Important discussions don’t happen by accident. A skilled facilitator can make the difference between an open and productive airing of the issues and a free-for-all with the most powerful or articulate speakers crowding out the viewpoints of more careful speakers.
I help groups have the conversations they need to have, and help them find the right balance between a full discussion of appropriate issues and a march toward a productive conclusion.
Recently, the corporate section of a very large firm wanted to explore whether it was time for them to consider a strategic plan. Allowing every partner free rein had been a successful strategy for many years, and they wondered whether a more organized approach would yield benefits and whether partners had the appetite for more leadership. I interviewed several partners in advance of the retreat in order to better understand their positions and opinions, prepared a list of topics to cover based on those conversations, and developed a set of meeting guidelines to help everyone understand the behaviors that were desirable and those that would be unproductive. During the retreat discussions, I helped keep the group together, bringing them back to the core agenda when they strayed, while allowing partners to express their thoughts fully enough to feel that they had been heard. In the end, the group made significant progress and, post-retreat, continues to move forward under the leadership of a steering group. Without having taken time to create buy-in from all partners, the nascent planning process might have been derailed.
In early 2006, I guided a small firm through a strategic planning process after conducting client, prospect, and referral source and competitor interviews. After guided discussions, the firm developed a strategic plan that included a list of clients and prospect to cultivate and types of work to avoid, as well as an outline of the key strengths of each attorney. We went on to develop management policies and procedures to ensure the continued success of the firm. As the managing partner said at the conclusion of our meetings, “you made it possible for us to have life-altering conversations.” Nothing could have touched me more—this is work worth doing.