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Can a company leader conduct strategic session independently?

Article author: Andrei Kolesnikov, IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator, mentor IAF Global Mentorship Program, expert on creating presentations and public speaking, business trainer, founder and CEO of PowerLexis.

Can the company leader hold strategic sessions in his company themselves? I believe, they can, but only as a last resort. In any other case it is worth inviting a professional facilitator.


1. Expertise
The CEO is often a person of a unique expertise and vision both of the future and of the situation the company is in. That is why, it is important to have them participate in the session and generate meanings, discuss ideas, take part in decision-making along with other participants.

2. Professionalism
Most often company leader is not an expert in stratsession making and in professional organisation of group work processes. Even if they regard themselves as professionals, most likely they just do not know what exactly they do not know and cannot do.)) A professional facilitator will be able to find out the proper request for a Stratsession, develop a structure encompassing many details, organise group work effectively and help in holding follow-up activities for the team.

3. Impartiality
It is usually hard for the company head to stay within the role of a facilitator: to remain impartial and focus solely on guiding the group work process. However, this is the main function of a facilitator! Especially if the leader is also the company owner. His own creation is discussed and scrutinised during a stratsession, the company future and its development strategy are argued about.


1. «Nobody ia able to hold a better stratsession for my company than I can!»
This is a typical case, although it has several modifications form emotional reasoning «I am the best, better than the rest!» to a more reasonable stance «We have a very peculiar scope and no outsider would manage!» What could be done? While working with the emotional argument you can show the chart of «Dunning-Krueger effect» for facilitation. Just be careful, because some people may get offended, especially if they have visited no more than just two facilitation trainings. When addressing a more reasonable position, try to immerse the leader into the particular nature of facilitation, to show the international experience and prove that it is possible to work competently even not having deep and profound knowledge of the domain.

2. «Confidentiality is everything»

«A Stratssession for us is the sacramental part of our business. We cannot let outsiders into our world. We have a lot of brilliant ideas and they should remain». What could be done? It is a hard case. You can try to show the experience of other companies. And sign a confidentiality agreement.

3. «We have already tried working with those show-guys»

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people on the market who pretend to be professionals promising mountains and marvels. In fact they do not ensure the outcomes undermining the trust to facilitation. What could be done? Together with the customer address that previous negative experience, demonstrate your qualification and prove your approach is different from that one they met in the past.

Are there any cases when it is better for company leaders to conduct a stratsession in their companies themselves?
Yes, there are. I would outline three main points:

1. No budget or limited budget

A professional facilitator is expensive. It is clear that you can argue as much as you like about the fact that such investments pay off. However, there are situations when there is simply no money and a great need for a Stratsession.

2. Demand for an immeduate stratsession

The schedule of a professional facilitator is usually arranged for the months ahead. Yet there are situations when waiting is not an option and it is crucial to have a Stratsession straight away.

3. Company leader indeed is a facilitator of a high professional level

This is rare, but possible..

If there is no opportunity to invite an external facilitator, it is useful for the company leader to take into consideration the following recommendations:

1. Think if the whole Stratsession or a part of it could be done by one of the company employees (you can can prepare for the session together). In this case the head of the company can fully participate in it and contribute with their invaluable expertise and experience. 

2. Prior to holding a session, get advice from a professional facilitator. Share your goals and tasks, show the script. Most likely, the facilitator will see a number of bottlenecks and indicate your growth zones.

3. If you still have to do a session yourself, it is important to clearly follow the principle of impartiality. It is even better to immediately articulate the option of working out of two roles. For example, “By default I am a facilitator. And when I take Ridibundus, I'm an expert.” Just do not abuse the position of an expert, otherwise the group management function will suffer.