Trust the Group

Many years ago when I was just learning how to facilitate meetings; a workshop leader told me that when all else fails, trust the group. That advice has served me well for over 20 years. Since I know it works, I’ve decided to share it with you.

When you are sitting in the meeting leader’s chair, there will be times when all eyes are on you, wanting you to make a decision or help the group move through a particularly challenging situation. If you’ve got an idea that will help, go for it. That’s the role the group is expecting you to play, so play it well.

But what if you don’t have the answer on how to proceed or don’t feel comfortable making the decision? Does this mean you are an ineffective leader? I sure hope not or that would have been what people would have thought about me on many occasions

This is a tough spot to be in, but what I’ve learned to do is follow my teacher’s advice. I say to the group, “I’m not sure how to proceed. Any ideas?” Now rookie meeting leaders would balk at doing this because of the fear that they are giving up control of the meeting. They prefer to fake it and hope for the best.

Faking it isn’t usually an effective strategy. If you are pulling your solution out of thin air, chances are it’s a pretty weak solution. Also, groups sense you are making it up and start to lose confidence in your ability to lead them.

I’ve found the best way to maintain control is to give it up, especially when you have no business making the decision. Groups almost always treat this responsibility with the utmost respect, and they usually come up with something better than what I would have suggested.

So the next time you’re stuck, admit it, ask for the group’s help, and trust that they will figure out the best way to pull themselves out of whatever position they find themselves in.

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce owns LaForce Teamwork Services, a Minneapolis-based consulting company. He's on a mission to create better results through teamwork. He wrote Meeting Hero: Plan and Lead Engaging, Productive Meetings.