The Roles Facilitators Play in Strategic Planning and Leadership Development

Retreat facilitators play a critical role in the planning, execution, and overall success of any company retreat. Whether you’re working on leadership development, strategic planning, board integration, or anything else during your business retreat, it pays to have facilitator on board.  

Why? Are facilitators just glorified guides? Are they there to tell you what you already know? Will they simply run you through the plan you’ve created? 

Let’s put it this way: you wouldn’t chart a flight without hiring a pilot. You wouldn’t venture into an unknown jungle without a guide. We suppose you could, but the results might be less than satisfactory, to say the least. 

What do retreat facilitators actually provide? It’s a lot more than simple guidance. These are the roles a retreat facilitator will play in your company retreat. 

Role #1: The Planner

Retreat facilitators have years of experience and countless retreats under their belts. Bottom line: they know how to structure, organize, and execute a retreat from end to end. They’ve done it many times before. Facilitators bring a structured approach to the retreat, ensuring that discussions, activities, and goals are clearly defined, and that time is used efficiently. They can also tailor your retreat’s content and activities to your company’s specific needs and goals. They ensure that the agenda aligns with your objectives, and they create a truly one-of-a-kind event. 

Role #2: The “Leader”

Your company has a leader. Maybe you’re that person, and even if you are, you’re still a part of the team. When you attend a company retreat, you need to be a part of the process; you need to be down in the ditches with your team. Otherwise, you’re just an outsider to the process, and that’s the facilitator’s job. Retreat facilitators are there to lead the day-to-day process so that you can actually take part in the event rather than watch it fly by from the outside. Let them take the lead so that you can ingrain yourself within your team and your business. 

Role #3: They Facilitator

Big surprise, huh? One of the most important roles a facilitator plays is to facilitate the process, making sure the event moves from one location to another, from one activity to another, and to ensure that everything flows smoothly down to the smallest details. This is heavily important for two reasons. First, it takes the stress off you and your team. Let the facilitator deal with making the sausage, you neither want nor need to know how it’s made. Second, retreats require full immersion and concentration. The less you are involved in the fine details, the better. 

Role #4: The Outsider

You know your business and your team better than anyone, and that can often be a part of the problem. When you’re so deeply involved in your company, it’s hard to take a step back, see the big picture, and, more importantly, take an unbiased outsiders view of everything. Businesses can easily become an echo chamber filled with confirmation bias and other cognitive biases that impair leaders’ abilities to make objective, often difficult decisions. Retreat facilitators provide that third-party “bird’s eye” view of your business, giving you points of view that you may not be exposed to on a daily basis. This can be critical to transforming your business and its leaders. 

Role #5: The Communicator

Talk ain’t cheap. In fact, it’s one of the most important parts of a retreat. But communicating, even for those who have known each other for years, can be surprisingly difficult. Do you really know how to communicate with every person on your team? Retreat facilitators are there to coax out ideas, get people talking, and encourage participation in healthy ways. They are also there to encourage conflicts, identify problems, and find resolutions. It’s way more than ice breakers. You’ll be surprised how much more your team is participating when you have a facilitator on board. Even those who seem reserved will be brought out of their shells. 


What else can a retreat facilitator do for your team? We’d love to tell you! Call our Director of Leadership Programming, Abby, to have a quick 15-minute conversation about your retreat!