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3 strategies to facilitate team success

Facilitate your team's success by asking insightful questions and knowing when to let them work out their own issues, writes Paul B. Thornton.

4 min read



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It’s difficult for people to consistently work together in a highly productive manner. Hidden agendas, resource issues, hurt feelings and interpersonal conflicts get in the way. Some team members don’t feel valued, others believe their ideas aren’t given much consideration. 

The word “facilitate” means “to make easy.” As a facilitator your job is to make it easy for the team to work together and achieve their goals. Specifically, it includes helping them have productive discussions, follow logical processes and adhere to their operating rules. 

Start by observing how the team currently operates. Focus on:  

  • Who contributes the most and least during discussions? Who’s able to influence the team? 
  • Does the discussion follow a logical process? 
  • How are decisions made?  What’s being accomplished?  
  • What values are being modeled? 
  • What’s the energy level of the team?  

1. Participation

On most teams, some members are very vocal and others say very little. Your goal is to encourage all team members to contribute their insights and ideas.  

Ask questions to get everyone involved. 

  • Sue, how would you define the problem?”
  • “Mike, could you define what you mean by ‘best-in-class?’” 
  • “Alex, what do you think of Joe’s idea?” 
  • “Jason, what would it take to implement Maria’s recommendation?”

Thank the vocal team members for their input and call on the quiet team members to get them involved.   

2. Follow a logical process

In meetings, it’s common for people to be at different steps in the planning or problem-solving process. One person is trying to define the problem, another is brainstorming solutions and a third member is describing the actions required to implement his idea. Little progress is made when everyone is at a different point in the process.       

Your job is to help the team work together and follow a logical process. Ask questions to get all team members focused on the same issue.   

  • “What’s the first thing we need to do?” 
  • Does everyone agree with the way the problem is stated?” 
  • “What are some options to solve this problem?” 
  • “What criteria should be used to select the best option?”

Don’t tell the group what to do. Rather, ask questions to help the team become more aware of the process they are using and the step that they are currently working on.   

3. Adhere to team rules

Most teams have a few basic rules such as: “One person speaks at a time.” “Don’t hold back; say what’s on your mind.” “Strive for consensus.” “Start and end meetings on time.” (These rules should be established at the first team meeting.)

The right rules help teams to be more orderly and productive. 

As a facilitator your job is to make sure the team follows their own rules. Make comments or ask questions to remind team members of the rules.

  • “We all agreed that there would be no side conversations.” 
  •  “Is everyone listening?” 
  • “Is there consensus on this decision?” 
  • “There seems to be little energy in the room regarding this initiative. Why is that?”  

When rules are followed the team is more effective and efficient.       

The best facilitators know when to intervene and when to remain silent. There are times when it’s best to let the team resolve issues on their own. It strengthens their awareness and builds their confidence. At other times when the team continues to struggle, it’s best to intervene to help them get back on track.  

Good facilitators help their teams grow, develop, and be more productive. Start by observing the team. Next, determine where they need help. When you ask the right questions, you help team members become more aware of what they are doing and the changes that are needed to be more effective.


Paul B. Thornton is an author and speaker. His books are available at Amazon and include: 

He frequently posts his views and opinions about leadership on LinkedIn.   

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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