When we talk about facilitation, we like to use the analogy of the thermometer and the thermostat.

A thermometer measures the temperature; whereas a thermostat not only measures the temperature but also adapts it to reach the desired level.


In our experience, most facilitators act like a thermometer. They espouse the mood, energy, temper, and pace of the group – and keep it where it is. Unfortunately (for them and for the participants), those facilitators tend to get ‘lost’, struggling to get the meeting on track again.


Astute facilitators, by contrast, act like a thermostat. When the energy is low, they bring it up. When discussions are drifting, they bring focus. When they ‘lose’ the group, they adapt their style. Their main goal: reach the objective of the meeting, without losing the participants.

What are most facilitators & why?

Reality is that most facilitators prefer to be thermometers rather than thermostats. It feels so much more comfortable! After all – thermometer facilitators tend to be more liked by the participants. They mirror the energy of the group, and they don’t interfere (i.e. they let participants continue to ‘do their thing’).

Most people fear being a thermostat facilitator. They don’t want to be seen as ‘a nuisance’. What if their energy goes against that of the group, and what if they interrupt what’s going on (for example when they ask people to refocus, or to be short and to the point)? How would participants react?

Let’s not forget: a thermostat starts from the current temperature, and brings it back to the desired level. That’s what thermostat facilitators are supposed to do as well. Start from where the group is, and bring the group back to the goal: reaching the objective of the meeting, without losing the participants.

And yes – during their interventions, thermostat facilitators might, for a minute or two, be somewhat less liked than thermometer facilitators. But they are definitely respected! And they do get their deserved appreciation at the end of the meeting (and long after that) – when participants notice how much progress was made– and when they realize how good it was to have a facilitator that kept the meeting under control.

So that’s the choice you have to make: stay a thermometer facilitator (because you like ‘being liked’) or become a thermostat facilitator (because you want to get things done)…

What kind of facilitator are you?

Quick question. 

  • Are you constantly measuring the temperature – assessing if the meeting is on track (in terms of energy, timing and style)?
  • Are you constantly adapting – getting the meeting back on track (even if it might lead to a frown from some participants)?

If you answered 2 times yes – you are a thermostat facilitator.

You are not yet a true thermostat facilitator? Don’t hesitate to contact us for a coaching or corporate training. Or you might want to attend our open training session on October 1st and 2nd


Be inspired!