Do people arrive late to your meetings? At them, do you spend as much meeting time on side issues as on the agenda? Do you feel like you meet and meet and meet, but still fail to make progress? When your group needs help to succeed, hire a facilitator. A facilitator helps groups succeed in these four ways and more.
1. Improves Attendance
Announcing that an outsider will lead your meeting grows attendance. Participants respond to the announcement, “This must be important. They’re bringing in an outsider.” Having the right people at the table and having enough people attend improves the quality of your work. One client’s board chair explained to me after a session, “Not only was I pleased with overall attendance. I was especially pleased George attended. He rarely does, but when he does, he always makes thoughtful contributions.”
2. Increases Preparation
Nonprofit leaders find it difficult to devote adequate time to meeting planning. A seasoned facilitator speeds the process. They ask thoughtful questions to clarify the event’s scope. A facilitator also anticipates challenges and explores options to overcome expected roadblocks in advance.
While preparing for a meeting, an executive director and board chair answered my questions about a scheduled retreat intended to update their strategic plan. The questions helped them to realize that they needed a new vision of their future, not an update of their existing one. With this in mind, we designed the strategic planning meeting to help the board recognize and respond to its opportunities by examining four distinct visions. When the meeting ended, the group concluded that the status quo was not an option. They established a new vision and a master plan to get there as soon as possible.
Your facilitator will weave together activities to help the group build trust, gain knowledge, and identify solutions. At the same time, they include physical movement and interaction opportunities to deepen the relationships between attendees. When other agendas surface, the facilitator collects these for future discussions and helps the group return to the tasks at hand. As needed, they remind the group of the goal of the event and focus energy on getting it done.
Often group members recognize they are stuck and find a way forward. In one meeting, a team repeatedly stated to me that they lacked the authority to take action on a program draining the budget of the whole organization. I challenged them to confirm their lack of power. With this prodding, they learned from the executive they indeed had the authority to recommend and implement a plan of action. So assured, the group moved from “we can’t, because they won’t let us” to solve the problem.
A facilitator increases focus and helps groups succeed. A facilitator encourages attendance, enables you to clarify goals, plans effective routes to your destinations, and, if needed, gets you unstuck.
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