The Role of Session Leader

You have a multitude of tasks to perform during the workshop.  Success of the facilitator’s effort is dependent upon your skill, knowledge, and abilities as a session leader.  The role of session leader includes both the traditional role of “Facilitator” discussed below and the role of “Methodologist” discussed on the next page.

You can complete a project without facilitation, but you could also cut your own hair.

Responsibilities in Role of Session Leader

Role of Session Leader

Role of Session Leader

Context is the key responsibility of the session leader, frequently called a facilitator—responsibilities include:

  • Actively listening to the discussion and challenging assumptions.
  • Creating synergy by focusing the group and using your facilitation skills to enhance communications.
  • Ensuring that all participants have an opportunity to participate.
  • Explaining and enforcing the roles.
  • Keeping the group on track.
  • Managing the documenters and the documentation process.
  • Observing the group interactions and adjusting when necessary.
  • Questioning to achieve clarity—aiding communication between participants and yourself.
  • Recognizing disruptive behavior and creating positive corrections.
  • Working to resolve conflicts that arise.

Key Success Element in Role of Session Leader

Your role is to create an environment where every participant has the opportunity to collaborate, innovate, and excel.  Observing the team’s progress helps you understand the dynamics of the group and how your approach enhances or detracts from the final output.

The Group Dynamics

  • Ask yourself the following questions while observing the group:
  • How do they communicate?  Eye to eye contact?  Soft spoken?  Yelling?  Gestures?  etc.
  • In what order do they speak?  Primary, secondary, who backs who up?  Who always gets interrupted?
  • Which participant(s) appears to influence group direction the most?
  • Who are these people talking to?  Are they looking for supporters?  Do they attack certain people or groups?

Methodologist in the Role of Session Leader

The methodologist is the role responsible for defining the approach used by the meeting or workshop.  The methodologist’s role typically changes throughout the project.  For example, in the planning phase, the methodologist may be a strategic planner—someone who understands how to develop a consensual plan.  In the analysis phase, the methodologist may be a process expert, a business architect, or both.  In the design phase, the methodologist may be a workflow or design specialist.

Meeting or workshop responsibilities include:

  • Helping the facilitator, business partner, and technical partner codify the deliverable and define the appropriate agenda steps to follow.  Provides succinct questions to ask and the optimal order or sequence for the questions to be answered.
  • Perhaps participating in workshops to ensure that the products produced satisfy the expected standards of quality and consistency—namely that others can act upon the deliverable effectively, such as the project team.

The methodologist’s role is functional and not necessarily the role of an individual.  The executive sponsor is sometimes the methodologist in strategic planning.  The session leader is frequently the methodologist because of FAST structured facilitation training or experience. The facilitator can also fulfill this role because methods and approaches are generally neutral.  Business or technical partners (ie, project management) are sometimes methodologists.  Look for the person or persons who is expert with the deliverable—who clearly understands the product to build and the approach to follow in building that product.

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

To help you access our in-house resources, (e.g., annotated agendas and templates used in our FAST Professional Facilitation Training) go to the Facilitation Training Store For a nominal fee, you can now access some our favorite tools, including:

  • First of all, highly effective PPT Break Timers for $19.99
  • Quick, five to ten-minute video lessons on critical topics for $29.99
  • White papers with additional methodology and team-based meeting support for only $9.99
  • Holarchy Poster for conference rooms to help resolve arguments

Purchase the book “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need to lead more effective groups, teams, and meetings.

Furthermore, the FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual. Or, attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership-training workshop offered around the world.  See MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, or 3.2 CEUs).

Finally, do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and numerous tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.


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Signup for FAST Weekly today and MG Rush will send you a coupon to enroll FREE in our online course: How To Facilitate Alignment In Meetings: Using Power Balls and A Decision Matrix.

Building consensus around proper alignment helps groups identify gaps, omissions, overkill, and to confirm the appropriateness and balance of their action plan.

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