Who should facilitate your upcoming quarterly planning session? Or any of your annual planning or strategic thinking sessions?
If you are a start up or have less than $7M in annual revenues, you might have no choice but to facilitate your own sessions. However, a typical mistake that many CEOs of larger growth firms make is to facilitate their own sessions when they have the financial ability to bring in a facilitator. When working with people, it is more important to focus on being effective rather than being efficient. It is very hard for CEOs to be effective at facilitating their own sessions for these reasons:
- More important for the CEO to participate. Facilitators don't participate well. If you choose to participate, you will not be able to participate in discussions effectively. A facilitator guides the discussions to arrive at outcomes based on the collective wisdom and sharing of the group. It is almost impossible to participate when you are focused on listening and guiding discussions. As the CEO, it is more important for you to participate and engage in strong debate with your team than to facilitate this session.
- Allowing your team's opinions to matter. The power of the pen, especially the facilitation pen, is very strong. When you hold that pen and express your opinion, your team will feel that their opinions do not really matter. Every time you write down your opinion on the board, your team will feel that you are highlighting your own opinion above theirs. Even if you do a fair job here and have no intention of promoting your own opinion above the teams, this perception is hard to fight. And perception often causes reality to follow.
Often times a CEO will opt to facilitate the strategic thinking session in order to save money. That would be "penny wise and pound foolish." When you gather your executive team of 7 to 10 into a session for a day or two for strategic thinking and planning, the cost for a professional facilitator pales in comparison to the cost of taking these executives out of the field and their jobs for 2 days. This is why when I am asked by companies larger than $10mm in revenues with 50 or more employees if they should use an outside facilitator, I strongly advise them to do so. You will probably do well facilitating your own sessions. And you will do even better with an impartial facilitator. How important are the outcomes from your planning sessions? Can you afford to have less than optimal outcomes from your planning sessions?
Effective versus Efficient. Time to choose Effectiveness over Efficiency!