality."

A good facilitator can ensure that constructive dialogue takes place. Senge says that an independent guide can hold the context of dialogue. In the absence of a skilled facilitator, our habits continually pull us towards debate and away from dialogue. A good facilitator, on the other hand, can help people maintain ownership of the process and outcomes. In dialogue people become observers of their own thinking. What teams with resisters need to aim for is to use the conflict constructively. Heated discussions and outright fighting must be replaced with positive dialogue. Often this can only be done with the assistance of an external facilitator.

The goal of the facilitator is not to help one side win the argument, but rather to find the best argument. The common ground assumption the facilitator lays down is that both parties want a solution and are wise enough to see the consequences of not finding one.

Facilitator / Consultant / Coach – What's the difference?

The facilitator's main aim is to help the group increase effectiveness by improving processes and structure.

  • Process: refers to how a group works together, talks to each other, identifies and solve problems, makes decisions and handles conflict. Structure: refers to stable recurring group processes dynamics and roles.
  • Content: refers to what the group is working on. The facilitator does not need to be a content expert and should remain neutral. The facilitator’s role is to bring out the expertise in the group. (A consultant provides their expertise to the group). In a pure facilitation session the facilitator should not be to seek to change people’s behaviour, but to provide feedback that enables people to decide whether to change their own behaviour, and should they decide, be the facilitator can help them learn how to change (and or add in a coaching element) . (A coach seeks to change behaviour)

A typical Facilitation brief:

  • Create an interactive meeting to develop individual creativity, discussion & activity
  • Structure innovative visioning sessions allowing participants to discover the specific strengths of the group and work together to build a future concept and strategy for XXX
  • Implement methodologies for practical, creative resolution of issues that looks for an improved future result and collaborative working relationship
  • Build a collaborative culture and understand working relationships with the group
  • Encourage sharing and exploitation of issues and ideas in a safe and confidential environment

To adjust international goals to become regional goals aligned with the mission