Retrospective Basics 

- Stances

In Part One we looked at the my very basics for helpful, effective retrospectives and Part Two was dedicated to variety. In this last part helpful stances for a retrospective facilitator are in the spotlight. I'll also share the my secret fuel for Inspect & Adapt.

Your inner stance as a retrospective facilitator matters

As a retrospective facilitator your inner stance matters. It matters a lot!

For someone who is rather new to the field, that might not be obvious. Also that part with the stances might be hard to grasp for people who see retrospectives rather critical (e.g. "a waste of time" or "we better *really* work").

Yet I experienced it myself and heard it from more experienced colleagues - over and over again: YOUR inner stance as a facilitator makes a difference! 

I'd go even further and say: your inner stance as a facilitator is a crucial part to the outcome of your retrospectives.

With practise over the years, with reflecting and learning, I distilled five attitudes or inner stances.

Five Stances of a Facilitator

In short, those five inner stances are:

Be a host

Hosts invite people. Be a host and invite people to be part of the retro. 

Also, be okay if people opt out (e.g. of some of the activites you chose).

Of course you may ask for reasons afterwards. You may ask even within the retro. 

I do that especially if more folks choose to opt out at once:

Be clear with others

Be clear with your facilitation.

Suggest clear, simple rules and model them yourself, e.g. using a (virtual) talking stick. 

Clarity provides orientation, which we humans need.

Clarity also helps with setting the pace, which in my experience often is too high. It helps slowing down a bit so that true reflection and learning are more likely to happen.

Having some kind of prepared agenda (i.e. what to do and WHY I plan to do it) also helps with adding clarity. For me this is especially important, if I'm rather new with a team or there's some bigger, intangible "people thing" or conflict to approach and tackle together.

Be clear with yourself

Being clear with others is only as helpful as you are clear with YOUR self. The part with 'having a prepared agenda' also pays into this.

Even more important is: do only stuff YOU are convinced of.

Why is that? you might ask. The easy, straightforward answer is: people will notice if you do something "because someone said so" or "just because it is fancy".

Humans usually notice if you're not 100% convinced of something that you do.

Example: imagine you intend to play a serious game because you assume it could contain helpful learnings for the team. But: you are not fully convinced that A GAME is a good approach because "people might find playing a game child-ish" or "not relly work-like".

I bet: people WILL notice that. You won't get the best results because your facilitator's mind is clogged with toughts and beliefs. YOU are not at your best in that moment!

Better choose something that YOU are convinced of and that YOU feel comfortable enough with as a facilitator.

Be prepared
(to be surprised)

Being prepared with some sort of facilitation agenda AND being ready to be surprised is one of the big points that grew with my experience.

It's like dancing with ambiguity. That is somehow related to Open Space technology: there is structure AND there is room for things to emerge that need to emerge.

For retrospective facilitation this means:

The last bit is especially true for themed retrospectives

No matter if the team chose a special topic to address in a retro or you as their guide suggested one: It may always happen between setting the intention for a certain topic and the point in time you address it, that more important things emerge.


The last stance may sound simple, almost trivial. Yet for me it is the most powerful. The fifth inner stance is: believe!

Believe in the people you work with AND believe in your self.

Sounds so simple and oftentimes it requires hard self-development work at the same time.

For example, it is fairly easy to judge people based on past situations or incidents, even though most "incidents" happened in our own minds and are often interpretations of situations.

Believing in people requires: being in the here-and-now moment to witness what is actually happening

That in turn requires your attention and awareness to observe more (and judge less). 

Mirroring those observations then back to people requires good communication skills and sometimes even courage.

My (secret) fuel for Inspect & Adapt

Mind your resources: all the things you can already harvest... no matter how seemingly small they might appear!

My (not-so-secret) fuel to keep my own energy and my teams' energy to inspect and to adapt is:

The next level could then be:

You might also want to read Gratitude Journaling done right

Mind the resources, the "things" you can already harvest... no matter how "small" they might appear!

And you?

What is your take on inner stances as a facilitator? 

What isyour (secret) fuel to Inspect & Adapt - be it for teams or also for ourselves as individuals?

I'm curious!

You are looking for a Retrospective facilitator for a group, a Team Coach or an individual mentor / coach for yourself? 

Get in touch with me!