Strategic Facilitation

It's hard to be a referee and a player at the same time

The primary goals of a facilitator

A facilitator knows how to guide a group of people through cooperative processes including collective decision making, so that the group can achieve its purpose more quickly and more easily.

When to get facilitation help with strategy

The facilitator's challenge

  1. Helping people move from where they are to where they want to be
  2. Looking after the process not the content
  3. Only has as much power as the group is prepared to give
  4. To open minds
  5. To challenge and focus ideas
  6. To maintain energy levels throughout the session
  7. To challenge accepted assumptions
  8. To be objective and take a strategic view
  9. To mirror back behaviors which people may not see themselves doing
  10. To manage the process so the manager can to participate fully
  11. To use people to get the maximum effectiveness.

"Having you as facilitator allowed me the opportunity to participate as a team member. Gave me greater clarity on various issues and people's perspectives" Mike Horner, Manager, BNZ.

Bruce Holland

Bruce is one of New Zealand's top facilitators, however he is far more than just a top facilitator; he also has deep business strategy knowledge and experience. He as helped many of New Zealand's largest organisations find a radically different and more successful path to the future. Bruce has the experience and the maturity to work at all levels of the organisation - Tops, Middles and Bottoms. He is equally at ease working with people in gumboots and overalls as he is with senior Board members and top managers.

Bruce has excellent oral and written communications skills. Communicates well with all levels of people. Always attempts to extract the essence and remove the jargon.

He has an ability to work with people, he sees people as the most important element in most situations. He has the ability to get people to work, a good motivator, cares about staff.

Bruce has excellent facilitation and negotiating ability, developed through experience in supporting roles where success depended on the strength of the case and the ability to persuade.

Bruce facilitates at the following levels

  1. Physical energy or muscle power (includes setting up the room, getting resources etc). The physical should never be forgotten. Always make sure that there are plenty of rests, stretches, drinks, re-energisers.

  2. Emotional energy which comes from knowing that you fit in terms of values and culture (includes sharing experiences, sharing feelings expressing feelings etc). Emotional issues simply must be addressed because unless they are no progress is possible. The issues given may not be the real issues, Bruce is careful to look below the surface of the stated problem, often it is like the tip of the ice burg. Before people will tell you want is really worrying them they need to feel good at an emotional level - safe and secure.

  3. Mental energy or brainpower (includes sharing ideas, exploring issues, analysis, creative thinking and systems thinking etc). Helpful models include de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, Systems thinking, Herrmann’s four quadrants to ensure that the group has applied all types of thinking to the issue, but only one at any one time otherwise they cancel each other out.

  4. Intuitive level (includes understanding what’s not being said, when it’s good to stop, when it’s good to go, when energy is high/low).

  5. Spiritual energy which comes from doing something which is really worthwhile (includes establishing a higher purpose for the group, broadening the horizons, beyond personal gain). It provides the spring in the foot and the gleam in the eye. It is the spark which if created can turn an average team into a great team capable of extraordinary feats.

Bruce's facilitation skills

  1. Bruce brings over 20 years of experience in facilitating groups of between 5 and 150 people
  2. Bruce is open, approachable and honest
  3. Cares deeply about the group's well being.
  4. Respects and honours the group
  5. Adaptable
  6. Is objective and not caught up in group dynamics
  7. Is encouraging
  8. Works with conflict
  9. Role models required behaviours. To ‘walk the talk’ -actions speak far loader than words
  10. Deals with resistance as it arises
  11. Keeps simplifying, so the group focuses more and more on the next steps the group can take
  12. Builds bridges and show the way
  13. Communicates well, uses language which is understandable by the group
  14. Good at listening (beyond the words)
  15. Asks questions to help people see the issues .

What Others have Said About Bruce Holland

The Case for External Facilitation

Compelling reasons clients have given for having external facilitation:

  1. The main cost of a strategy session is the time of the people involved, making this more efficient is well worth the investment in a facilitator
  2. As facilitator Bruce can do many things which although necessary would be difficult for the manager to do directly. This is particularly relevant in areas of stretching thinking and challenging paradigms
  3. It frees managers to participate and influence rather than be preoccupied leading the process
  4. It allows the manager to take a less obviously leading role which paradoxically increases their actual leadership
  5. Good facilitation is difficult to come by. The experience and skills which may not be available within the team
  6. As an outsider Bruce is able to be more objective and neutral
  7. Even the worlds best sports people need a coach. Working in a group is like playing golf you can not see yourself doing it.

When to use an external facilitator

  1. Whenever the issue is critical to the future of the organisation
  2. When the group is too large or the issue is too difficult for an internal facilitator
  3. When the manager wants to improve the level of buyin to a decision
  4. When the manager wants to participate in the decision making
  5. When the manager does not want be involved running the process
  6. When the group needs to be stretched beyond what the manager is able to achieve.

Probable outcomes of external Facilitation

  1. All participants are able to focus on contributing to the session rather than running the process
  2. Participants will achieve a deeper level of buyin
  3. The manager will be seen as a strong leader who doesn't have to rely on personally controlling the meeting
  4. The outcome will be more objective and benefit from an independent external perspective
  5. The time taken to achieve the results will be significantly less than with the less-skilled facilitator.

Product support

This product has been developed and is supported by Bruce Holland with help where required from other members of the Virtual Group Business Specialists. Bruce is a specialist in group facilitation, Wellington, nationally and internationally. He specialises in public sector and in other large private sector organisations.


All work undertaken by Bruce Holland is guaranteed. If at the end of the program the client doesn't feel that they have received value for money, they may adjust the bill and pay an amount equal to the value they feel they received.

For more information about how you can use group facilitation to get the most out of your group call:

Bruce Holland
Cell +6421 620 456
Key words: Leadership, leadership development, leadership management, leadership training, leadership program, leadership skills

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