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What Would You Do?: Recruit A Facilitator To Keep Your Team In Line

Your team is having difficulties that stem from perceived bias, tension or some other internal problem. How can you work through these problems when everyone on the team is personally and emotionally involved?

Your team meetings are often ineffective because there’s some other concern overshadowing the meeting’s content. This is where an unbiased outside facilitator can step in and help drive the ship.

A team facilitator is an individual who takes on a team meeting’s processes and procedures to keep the meeting running smoothly and effectively, according to the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).

Why look outside the team for a facilitator? When an external facilitator is taking care of the meeting logistics, the team is free to concentrate on the task at hand instead of getting bogged down by the meeting procedures.

Here are a few signs that your team could benefit from an outside meeting facilitator, adapted from Sandor P. Schuman’s article titled "The role of facilitation in collaborative groups":

There are real or perceived personal obstacles preventing progress. Sometimes team members don’t feel they’re on the same page when it comes to their intentions. If team members perceive a bias or mistrust, it may be time to bring in someone who’s completely neutral because he isn’t involved in the team’s common goal.

Power relations silence some of the team. If team members have hierarchical relationships with one another, such as a team that includes a manager and her three employees, team members may not participate out of intimidation, warns Schuman. There are some cases in which a facilitator can collect input anonymously, or he can simply serve as a third party who’s on the same level and can receive comments freely.

The problem or goal isn’t clear to all team members. Sometimes the problem itself isn’t well-defined, and at other times, team members simply don’t view the problem in the same way. Whatever the case, a facilitator can define a problem without attachments. That is, he isn’t interested in convincing other team members to see things from his point of view, so he can stay unbiased, clarifies Schuman.

There’s a time crunch, and the team needs to make a decision in a hurry. Because the facilitator handles the meeting procedures and processes, such as handout materials and discussion flow -- freeing up team members’ time -- a facilitator can often help a team do their work faster.

A problem is so complex that it may tax team members mentally. If there are big decisions to make and hard problems to solve, a team can often reach the end of its rope intellectually. Many facilitators are trained to help teams get the most out of their thought process. An expert in assisting groups with their problem-solving can get better results, says Schuman.Want to learn more about working with an outside facilitator? Get expert advice at


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