Can you guess the most important aspect of any team retreat? It’s not just the location or the snacks (caffeine is crucial, however).
The most influential component of any retreat is the facilitator. And one of the most important decisions any team has to make is whether to hire an external facilitator or to use a current employee of the organization to lead the sessions.
While there are pros and cons to both options, we at ViveTeams believe that hiring a facilitator that is not connected to your organization will help create the most successful, engaging team retreat.
External facilitators are most effective at producing a creative, diverse and effective flow of ideas, solutions and strategies.
Consider the following four advantages of an external facilitator:
Leading a group in a team retreat is difficult. The facilitator must invest hours in the process before anyone even shows up for the meeting. Part of that involves finding the right space, the right resources and many other logistical factors. And when the meeting does take place, the facilitator has to keep conversations on track, even when things get heated or it feels like you need to dig deeper into the details. The facilitator has to be able to effectively and professionally steer the conversation in the direction that will produce the best outcomes by asking the difficult questions and confronting assumptions.
External facilitators make sure that everyone follows the rules of the meeting and that nobody gets off topic in the discussion. Because they are not connected to your organization, they do not know, or care to know, the politics of your business and therefore can keep the conversation focused on your intended outcomes. Internal facilitators, whether they are aware of it or not, have a vested interest in the topics discussed and might steer the conversation in the direction that best fits their personal needs.
Vive Co-founder Alex Bowen says that the most valuable part of having an external facilitator is that they are coming from a neutral point of view.
“They can quickly create an unbiased atmosphere that will help employees unlock and consider new ways of thinking. This is because outside facilitators don’t come with all of the history or baggage of an internal facilitator,” Bowen said.
“So often, the whole goal of a retreat gets lost because of a preconceived notion of the facilitator or because of previous experiences which may taint the day. The focus of a retreat should be on the team!”
External facilitators are very good at making sure that everyone in the room has a voice. They can steer the conversation away from attendees who might dominate the conversation. And, because they are coming from a neutral point of view, they also can more effectively create an unbiased atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable sharing their opinions.
An article posted on the University of Michigan Extension website captures the idea best, “They do not have the same pair of glasses that the team has so they can ask the difficult questions, generate new insights and challenge the status quo’s easier than an internal facilitator might be able to.”
When you pay for an external facilitator to lead your retreat, it shows your employees that you are taking the experience very seriously and fully expect a return in the investment. It also shows your team that you value their work experience enough to spend time ensuring that the work environment is productive and enjoyable.
At Vive, our team of facilitators has a track record of leading team retreats to outstanding outcomes.
Contact us today to learn more about our process or to schedule your team retreat. We would love to be a part of your success!