Should We Be Using a Facilitator?


Situations that call for a collaborative leadership process can be complicated, sensitive, and unwieldy. Sometimes, an expert facilitator can mean the difference between success and failure. Understanding what roles a facilitator can play and when one is needed will better prepare you for your next challenge.

Roles of a facilitator or project manager

A facilitator or project manager can serve multiple roles:

  • An advisor to bring out the full potential of a working group
  • A provider of processes, tools, and techniques that can get work accomplished efficiently
  • A consultant who designs working group sessions with a specific focus or intent
  • Someone who keeps a group meeting on track
  • Someone who helps resolve conflict
  • Someone who draws out participation from everyone
  • Someone who organizes the work of a group
  • Someone who makes sure that the goals are met
  • Someone who provides structure to the work of a group
  • Someone who protects the group from administrative issues so it can focus on its work

Source: Adapted from A Course on Facilitation Skills

How to decide if a facilitator or project manager is needed

As the convener, you may be tempted to manage or facilitate the process yourself.  Below are some pros and cons to doing so.

Convener as facilitator/project manager


  • Knowledgeable about issues and options
  • Familiar with parties
  • Authority to invite parties
  • No fees
  • No delays for contracting


  • May know too much
  • May be biased
  • May not be considered neutral
  • May not have enough time
  • May not have the necessary skills
  • May have limited ability to make independent recommendations
  • May not be trusted with confidential information

Source: Adapted from Better Decisions through Consultation and Collaboration

Securing the services of a facilitator or project manager

A written contract proves useful for both the convener and facilitator/project manager in detailing the scope of work, timelines, fees, payment structure, and a plan for how disputes will be resolved.  The drawing up of this kind of document diminishes the potential for future misunderstanding.

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