What is the Role of a Facilitator in Strategic Planning?

In the business world, strategic planning meetings serve a number of purposes. Most often, companies use these gatherings to make critical decisions for the organization, such as setting business initiatives for the coming year or multi-year period. They might also plan for potential challenges to ensure the business is prepared for any unexpected circumstances. All of this means that strategic planning meetings are some of the most important company gatherings that take place over a typical year.

While strategic planning sessions are undoubtedly beneficial, they do come with a few challenges. Specifically, they can be difficult to plan, as they require all company executives and upper-level managers to gather in one location. This can be quite costly, especially if the business has satellite offices across the country or globe. In this case, the company would need to plan and pay for flights, transportation, and accommodations. 

With all of this in mind, it’s important to get the most out of each strategic planning meeting on your organization’s calendar. An unproductive session could waste hundreds or thousands of dollars and hours of your time. Plus, failed meetings could leave you without a solid direction for the coming year.

To ensure a productive planning session, many companies choose to invest in strategic facilitation services from an executive business coach. With these services, a professional facilitator will sit in on the meeting to ensure it runs smoothly. 

Let’s take a closer look at the many roles a facilitator plays during strategic planning meetings.

Keep the Conversation Going

Strategic planning facilitators are adept at keeping people talking. They’re skilled at extracting information from uncertain participants and know how to encourage conversations in silent rooms. Professional facilitators may also have icebreakers and team-building tools that can spark discussions among groups of people who don’t know each other well. This helps to build trust quickly in large, diverse groups.

Facilitators may also ask for follow up information to help them understand the company’s core issues better. As they encourage people in the meeting to explore topics thoroughly, they simultaneously encourage them to think deeply and intellectually about what is being discussed.

Identify and Explore Important Topics and Ideas

As previously mentioned, strategic facilitators will work to uncover core issues and determine essential topics for each meeting. Armed with this information, they can create a structured agenda with time and attention dedicated to each relevant subject area. This helps to keep the meeting focused and productive.

Guide the Discussion

It’s not uncommon for conversations to get off-track during strategic planning meetings. Occasionally, this happens knowingly when participants get comfortable and start to make friendly chit chat. Other times, this occurs inadvertently as participants explore topics that are less relevant (but seem important) to the discussion at hand.

Facilitators can identify distractions and tangential conversations easily and know how to guide the discussion back to key topics. This helps to ensure that every minute of the meeting is productive and efficient.

Help Everyone Feel Heard

Every participant needs time to share their thoughts during a strategic planning meeting, but not everyone may feel comfortable speaking in a large group. Luckily, facilitators are experts at putting people at ease and dividing time equally between each contributor. They use strategies such as:

  • Asking thoughtful questions.
  • Encouraging active listening strategies.
  • Structuring the discussion to provide equal time to all participants.
  • Calling on participants throughout discussions.
  • Dividing attendees into small groups for brainstorming and discussions.

The Value of Working with a Professional Development Company

Strategic facilitators are a valuable asset during important corporate meetings. From guiding discussions on potential business strategies to running activities that help with group improvement and development, strategic facilitation services can ensure you get the most out of your collaboration time. 

When selecting a strategic facilitator for your next meeting, it’s helpful to work with one that has a background in career coaching and professional development. These individuals understand not only the logistics and standard procedures of business meetings, but also how to motivate teams and individuals to work towards their goals. That way, you can maximize your meeting time, develop a clear business plan for the future, and, ultimately, ensure greater success for your organization.

Author Bio

Mark launched Strong Training & Coaching in 2004 to help creative professionals become the best versions of themselves. His world-class programs are focused on providing clients with actionable tools to improve their work performance and maximize their professional opportunities. Mark has coaching credentials from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC), Corporate CoachU, and The Institute of Coaching at McLean/Harvard Medical School.