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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Understand and Agree on Roles

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


September 20, 2016

Meetings with clear delineation of roles are generally better run meetings. The most important role is that of the engaged participant. Setting this expectation by naming it invites all members to feel valued even when status issues may be present. It also creates a norm for active participation rather than a passive stance. When all members see themselves as contributors, interdependence and trust develops.

Another role is that of facilitator. The facilitator manages process, time, and energy for the group and remains neutral. If the facilitator needs to participate at any time, s/he should signal the role change to an engaged participant. Generally, that change should be avoided if possible as it can cause the group to question the neutrality of the facilitator.

The recorder keeps a public record of the group’s work and is there to serve the facilitator. S/he does not make eye contact with the group, instead looking only at the chart or the facilitator for direction. The facilitator will paraphrase and the recorder writes the paraphrase after the participant signs off. The recorder should follow the principles of quality charting so that charts are legible and easy to read.

Finally, the group may have a person of role or knowledge authority, meaning a person with a title, such as principal, or a high level of expertise on the topic at hand. That person usually should not be the facilitator as the group needs the person’s thinking.

How are your group’s clarifying and implementing these roles? How might they enhance the success of your meetings?

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