Partnering with one
or more facilitators can make for a more dynamic and exciting
environment for your groups. Be aware of its challenges and
There are many benefits and
challenges to using a team of facilitators to manage group
One benefit is that you can share the facilitation workload,
allowing the facilitator who isn't presenting at the time, the
opportunity to more keenly observe group behaviors and
individual responses to what's going on.
Another is the fact that two or three heads are usually better
than one, particularly if you each have different skills that
are complementary. Then, if one of you gets stuck as to
what's next in the process, it's very likely that the other will
have a good sense about what to do.
Having a partner or two while facilitating takes a lot of stress
off of each facilitator, making it a lot easier to loosen up and
have fun. If this happens, your groups will tend to follow
suit, loosening up and having more fun as well.
Multiple facilitators are particularly useful and, often
necessary, if you are facilitating a large group. Further, if you
incorporate small group exercises, individual facilitators can
take the lead in each of these subgroups.
Team facilitation offers the opportunity to model effective
communication and relating skills to your group--a key aspect of
facilitation. Facilitators willing to effectively resolve their
conflicts in front of their groups provide potent learning
Multiple facilitators offer groups additional experience,
wisdom, and voices, keeping the process more interesting for
your participants. This is particularly true if you are in a
training situation where you're doing a good deal of presenting.
Multiple voices and perspectives will keep things far more
lively for participants.
Teaming with other facilitators offers each of you potential
access to the others' network, and the offering of your
"collective" skills to this network. This could create
a situation where you secure more business together than
you may be able to do on your own.
Working as part of a team takes more planning and
coordination than might be required when working alone. Each
facilitator needs to know what to expect from the others, their
individual roles, and how the event is to proceed so that you
complement each other rather than stepping on each others' toes.
Having more than one facilitator may create a tendency to
"over intervene" if each facilitator is intent on
making his or her presence heard by the group.
Multiple facilitators inject an additional dynamic into normal
group process, that is, the interaction between the facilitators
in addition to their collective interaction with the group. If a
problem arises between the facilitators, this can negatively
impact the group process if it is not skillfully resolved.
Working as part of a facilitation team requires more psychic and
creative energy than it does working alone. This energy is
required to create and maintain a cooperative relationship and
the continual pursuit of the appropriate balance between active
and passive activity within each group. These efforts involve some
degree of surrender of your individuality in pursuit of the most
Until facilitators have worked together for a sufficient period
of time to get to know each others' approach, it's likely that
you'll be faced with potential conflict around how to handle
particular group situations. The likelihood of these
disagreements can be minimized by discussing your individual
approaches to common group situations in advance.
I gained some of my very best
experience in facilitation by working with a team of
facilitators in the delivery of a experimental and highly
experiential workforce preparation program at our local
Community College called Master Worker.
It was one of the most frustrating and rewarding growth
experiences I have ever had as a professional. Not only did we have
the challenge of creating and facilitating a new program but we
also were presented with the necessity of facing each of our
individual issues that ultimately arose as we worked together.
Some of the most valuable lessons I learned about team
Facilitating with others offers you a great opportunity to
tame your ego. If you hold the intention to put the best
interest of your group first, then you'll have to learn to be a
seamless part of the facilitation team. In doing so, you will at
times be in the limelight, and at times, no one will know you
It's critical to "debrief" each session.
Discuss what worked, what didn't, process your personal stuff,
and commit to trying new and more effective actions in the
Plan, plan, and plan some more for your events. We pull
off our best events when we clearly agree on each facilitator's
role, and have a clear agenda with specific timeframes for each
activity. That way, everyone knows their place and their role.
Within this framework, there is still plenty of room to be
flexible and dance with any changes that need to be made to
better support the needs of the group, because we can all make
changes from the same reference point.
Develop a common model, philosophy, and approach to managing
group process. A common approach to facilitation can really
help co-facilitators operate effectively as a team. Spend time
up front discussing the ways you might handle common group
situations so that you can develop an agreeable team
you are already part of a facilitation team, look at ways you
can be a more effective co-facilitator. If you aren't, explore
the advantages of teaming up with other facilitators in some of
your future work. I'd love to hear you're perspectives and
experiences with co-facilitation. Please email
your comments to us.
What tips would you suggest around building and operating a
This week, we're asking you share with us your experiences
around team facilitation. We'd love to hear about any pros,
cons, pitfalls, or insights you have on this subject.
us your input and we'll send the entire
collection to everyone who contributes.