The debt ceiling and deficit reduction talks have stalled once again and the deadline is looming.  Is it possible for President Obama and Speaker Boehner to come to a plan they can live with that will prevent default?  Maybe it’s time to bring in a skilled facilitator.

Organizational psychologist and consultant Roger Schwarz, defines facilitation this way:

Group facilitation is a process in which a person whose selection is acceptable to all the members of the group, who is substantively neutral, and who has no substantive decision–making authority diagnoses and intervenes to help a group improve how it identifies and solves problems and makes decisions, to increase the group’s effectiveness.I

When a group of people isn’t able to reach a decision or in some cases can’t even sit at the table to have a discussion about their issues, facilitators can be very helpful in getting the group past the road blocks that are in front of them and achieve consensus on a new road ahead.

Consensus doesn’t mean that everyone agrees.  It means that everyone can live with the decision of the group and will work to support that decision.

A good facilitator:

  • creates a safe environment,
  • encourages participation from everyone in the group,
  • ensures that everyone’s perspectives are heard,
  • helps the participants hear and understand different points of view,
  • manages participant behavior,
  • keeps the group on task, and
  • captures and records the discussion using agreed upon language with which the group is comfortable.

A good facilitator doesn’t provide the answers or solutions but instead provides the structure and guidance that allows the participants to work through the issues to come to a result.

I don’t have a crystal ball and like most Americans, I sincerely hope President and Congress come to an agreement soon.  We have reached a crisis point.  Having their discussions facilitated by a third party might be in order sooner rather than later.