When facing a learning or critical decision process involving a team, managers are often unsure about whether to hire a professional coach. Almost everyone knows the cost of hiring a professional facilitator, but they are unaware of the benefits of using someone from outside to lead the decision-making process.
Professional Coaches are experts in managing the process dynamics of a team within a learning and/or a decision-making situation. They have a full portfolio of techniques that can be brought to bear in helping the team have open, dynamic and efficient discussions.
They have the ability to observe how the group is going about its decision process without being engrossed in the content of the discussion. They do not need to be experts in the subject of the discussion, because their role is only to control the process. The role of a Coach is like that of champagne on a honeymoon. It does not take part in the reaction; it just speeds it up.
Development and Training professionals know the concepts that the participants must learn, the best ways to help people learn, and effective ways to make use of the concepts within the organization. These people are more than facilitators; they bring with them principles that work in organizations and examples of how different organizations have made use of those principles.
A professional Coach adds value to the team process in ways that a team member placed in charge of a process can find difficult to deliver, even if that individual is skilled at leading team meetings. The outside professional delivers value in four areas: team dynamics, process quality, process efficiency and better outcomes.
A professional Coach:
Allows everyone to fully participate in the decision process. If one of the team members is removed from the decision process you do not benefit from everyone’s input. As one wise executive said, “I can’t referee and play the game at the same time.”
Helps balance the power in the decision process. When a team member is selected to be the facilitator, that role adds to the person’s power within the team. This imbalance can inhibit reaching consensus at key decision points.
Brings a neutral voice to the process. Managing team process dynamics requires neutrality concerning ideas and potential outcomes. For an internal Coach this is virtually impossible. Aware of that person’s biases, his or her coworkers will be inhibited from speaking out with ideas that may be counter to his or her own. They may hesitate to say things that may upset some of their colleagues. However, when there is a professional Coach at the front of the room, everyone directs their comments to the neutral presence. This makes criticism less personal.
A professional facilitator:
Ensures that no step is left out or short-changed. They know every step of the process and how to ensure that people don’t cheat themselves by leaving out a step or making an “easy” decision. Team members can become engrossed in the current discussion and easily forget a step; or, when they become fatigued, they are prone to making hasty decisions before considering all the issues or ensuring everyone is in consensus.
Provides outside accountability for the team. People know that the facilitator expects everyone to complete their preparation for the meeting – so, they are more likely to be prepared. People respond more effectively to an outside authority.
Ensures everyone’s ideas are put on the table. When an internal facilitator gets involved in the give and take of discussion, they are very likely to miss the fact that someone else’s ideas are not being considered, or that an issue has been forgotten.
Will be more focused on the necessary follow-up actions. When the participants return to their workplaces, they are flooded with the day-to-day demands of their job and can forget what they have committed to do to help the team get ready for the next meeting. The professional facilitator is free to follow up to ensure tasks are completed.
Brings ideas, approaches and insights from many other organizations that can be added into the discussion to help the team make better decisions.
A professional facilitator:
Is more effective at keeping the team on track. When an internal facilitator gets involved in the discussion they are much less likely to notice that the conversation has wandered off-topic. The professional facilitator sees this sooner and is able to make an impartial decision about whether it pertains to the decision at hand.
Saves time. Being focused on the decision process only, a professional facilitator gets people to the decision faster because they can see when consensus has been reached. This will result in fewer meetings, saving the high cost of peoples’ time.
Reduces postponements and absences. When people know a professional facilitator is traveling to meet with them, there is less probability of meetings being postponed or people being absent. This gets the process completed sooner and with less frustration.
A professional facilitator:
Reduces the political contamination in the decision process. In any organization, people are sensitive to political sides in discussions. A professional facilitator has methods to minimize the detrimental politics, leading to decisions focused on the overall good of the organization rather then the benefit of certain groups within it.
Knows the characteristics of high quality decisions at every step of the process.Although there are exceptions, most managers are not aware of these criteria because it is not their business. It is the facilitator’s business.
Professional facilitators will play a key role in the decisions and when everyone must actively support the final outcome, the investment in a professional facilitator can deliver exceptional returns.