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What Do We Do When Our Co-Facilitator Gets Sidetracked

By Martha Lasley
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Becomes animated about his own ideas when the participant runs out of ideas? Notice and acknowledge his excitement and ask where the participant is in the process.

Loses the energy of the room by working with a participant who starts the process energized, but by the end of the session looks deflated? Check in with the participant and the group, name observations, and hold space for whatever arises.

Takes the client back to the place he didn’t want to go? Check in, share observations, connect empathically with where he’s going and redirect to stay with the client’s agenda.

Deflects feedback by explaining his reasoning for his choices? Articulate what we are noticing and ask how she would like to receive feedback in a way that connects.

Uses his authority in a way that detracts from individual autonomy? Articulate what wI see, empathize with the unexpressed needs (either for self, him, or others), and make a request.

Invites powerful physical movement, but the participant continuously returns to a collapsed posture? I Assume that the co-facilitators already have an agreement that we can jump in and co-facilitate, so we can articulate what we see and make empathic guesses about what’s going on.

Rushes through the process? Articulate what we're noticing and how people are impacted in the group. If the participants are getting the learning, then rushing hasn’t interfered. If we notice that participants look confused, we check in with them.

Does not notice that four people in the room are either asleep or drowsy? We can acknowledge the drowsiness, ask what people need, redirect or move into small groups.

Says, “We have more time, don’t we?” but doesn’t check for your response? Interrupt and answer the question – we have about two more minutes.

Gets triggered and leaves the room (physically or energetically)? Ask participants what’s happening with them. Trust that the co-facilitator can take care of herself, get what she needs, and come back. Check in when she does.

Doesn’t hold time agreements and repeatedly wants to add one more thing? Without making our co-facilitator wrong, we can articulate what is happening and make a request to keep agreements.

Speaks in circles, often explaining what he just said? Acknowledge his desire for clarity and check what need is he meeting by re-explaining? Give empathy and make a request that he notice his impact, and stop speaking before people drift away.

Keeps talking even when participants disengage? Check in with my interpretation of what’s going on in me in terms of disengagement. Ask my co-facilitator what she’s noticing.

Disagrees with you? Welcome viewpoints and appreciate the differences.

Uses more than her share of the airtime? Check in with my own interpretation of her “share.” Then self-empathize silently and tell my co-facilitator how I’m feeling and what I’m wanting.

Establishes a hierarchical structure with either herself or yourself on top? Get curious about what needs the hierarchy is meeting and request something else that works for all.

Rarely speaks and relies on you to give directions, debrief activities, and offer insights? Ask for more participation. If this is our first time facilitating together, the new facilitator might be scared, so we can offer empathy and surface any requests.

Gives feedback to participants without being aware of the impact? Share the observation of what was happening when giving the feedback and ask what he noticed. Check in with participants to see what’s up for them.

Doesn’t make time to debrief the learning? Stop and redirect the conversation.

Evaluates participants’ contributions by saying, “Good question,” or “That’s great.” This seems harmless enough, but we can ask for specifics. What do you value about that question? What’s great about it?

Expresses a judgment about a participant? Don’t step over this. Check in with the participant first. Then unpack the judgment. We can help our co-facilitator own his inner process by uncovering the positive intent behind the judgment.

Part of creating a safe environment for risk-taking and learning is welcoming all parts - of our co-facilitator and ourselves. Transforming judgment into curiosity lets participants know that all their parts are welcome too. 

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