Get Your Team Unstuck with a Facilitator

Many workplace teams find themselves stuck, unable to collaborate effectively or work through differences.

Teams mired in conflict, frustration or mediocrity can often benefit from outside expertise to minimize the low morale and disengagement fallout from can result from team conflict. Teams stuck are at risk of losing talent and/or team productivity. Bringing in a strong team facilitator can foster healthy debate, accountability, commitment and trust.

A facilitator’s role is to improve the way the team identifies challenges, solves complex problems and moves forward with a successful action plan. The best facilitators develop customized exercises to increase safety and team skills to make dialogue and honest candid feedback possible. Team meetings facilitated by solid professionals won’t be boring or frustrating.

A professional facilitator can help your team:
• End meetings with actionable items and clear decisions
• Increase participation, dialogue, engagement and accountability
• Work through conflict effectively
• Surface any “elephants in the room”
• Test assumptions
• Drive to solutions vs. getting stuck with whining and blaming
• Clarify roles, task expectations and goals/objectives

Outside facilitators aren’t hampered by internal political agendas, they should be impartial and neutral. Because outside facilitators have no decision-making power or authority over the team they are non-threatening and can therefore guide a team move towards productive change. They support teams with structure, safety and the right questions to encourage input, inquiry, healthy debate and dialogue.

I regularly help teams with facilitation. I can be reached at maureen@pathtochange.com or 425 736 691.

Facilitation Helps Teams

One of the greatest challenges facing most leaders today is how to maximize the creativity, quality, productivity and performance of their team. In my experience as an executive and team facilitation coach, not all leaders have an innate ability to bring the best of their people forward and even fewer know how to deal with a team mired in conflict.

A workplace team stuck in conflict, silence or frustration often lacks effective leadership. Effective leaders know how to facilitate a team in conflict towards healthy safe debate and new solutions that allow a team move forward. Without these skills, teams often waste their valuable human talent and potential. Team members become disengaged and morale plummets. In the worse cases, organizations lose talented performers. Many HR exit interviews reveal the real reason for a talented employee leaving is their frustration with a boss’s lack of leadership and team building ability.

The good news — help is available. There are professional team coaches and meeting facilitators that can bring in skills and tools to help people work together more creatively and productively.

A facilitator’s role is to improve the way the team identifies challenges, solves complex problems and moves forward with a successful action plan. The best facilitators can help meetings run more effectively so teams can accomplish more with less work hours. They develop customized exercises to increase safety and team skills to make dialogue and honest candid feedback possible.

Diversity of opinions, perspectives and experiences combine to make a team powerful. Complex team workplace problems are often best resolved with more than one head in the game. Good facilitators help team’s tackle difficult conversations in a way that increases trust and performance. They engage everyone so that all team members have an opportunity to have their input considered. Team meetings that are facilitated by professionals are rarely boring or frustrating.

Professional facilitator’s or team coaches can help your team:

  • End meetings with actionable items and clear decisions
  • Increase participation, dialogue, engagement and accountability
  • Work through conflict effectively
  • Surface any “elephants in the room”
  • Test assumptions
  • Drive to solutions vs. getting stuck with whining and blaming
  • Clarify roles, task expectations and goals/objectives

Outside facilitators (meaning they are hired from outside the organization) can be effective because they are impartial and neutral without internal political agendas that are often perceived when using someone on the “inside”. Outside facilitators have no decision-making power or authority over the team. They do not control or dominate but provide opportunities as a “servant” to the team. Their goal is often to empower and help unleash a team’s collective energy and talent.

Good facilitators must remain grounded and have enough personal authority to stay centered in the heat of conflict. To be effective, they also require education and tools in group dynamics and have the skills necessary to foster healthy dialogue and help a team move from destructive patterns to healthy ones. Yes, these are skills are worth investing in!

What do facilitators do?

  • Bring in structure for effective team process — activities and tools to enhance participation, engagement and high performance.
  • Know how to intervene to help a team develop new ways of communication so people can listen and understand each other’s viewpoints and participate in healthy debate
  • Help teams develop their own ground rules to address accountability, attendance, how they handle conflict etc.
  • Help keep meetings and teams on track, dealing with “disruptive” behaviors.
  • They have tools to guide teams through solid planning, decision- making, and problem solving, idea generation and actions.
  • Bring safety to a team where emotions are running high

Like most leadership skills, facilitation skills are learned through education, training, practice, feedback, observation and best practice coaching. They are invaluable to any leader seeking to inspire and influence their workplace teams.  Alternatively, facilitation experts like me are available to help you design and facilitate more effective meetings for engagement, creativity, decision making and buy in.  Call me to arrange:  360 5807!

Executive Coach to Increase Dialogue & Engagement

Getting people to speak their truth in workplaces isn’t easy. Most people have been conditioned to guard themselves carefully. They are cautious and often reluctant to bring tough issues to the table or to give a boss or co-workers candid feedback about problematic behaviors. Reasons range from an intimidating boss, hostile work environment, hidden or political agendas to our natural self-protection (and/or self interest) as humans.

We pay a high price in business when tough subjects are avoided. Fearful employees walking around on eggshells are typically disengaged, unmotivated, and dissatisfied. Games of masquerade and pretending all is well prevail. Because tough issues are avoided– collaboration, improved communication, relationships and team productivity go by the wayside. Frankly, in my career coaching experience, most talented or high performing individuals will soon seek greener pastures in this environment.

As a team coach and facilitator, I try to help foster “dialogue” to transform this unhealthy dynamic. Simply put, dialogue is a conversational style that can dissolve barriers and fosters collaboration, trust, accountability and partnership. Dialogue is possible when there is trust, mutual respect and a commitment to inquiry and understanding. Dialogue can be a critical tool in workplaces to promote team learning and finding “shared meaning” even in conflict and disagreement.

Bringing in a skilled “outside” third party objective coach and/or facilitator can help foster dialogue and bring safety and skills to your workplace. They can help:

  • To create safety for participants to surface the “elephants in the room”. Skilled facilitators can create conditions where people feel safe to speak truth. Whenever there are issues/topics that team’s avoid I find blocked creativity, collaboration and learning. Avoidance isn’t a strategy. In my experience avoidance only makes things worse. The issues don’t go away they just bubble up in unhealthy ways like water cooler backbiting, rumors, and pent up frustration that eventually “blows” and good people leaving.
  • Teach your team healthy interpersonal skills like active listening. Teams can get mired in conflict without listening. Real listening with an intention to understand one another vs. debate or out argue one another is rare. Listening doesn’t just happen magically. Most people need to be taught listening skills due to the human tendency of justifying and defending vs. truly trying to understand the other’s perspective. Listening is critical for a healthy workplace and to be able to get real with one another.
  • To promote inquiry through asking the right questions and promoting a climate of curiosity. Skilled coaches and facilitators know the right questions to ask (often the “unasked” questions) to promote balanced participation and reveal the thinking behind positions or ideas. Facilitators can help surface and make assumptions visible for all while challenging participants to suspend judgment while they explore the issue. Learning can then happen through inquiry, reflection and dialogue leaving a team stronger and better able to tackle future tough subjects.
  • Develop team norms to continue fostering learning, dialogue and shared meaning when tacking difficult issues and challenges. Few workplace teams spend enough time figuring out how to work together more creatively and collaboratively. They get sucked into the myth that workplace meetings should be “task” focused. High performing teams spend as much time on task as they do fostering effective communication and teamwork.

An outside expert facilitator can help your team develop better group process and meeting ground rules to foster accountability and healthy productive meetings. Another benefit—meetings with skilled facilitators are rarely boring as usually there is healthy debate and open exchange of ideas and feedback! It’s not uncommon for me to hear participants describe well-facilitated meetings as “the best we ever had”.  Call me at 360 682 5807  — I can help you make your next executive retreat the best yet!

Hire A Facilitator to Increase Team Engagement

Teams are everywhere in business today. When managed well, teams can increase quality, innovation, productivity, employee commitment, creativity and bottom line results. When teams are managed poorly, however, morale and commitment can deteriorate, resulting in frustration and deadlock.

One way to improve how your team functions is to use an outside facilitator. A facilitator’s role is to improve how the team identifies challenges, solves complex problems and ultimately makes decisions. Facilitators help teams clarify their scope, goals, task roles and action plans — resulting in faster and better decision-making.

Everyone’s unique perspective and input on a team is valuable — it’s this diversity that makes teams so powerful (bringing the best minds together to address complex situations). Yet one of the great challenges managing teams is dealing with all those varying points of view. Facilitators add structure and process to foster maximum input and engagement of team members while still helping teams end meetings with members clear about “who will do what by when.” Team members are naturally more committed and buy into decisions in which their input was heard and considered. They are also more satisfied leaving meetings knowing what they are responsible for. Meetings that are well facilitated are typically energizing, vs. boring or frustrating.

Here are some common challenges that facilitators can help teams overcome:

  • Long meetings with few (or no) actionable decisions or outcomes.
  • Lack of engagement, contribution or accountability.
  • Inability to effectively review divergent viewpoints.
  • Pressure to conform to dominant members’ ideas.
  • Ineffective or dysfunctional conflict patterns.
  • Surfacing “stuck” team issues (often long underground).
  • Unclear roles, task expectations and goals/objectives.

Effective facilitators do not participate as a “member” or “manager” of the work team. In contrast, they are an impartial, neutral resource, without an agenda. In fact, team facilitators should have no decision-making power or authority over the team — it’s from this nonthreatening “outside” position that they can help the team facilitate productive change.

There is science and art behind good facilitation. Facilitators help teams learn and follow effective group process. Skilled facilitators have a unique lens and can help a team see the “forest through the trees.” They often help teams identify alternatives to their traditional (and frequently ineffective) patterns.

What do facilitators do?

  • They help the team build (and frequently rebuild) the structure for effective team process.
  • They help teams establish their own “rules of conduct/ engagement” (ground rules for issues such as electronic interruptions, handling disagreements, etc.).
  • They provide a process to foster a climate for maximum participation and engagement — including helping the team listen effectively and acknowledge others’ viewpoints.
  • They help the team learn how to engage in healthy, creative debate.
  • They help keep the team on track and deal with “disruptive” behaviors. They know when and how to intervene and redirect on behaviors that hinder team performance.
  • They have tools to guide teams through solid discovery, planning, problem-solving and decision-making processes.
  • They promote accountability and follow-through.

Facilitators are also called in when teams have reached a point of total ineffectiveness — or worse. In these cases, facilitators can bring safety to a team in which emotions are running high. Skilled facilitators can help team members communicate their emotions in ways that contribute to the group’s effectiveness vs. harm it. Teams that can work through these tough situations often come out on the other side more bonded and better equipped to deal with future sticky situations.

Effective facilitators often bring value to even the best-run teams. A fresh set of eyes, ears, perspective and solid team development skills can help teams achieve an even higher level of performance.  I can help!  mmoriarty@pathtochange.com or 360 682 5807.