Does the “Player-Coach” Model Work in Team Meetings?

Ken Larson

Ken Larson

The Player-Coach Model Doesn’t Work in a Team Meeting Environment, and that’s exactly why you need an external facilitator.

If you’re a leader, you know that you can’t be everywhere and everyone at once, even though you’d like to be (and you’ve certainly tried).

How’s that working for you?

You want to watch the work get done, and you also want to get your hands dirty with the execution, because that’s how you got to be where you are today. However… what got you here certainly won’t get you there!

You want to be a player and a coach – often at the same time, especially in important team meetings (e.g. planning meetings and/or retreats). But unfortunately, when you try to be both, you really can’t succeed at either (e.g. chase two chickens and catch none…) This doesn’t work, especially when you’re hungry;)


Why Can’t I Be a Coach and a Player at the Same Time?

In order to facilitate conversations properly, especially in team environments, you feel you have to assume a leadership role. Understood and agreed. But… what does that look like?

If you keep your “CEO-I’m-responsible-for-everything” hat on, it often stifles the potential magic of true consensus and teamwork. People will hold back out of fear of not being heard. They’ll also feel that you’ll just make the final decision anyway – so why bother?
I see this far too often!

You can’t effectively switch back and forth between giving and taking orders, between being on and in the business and/or situation… between being a player and a coach. 

It blurs the lines, confuses your team, and can seriously compromise performance, not to mention culture (and THAT’s a BIG ONE!).


But there’s a solution:

Find, hire, and engage a strong external facilitator. And when you find a good one, work with this person to set the stage for success… then “trust the process”!
You won’t regret it!



Why You Need an External Facilitator:

  • It levels the playing field

An external facilitator removes you from the pedestal and places you among the rest of the team. It flattens the room. Everyone’s thoughts and opinions become valid, and when done well, of equal merit!

  • It increases engagement

More team members are willing to speak their mind when there’s a level playing field. A strong facilitator will excavate and establish ground rules designed to create a safe place for all to contribute. 

  • It makes everyone’s opinions matter

Leaders tend to interrupt… Hold on. Let me finish 🙂
Team members are more likely to raise their hand and contribute to the conversation when they know that a third party is actually listening and documenting their thoughts. There are no preconceived notions that a particular employee will have “bad” ideas when the third-party is leading the discussion.

  • It draws out the quiet ones (and channels the not-so-quiet ones)

Leaders can be intimidating.
“Who? Not me”… you say?
When you introduce a charismatic, open and welcoming third-party, there’s a far greater chance the quiet ones will let their opinions be heard. And if they don’t, a strong facilitator will draw them out… perhaps gently at first.

  • It provides a fresh set of eyes

You can be (and often are) your own worst enemy.
Leaders are often too close to the problem. An external facilitator will ask thought-provoking questions from a completely different perspective that perhaps you’ve never even thought of. Then, based on the new thinking this stimulates, the facilitator draws out new and insightful perspectives from the team on something that may be critical to your business.

  • It brings professionally trained skills, tools, and processes

Leaders still need to learn. DUH! An external facilitator can offer their observations, perspectives, and leadership skills to help you (and your team members) understand which skills you/they might need to brush up on for your upcoming team meetings.

  • It keeps the leader in check from potentially overpowering and/or directing rather than guiding discovery

If you’re the leader, you might feel a responsibility to domineer meetings and control conversation. However, if you simply help the external facilitator guide your high-performing team members, as a unit, in the right direction, it will result in more positivity and even higher performance. 

When you open up the dialogue to include a trusted, skilled third-party that isn’t a full-time employee, you have the luxury of utilizing an objective set of eyes with professional skills to help you tackle the toughest challenges. Through subsequent processes, actions, and accountabilities, this third-party can help you reach your goals.


The Keys

Search out, recruit, contract, and work closely with an external facilitator in order to set the stage for success. Ensure research is done. Be clear about the purpose and desired outcomes you want for the meeting(s). Then, get the hell out of the way and let him/her do what they’re best at.


The Catch

You MUST be willing to let go of your own opinions and be open to those of your team! I have found in my 25+ years of doing this, that when a leader gets curious and truly listens to his/her team, 100% of the time it stimulates NEW thinking that is ALWAYS valuable. Want some of that? DUH!


If you or your company is in need of an external facilitator or a business coach, let’s talk! 


I know a pretty good one:)


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