We are not suggesting that you, as a participant lead meetings — or take over lame meetings, but there are some actions you can take to improve your meetings without stepping on the toes of your meeting leader.

Situation: Participant Lead Meeting

The situation is this: You are attending a meeting. It is failing because the leader has neglected some or many of the rules of good meeting management. What can you do? Therefore, you or your participants lead meetings.

Everyone is Sitting

Taking Charge: Participant Lead Meetings

Taking Charge: How Can Participants Lead Meetings

If all participants, including the leader, are sitting down, take a marker and stand up. Suggest to the leader that you can help by assisting in recording what is happening.Try to summarize what seems to be the purpose and direction (for lack of an agenda) of the meeting. You may even propose an agenda to help drive the meeting.

At that point, unless you are told to sit down and shut up, you become a facilitator. When appropriate, you may introduce your opinions, violating neutrality, but by standing up, recording on flip charts, and using facilitation skills to keep the discussion focused, you have effectively taken over using a facilitative leadership style.

Leader is Standing

If the meeting leader is standing up, start by using facilitator skills, such as asking sharp questions and using reflective active listening, to get the group focused. If the leader is not effective in knowing where to go, your clarity will not be a problem. Once you gain a role as a “focuser”, you may suggest to the leader that an agenda would help you understand the direction better. Playing “dumb” is very effective in getting people to set direction without feeling threatened by you.

You may suggest to the leader that he or she has so much to contribute, that you would be willing to stand up and do the flip chart recording. Once you are up with a marker in your hand, you become the facilitator. In both cases, talk to the meeting leader after the meeting. In a non-threatening way, explain how the next meeting can be made more effective. You will begin to change the culture in your organization.

Summary: Participant Lead Meeting

If you can get to be the only person standing and have a marker in your hand, you can take over a meeting by using facilitator skills. Keep these rules in mind though:

  • NEVER embarrass the leader
  • NEVER challenge the leader’s capabilities
  • It is NOT your meeting, you are only trying to help
  • If the leader resists your efforts, stop

For You: Participants Lead Meetings

If meetings are run well, you will enjoy the meetings that you attend more. This is important because your attitude about your job will improve—even if it is good now. You should find:

  • Your time in meetings will not be wasted or unproductive—you will feel like you are accomplishing something.
  • People will look to you as a model of meeting management—and management in general. Senior executives find future executives in meetings—those who contribute and manage the meetings best.

For Your Company: Participants Lead Meetings

Even if you don’t change your entire company, changing one organization within the company benefits a great deal. In organizations where productive meetings are a way of life, they are able to do things others have not been able to do, such as:

Revolution or Evolution: Participant Lead Meeting

Look at your meeting culture and obstacles. Have poor meetings become an epidemic and people are openly complaining? As a result, revolution may be the answer. Change the next meeting and let everyone know about it. Publish the fact that you are running the meeting in a totally new way. Publish the results of the meeting. Ask the participants to answer—how was it better, how was it more productive? Publish results and suggest that such results can be achieved on a consistent basis if more meetings were conducted properly.

If your organization is not having major problems follow an evolutionary approach. Change the next meeting you run—even a short staff meeting. Talk to your peers and subordinates about the meeting approach. Suggest changes to the ways meetings can be held. See if there is an interest in getting more people trained to run better meetings. Publish the benefits of better meeting leadership.

Example is Best: Participants Lead Meetings

People see you succeeding at meetings and they want to try what you have been doing. The more people that do better, the more others will want to follow suit, and follow. Set the example and expect others to follow.


Finally, MG RUSH professional facilitation curriculum focuses on providing methodology. Each student thoroughly practices methodology and tools before class concludes. Some call this immersion. We call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

Take a class or forward this to someone who should. MG RUSH Professional Facilitation Training provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, and 3.2 CEUs. As a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), our Professional Facilitation Training aligns with IAF Certification Principles and fully prepares alumni for their Certified Professional Facilitator designation.

Furthermore, our Professional Facilitation curriculum immerses students in the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Because nobody is smarter than everybody, attend an MG RUSH Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world, see MG RUSH for a current schedule.

Go to the Facilitation Training Store to access our in-house resources. You will discover numerous annotated agendas, break timers, and templates. Finally, take a few seconds to buy us a cup of coffee and please SHARE.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

Visit Our Website


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.