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Should facilitators make suggestions?

Excerpt from this video: “There are times when I think it’s perfectly appropriate and in fact extremely helpful to the group if the facilitator makes suggestions, makes proposals.”

What times? Craig explains in the video.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.

There’s a school of thought out there that a neutral facilitator should never make any kind of suggestion when facilitating a group; that all proposals, all ideas, should come from members of the group and the facilitator just manages and, well, facilitates that. I don’t subscribe to that school of thought.

First of all, let’s take a look. I think there are three types of suggestions.

One type of suggestion is purely content. “Oh, you guys are talking about where to have your annual meeting? I know this place. It’s really great. And blah blah blah.” That is a content suggestion. I think that content suggestions, by and large, are off limits for neutral facilitators.

But there are two other kinds.

Another kind is what I would call a process suggestion. So maybe we’ve designed an agenda, we are working through a decision making process, and I have an idea of a process that might serve the group better. Process suggestions, I think, are perfectly fine for a group facilitator to make. That’s what the facilitator has been hired to do; manage the process. The facilitator should be always thinking about better processes and should make suggestions accordingly that will help the group.

There’s a third kind that’s kind of in the middle.

Maybe it’s a suggestion about content but it is based not on my personal knowledge, but on what I have learned from you just now in the meeting. And I tend to think that those types of suggestions are also okay if the facilitator is being absolutely truly neutral and if that suggestion is being made based on what he or she thinks will serve the group well. “Look, I’ve been listening to you talk for an hour; I have an idea for a solution that I think might serve you well.” I think that might be okay because the solution is based on what I’ve heard you say from my neutral point of view.

There are no hard and fast rules about this. Mostly it depends on the group culture and your agreement with that group on how you’ll behave as a neutral facilitator. But I am just pointing out that there are times when I think it’s perfectly appropriate and in fact extremely helpful to the group if the facilitator makes suggestions, makes proposals.

Thanks for listening everybody. I hope this helps your group make good group decisions.

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