Facilitator tip: Break contact when you are the centre of attention

Posted by Chris on June 25, 2008

As a facilitator, your role is normally a neutral one with regards to whatever is discussed. Your job is to help and encourage other people to engage and discuss in an efficient collaborative way. A common problem that occurs is when a facilitator is not seen as a neutral person by some or all of the group being facilitated, and instead is seen as a leader. In the presence of a leader some people will turn into a passive mode, expecting to be told what to do instead of figuring it out for themselves.

I have experienced this in many different team meeting situations, such as retrospectives or daily standup meetings. For instance, a common failure mode of daily standups is when team members address the Scrummaster (or whatever you call your role as a coach) instead of the rest of the team when they inform about their progress. While one person is interacting with the Scrummaster the rest of the team zones out just waiting for their turn.

Photo by bombom

I use a very simple technique when this happens. I simply look away, or perhaps step behind someone else, to break direct contact with the team member addressing me. As simple as this is, I find it very effective. Even if I only look down for a second, when I look up again the person talking has usually gotten contact with someone else in the group and is now addressing the group as a whole.


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