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! firstname.lastname@example.org or 360 682 5807.