Table 1

Recommendations to address causes of facilitation challenges

Lack of progress/follow-through
  • If due to an individual, reach out privately and ask if you can provide any support.

  • Reach out to champions/team leaders for help identifying the cause of the lack of progress.

  • Ask individual/group if the task in question should be reassigned to a different team member or if other team members can help support.

  • Re-evaluate project tasks with the group to assess whether they need to be changed or made more manageable.

Changes to team
(eg, staffing turnover)
  • If advance notice is provided, identify who else on the team has similar skills/interests and can take over the role of the team member leaving.

  • Ask the departing team member to explain his/her process to the remaining group so that activities can continue.

  • If the champion/team leader is leaving, ask him/her for help identifying who on the team or in the clinic might be a good replacement.

Emotion/frustration directed at the facilitator
  • Keep calm and remain professional.

  • Assess your own emotions and determine if you are okay to continue with the call.

    • If yes: “I can tell that parts of this process are frustrating. Why don’t we take a minute to figure out what we can all do to make it less frustrating…?”

    • If no: “I feel we’ve reached a point where we all need a break. Let’s all take some time to regroup and we can talk again (eg, next week, in an hour, etc.).”

  • Reach out to team members individually via phone or message to make sure everything is okay with them. If necessary, outline the best ways they can privately communicate any frustration with you (eg, not during the facilitation session).

Mismatched expectations between the facilitator and the team
  • Hold a meeting to review the project goals and to re-evaluate facilitation and team member expectations of the project and of each other.

  • Explain your role as the facilitator and the tasks you are able and unable to perform in support of the team.

Managing project timeline and deliverables
  • Create a plan for yourself with markers for when deliverables are due and how much time is left in the project timeline.

  • Expect activities to take longer than planned.

  • Identify the minimum quality of deliverables you/the project is willing to accept from the team.

Supporting QI methods and data collection
  • Engage early in discussions about the why and how of QI methods and data collection to establish buy-in and to highlight their value.

  • QI methods and data collection may require additional education or reframing of the concepts for staff to see value. Tie the data collection tasks to a bigger goal such as a report to leadership.

Managing team dynamics
  • Distance-based facilitation makes it difficult to visually assess team dynamics through body language and other social cues. Tone and silence can be good cues but recognise that understanding how individual team members feel about each other may be more difficult to judge virtually.

  • The facilitator can be a good sounding board or mediator between team members in conflict. Offer to be the go-between to find resolution.

Promoting effective communication
  • Set clear parameters for how (eg, phone, email, instant messaging) and how often communication between the team and the facilitator will happen.

  • Understand that communication between the team will happen outside of these set times, and that communication may or may not be shared with you but will impact team dynamics. Be flexible and process new information quickly.

Documenting implementation and facilitation progress
  • Set aside protected time for the facilitator to document implementation and facilitation progress.

  • This process can be time-consuming and should be factored in with other facilitation duties.

  • *The size of the group being facilitated can impact fatigue, with larger clinic sites with more participants often more difficult to manage.

  • QI, quality improvement.