How to avoid bad retrospectives

Today I did a presentation on The Art of Having Difficult Conversations and in one of the exercises where we touched on using retrospectives to work through 'an elephant in the room', a participant shared how a retrospective went terribly wrong. Unfortunately I hear all to often about bad retrospectives, or retrospectives that opened raw wounds to never be closed again because the facilitator didn't have the capabilities to move the team through difficult conversations.

Firstly, one of the vital ingredients to avoiding bad retrospective is good facilitation. ESPECIALLY if you are going to address an 'elephant in the room' bring in an independent facilitator. A neutral facilitator will have no association to the possible outcomes, and preferably won't judge what is said therefore able to be a conscious observer who can guide the conversation flow.