|#25 - Facilitate or Lead a Meeting? | Gary Rush Facilitation|
One question that I am frequently asked is, "Should I lead the meeting, facilitate the meeting, or get someone else to facilitate the meeting?" The answer is not obvious to the person asking the question. Here are some thoughts to help you decide when scheduling your meetings or workshops. I'll first define the difference between a facilitator and a meeting leader.
First of all, there is no "right" answer. There are a number of considerations so that your decision is well thought out. The first consideration is what type of meeting is this. Three categories of meetings include:
Information-sharing meetings work best with a meeting leader. These types of meetings include staff meetings and classes.
Level of Knowledge
The more you know about a subject, the more you will contribute and not be neutral. If you know a lot and want to add, calling a facilitator helps in that the facilitator is neutral and manages the process and documenting while you contribute. If you know very little, you are likely to be "neutral" out of lack of knowledge. You can facilitate rather than lead. Lack of knowledge about the subject allows you to facilitate. Knowledge about the subject requires you to decide to facilitate or lead and that decision is based on level of conflict or you role.
If your role is to get the group to reach a decision, you are largely facilitating anyway - so facilitate the meeting. If your role includes responsibility for the quality or the direction of the decision, you need to contribute and either lead the meeting or bring in someone to facilitate the meeting. That decision would be based on level of conflict.
Level of Conflict
The level of conflict is a good gauge as to whether you need a facilitator. The greater the conflict, the more value a neutral facilitator adds. Conflict generally comes with a loss of listening - participants don't listen to those with whom they disagree. When conflict is between the attendees or with the subject, a facilitator will make a difference and can make the meeting successful. A leader will either be part of the problem or exacerbate the problem.
Decision - Summarized
If the meeting is information-sharing, lead the meeting. If the meeting is task-related, then:
The issues you face after the decision are: was it the "right" decision and will the group accept it. If you chose incorrectly (i.e., lead when you need a facilitator) you can live with the decision or stop the meeting and reset the roles. To get the group to accept the decision, set the expectations at the start. Be clear what your role is and why. Stick to your role and remind the group, if they try to change it.
Task-related meetings are more successful when facilitated. If conflict is very low, leading the meeting works fine. Be certain to set clear expectations at the start of the meeting - then stick to them. That's the best way to ensure success.
Note: The skills of the facilitator and the leader are the same. Using facilitation skills - whether you lead or facilitate - leads to better meetings. Learning to facilitate enhances your value as an employee. All companies need effective leaders. Facilitators are effective leaders. Practice your leadership skills by using facilitation skills - whether you are the meeting leader or the facilitator.