Why might an organization’s board request meeting facilitation assistance?
There are many reasons why a board will obtain meeting facilitation assistance. These may include;
Chairman’s Level Playing Field Participation – The chairman, who normally acts as an impartial leader of a meeting, wishes to participate in the normal debate, perhaps associated with a critical issue. In the context of not wanting to both arbitrate discussion and offer his own opinions from a position of dominance, the chairman might seek the participation of an independent meeting facilitator. Therefore, without sacrificing leadership authority, the chair creates the opportunity for all board members, including the chairman, to opine, discuss, debate and refute issues on an even playing field.
Chairman’s Absence – From time to time, a board chairman may need to be absent from a meeting that requires sensitive leadership. A board may decide that use of an independent meeting chair would be preferable to utilizing another board member. The use of an independent board consultant could help alleviate the need to postpone a meeting and to accomplish important business objectively and professionally.
Special or Crises Situation – Special or crisis situations will inevitably arise in most all boards’ lives. Sometimes, board chairs will have resigned or otherwise become unavailable. Sometimes, a conflict of interest may prevent an existing board chair from effectively conducting a board meeting. Wisely, a board may decide that utilization of a consultant to facilitate its meeting, or perhaps a constituency meeting, would be preferable to conducting the meeting with its own chairman.
Sensitive Issue – Sometimes, sensitive issues require the touch or independence of an outside meeting facilitator. Such issues might involve communications with the chief executive officer, a personnel related issue, or legally sensitive situation. A professional meeting facilitator can play an important role in handling such situations.
Divided Board – Occasionally, boards will face issues where at least two significant factions have developed. It may decide that an impartial facilitator could much more easily serve as an independent and fair arbiter of a debate whose sensitivities are greater than what a board’s own chairman should try to moderate. In such situations, it makes enormous sense to use an outside facilitator.
Independent, Unbiased Leadership – Any number of issues might call for independent and unbiased leadership that cannot be provided by existing board members. Utilization of a meeting facilitator can provide the necessary independence and unbiased leadership that might not be available internally.
Planning, Brainstorming – Planning exercises, especially in the context of board retreats, create an ideal opportunity to leverage the skill, diplomacy and fresh thinking of an independent and trained facilitator.
JR Haeck Governance Consulting offers meeting facilitation services. Every board should establish an arrangement or understanding with a consultant to provide such services to provide for the occasion when meeting facilitation services may be needed.