The 12 Personas of a High-Stakes Business Facilitator

by John Storm on November 6, 2010

Ever wonder what you need to look for when hiring a facilitator for a high-stakes business meeting?

With all of the sheer chutzpah, conflicting agendas, and different personalities involved, as well as what’s at stake IF things don’t go well, it’s wise to be extremely CONFIDENT that your facilitator knows (and is prepared for) the importance of their role.

A High-Stakes business facilitator must be able to seamlessly move from role to role.

Use these 12 Personas as a checklist to mark the roles you feel are most needed to facilitate your company’s High-Stakes events:

1. Battle Strategist
No one goes into battle without a plan. The objectives must be clear. The supplies must be ready. The troops must be prepared. The enemies must be known. In high stakes situations, the enemies are usually time, tangents, and emotions (fear, despair, frustration). Knowing how to overcome these meeting-killers is critical to the session’s success.

2. Rule Maker
A high-stakes facilitator MUST design, establish, and gain FULL buy-in from ALL participants BEFORE the session starts. This is the ONLY way to maintain meeting control if things start to go south.

3. Agent Provocateur
An effective facilitator provokes through great questions that don’t personally threaten the participants, yet prods them to re-think their assumptions, experiences and positions. Moving beyond trite, well-worn cliché solutions is dramatically important.

4. Time Shifter
A high-stakes facilitator must know how to expand and contract time by using subtle interventions, tactful re-direction, and productive meeting management ‘tricks’ that still leave participants engaged and feeling valued.

5. Value Assessor
A valuable facilitator must know and assess what’s really at stake: loss of market share, momentum, and/or shareholder confidence; damaging PR; fast-breaking opportunities; and/or team meltdown. Plus, recognizing the cost of the time and energy of the meeting participants far outweighs the cost of the facilitator. That’s why he/she MUST be a good steward of the team’s time.

6. Circus Performer
High-stakes facilitations require the flexibility and discipline of a gymnast, the balance and concentration of a tight rope walker, and the timing and focus of a trapeze artist. Physical stamina and fitness also play a key role – you can’t have your facilitator out carousing all night before the big event… especially if they’re the one responsible for “catching” the other performer’s ideas. “Active listening” and focused facilitation require great concentration.

7. Animal Wrangler
Lots of animals show up during high stakes meetings – rabbits begging to be chased, tigers teasing you to grab them by the tail, monstrous elephants hiding in the room, deer staring in the headlights, and gnats of distraction flying everywhere. A great facilitator knows how to “wrangle” these animals and actually use them to spur the meeting to greater results.

8. Intuitive Interpreter
Being able to ‘read between the lines’, assess non-verbal cues, translate from abstract to concrete, and ask for clarification on fuzzy input is essential. Knowing how/when to repeat, re-phrase, and/or re-frame the input is an essential art form.

9. Impartial Referee
An experienced business facilitator possesses the wisdom to know when to let the team ‘fight it out’ within the established rules. Conflict can be a powerfully effective driver when managed in a way that is fruitfully focused, impartially managed, and devoid of personal attack.

10. Wise Sage
The wise facilitator knows their primary role is to draw out the input of the team members. Yet, there are times the facilitator should share from their broad, multi-faceted life and business experiences. He/she should have proven business acumen and intellectual firepower, so that when they speak, you can expect profound insight.

11. Process Leader
High-Stakes meetings require a delicate balance between strategic issues and tactical decisions. A seasoned business facilitator knows how to ‘manage’ the meeting process in a way that inspires transparency and confidence, while focusing on getting things done. Knowing how to ‘capture the content’ for future reporting, discussions and decisions should be seamless and non-distracting.

12. Genuine Human Being
A warm and genuine facilitator who is upbeat, energetic, and professional will be an asset to accomplishing your meeting goals. Someone who models transparency, is gregarious and comfortable to be around, yet able to disagree without being disagreeable. Hiring someone who enjoys encouraging people (and their businesses) to grow through blending their personal and professional lives, skills, and stories will prove to be a valuable benefit.

John Storm focuses on providing professional business facilitation for High-Stakes events, including corporate strategic thinking and strategic planning meetings and retreats. For information, call (405) 321-6262.

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