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What Do We Do When our Co-Facilitator Gets Sidetracked? By Martha Lasley

Occasionally our co-facilitator gets sidetracked or loses connection. Below are some of Mary’s and my responses to some common situations that arise in co-facilitation. What ...

Occasionally our co-facilitator gets sidetracked or loses connection. Below are some of Mary’s and my responses to some common situations that arise in co-facilitation.

What do we do when our co-facilitator:

Becomes animated about his own ideas when the participant runs out of ideas? Notice and acknowledge his excitement and ask where the participant is in the process.

Loses the energy of the room by working with a participant who starts the process energized, but by the end of the session looks deflated? Check in with the participant and the room, articulate my observations, and go from there.

Takes the client back to the place he didn’t want to go? Check in, share my observations, connect empathically with where he’s going and redirect to stay with the client’s agenda.

Deflects feedback by explaining his reasoning for his choices? Articulate what I’m noticing and ask how she could like to receive feedback in a way that connects.

Uses his authority in a way that detracts from individual autonomy? Articulate what I see, empathize with the unexpressed needs (either for myself, him, or others), and make a request.

Invites powerful physical movement, but the participant continuously returns to a collapsed posture? I assume that my co-facilitator and I already have an agreement that we can jump in and co-facilitate, so I articulate what I see and make empathic guesses about what’s going on.

Rushes through the process? Articulate what I’m noticing and how people are impacted in the room. If the participants are getting the learning, then rushing hasn’t interfered. If I notice that participants look confused, I check in with them.

Does not notice that four people in the room are either asleep or drowsy? I would acknowledge the drowsiness myself and ask what people need.

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Says, “We have more time, don’t we?” but doesn’t check for your response? Interrupt and answer the question – we have about ten more minutes.

Gets triggered and needs to leave the room? Ask participants what’s happening with them. Trust that my co-facilitator can take care of herself, get what she needs, and come back. Check in when she does.

Doesn’t hold time agreements and repeatedly wants to add one more thing? On break, articulate what I see happening and voice my concern about keeping agreements.

Speaks in circles, often explaining what he just said? Acknowledge his desire for clarity and check what need is he meeting with explaining? Give empathy and make a request that he notice his impact, and stop speaking before people drift away.

Keeps talking even when participants disengage? Check in with my interpretation of what’s going on in me in terms of disengagement. Ask my co-facilitator what he’s noticing.

Disagrees with you? Smile and say thank you! Appreciate the differences.

Uses more than her share of the airtime? Check in with my own interpretation of her “share.” Then self-empathize silently and tell my co-facilitator how I’m feeling and what I’m wanting.

Establishes a hierarchical structure with either herself or yourself on top? Get curious about what needs the hierarchy is meeting and request something else that meets my needs and hers.

Rarely speaks and relies on you to give directions, debrief activities, and offer insights? Ask for more participation. If this is his first time facilitating with me, he might be scared, so I’d offer empathy.

Gives feedback to participants without being aware of the impact? Share my observation of what was happening for him in giving the feedback and ask what he noticed. Check in with participants to see what’s up for them.

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Doesn’t make time to debrief the learning? Stop and redirect the conversation.

Evaluates participants’ contributions by saying, “Good question,” or “That’s great.” This seems harmless enough, but I would ask for specifics. What do you value about that question? What’s great about it?

Expresses a judgment about a participant? Don’t step over this. Unpack the judgment. Help him own his inner process by uncovering his feelings and needsFree Reprint Articles, and then check in with the participant.

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 Coaching certification geared toward supporting nonprofit leaders and social change activists.



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