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The Role of Session Leader

You have a multitude of tasks to perform during the workshop. The 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 below.

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

Responsibilities in Role of Session Leader

Both Facilitator and Methodologist: 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. Consequently, 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 MG RUSH 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. Therefore, 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.


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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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.

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