Thursday, November 11, 2010

When Do You Need an Outside Facilitator?

In my recent posts, I have emphasized the need for regular communication between business partners, and even more so in businesses where family members are involved. I have also written much about the need to have an outside facilitator, someone who is objective and neutral. But how do you know when such a person is necessary, even crucial, and what do you look for in such a person?

Here are some key signs indicating you need external help:
  • Emotions run hot;
  • Some dominate the conversations, stalling participation from others;
  • Conversely, people remain quiet, saying very little;
  • People appear to be walking on egg shells, dancing around sensitive yet critical issues, which never seem to get resolved;
  • When healthy dialogue is missing. People roll their eyes, looking here and there, and appear to agree readily;
  • You know you need to communicate but you just can't seem to get to it, or are not sure what to do, or are uncomfortable for whatever reason;
  • You need greater objectivity in the conversations.
Here are some key elements to look for in the facilitator:
  • Must have deep understanding, preferably through real experience, of both business AND family/partnership dynamics;
  • Is sensitive to group dynamics, not only among partners and among family business owners, but also dynamics that occur between owners and non-owners, non-owners and non-owner family members--yes, it's very complex;
  • Strong at picking up undercurrents, the unspoken;
  • Is an excellent listener, observer and has good communication skills;
  • Can keep the conversation focused and on track;
  • Can manage conflict and emotional vulnerability;
  • Is objective and neutral while being respectful and understanding of various inputs.
If you are experiencing any of the signs above, get some help, NOW. Don't brush issues under the carpet, hoping they'll go away and all will work out just fine. If people are walking on egg shells, it's only a matter of time before stress fractures occur and the eggs crack. It's not a question of if, but when. Speaking from experience, before it's too late, get some help. You'll be thankful.

No comments: