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Choosing the Right Facilitator for Your Strategic Planning Retreat

Energizing FacilitationThe success of your strategic planning process depends upon selecting the right facilitator. This person will be the foundation upon which everything is built during the process.

It is critical that you choose a neutral facilitator(s) in order to guarantee that everyone’s voice will be heard. An experienced facilitator will guide the process without bias, ask the tough questions, and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to provide input. A skilled, seasoned facilitator will keep things fun, engaging, and on track by using an array of tools in his or her facilitation tool box—including storyboarding, small group activities, teambuilding elements, interactive dialogue, and intimate experiences—all seamlessly interwoven throughout the natural unfoldment of the process.

Fa·cil·i·ta·tor One that facilitates; especially: one that helps to bring about an outcome (as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision ~Merriam Webster Dictionary

The science of facilitation is the step-by-step activity. It is what needs to be done to complete each element of the process, while progressively asking the right questions at the right time—each question building upon the next.

The art of facilitation is how you go about accomplishing it. It involves sensing the energy of the participants and knowing when to ask a tough question that will reveal the “elephant in the room”—a vital issue that is screaming for attention and crying out to be resolved. The art requires listening beneath the words for deeper meaning. It entails using uplifting energy and wit to lighten up tense situations.

The success of your strategic planning process will depend upon how safe people feel in sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings. For this level of comfort to occur, participants need to believe that the facilitator is a neutral party without a political or predetermined agenda. When done with pure intent, being a facilitator is a selfless role.

 “The success of your strategic planning process will depend upon how safe people feel in sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings.”

If, as a leader in your organization, you are thinking of facilitating the process yourself, here are three crucial questions to ask yourself:

  1. Can I be truly objective?
  2. Will my employees be open and honest with me as their facilitator and share what’s on their minds?
  3. Do I really have the time to dedicate to facilitating the process?

If your answer is “no” to any question, you may want to consider hiring an outside facilitator or appointing a neutral facilitator who can answer “yes” to all these questions.

Whatever your choice, select a facilitator who will courageously ask the tough questions and involve everyone in the process.

Much success and fulfillment,



(Adapted from Chapter 15 of my book Energize Your Business: Engage Your Employees with an Inspiring Strategic Planning Process. Read free chapters and learn more at www.EnergizeYourBusiness.biz .)

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