facilitatoru blog

Master Facilitator Journal | December 5, 2017

Dear Friends,

Have you ever wondered why 50 years ago we were able to send men to the moon but we still can't seem to advance public education such that it feeds rather than stifles the souls of our children? Or why we can't develop an economic system that doesn't simultaneously destroy our environment and health while providing us with "a living?"

I've come to discover that the answer to these questions relates to the complexity of the wicked problems we face today. Problems that have more to do with the non-linear vargaries of human social and cultural systems than the formulaic solutions of otherwise complicated problems.

Since we facilitators are so often engaged in these human complexities in the work we do, it seems fitting to look at how we might intervene to help advance the capacity of groups to if not solve, at least be with the invariably complex problems that face nearly everyone of us today.

In this weeks article, Facilitating Group Development, we explore how the levels of listening we employ impacts the levels of conversations we have, that impacts the relationships we have, that result in the capacity of the groups we embody.

FacilitatorU TV. Join me this Thursday, at 11:00am CST for around 30 minutes to explore in more detail these ideas of group development and communication including means to embrace the dynamics of human connection as a path to building high-performing teams and communities. We'll end with a brief introduction to our 5-day Journey of Facilitation & Collaboration leadership experience. Click here to join us. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

We hope our work continues to bring inspiration to your world. Thank you for being a part of our growing community. Please continue to send the wonderful feedback.


Steve Davis

Founder, FacilitatorU.com

facilitatoru membership

virtual facilitation webinar

journey of facilitation and collaboration

The Point

Facilitating Group Development
Facilitating Listening Levels to Evolve Group Capacity

Group Dynamics Skill

If we take a thoughtful look under the surface of affairs today at the global, regional, even personal scale, we see that what we once viewed as isolated problems with black and white solutions are actually interconnected webs of cause and effect. We’re beginning to see that our most challenging problems (often emerging from solutions to prior problems) are more complex than we thought.

A common response when faced with overwhelming complexity is to hunker down and try to “go back” to some simpler time or to over-simply the matter and call for a quick reactive fix.

The conversations we see around these complex issues, especially in the media, consist primarily of old school debate where participants Listen to Win. This is not surprising given that so much of our training and modeling involved a debating style of conversation. Debate can be helpful at illuminating the strengths and weaknesses of various arguments around complicated issues. By complicated issues, we mean those where cause and effect relationships can be understood given sufficient analysis and expertise.

However, many of today’s issues are beyond complicated. They are instead, complex, meaning that cause and effect relationships are unclear, only known retrospective of actions taken. The debating style of conversation, where listening to win is the order of the day, will yield consistently ineffectual approaches and relationships for dealing with complex issues. I add relationships because the responses to today’s complex problems involve more than mechanical expedience. They also often involve understanding, alignment, and cooperation among very diverse stakeholders.

To navigate today’s complex (multi-disciplinary, multi-sector, global, etc.) issues we must learn to engage in Dialogue where our purpose is to: Listen to Understand. This kind of listening is necessary to support a shift from silos to collaboration in our organizations.

Contrasting Dialogue and Debate



Is about Winning Is about Learning
Assuming there is one right answer – and you have it Assuming that others have a piece of the answer
Combative: Attempting to prove the other side wrong Collaborative: looking for common understanding
Listening to find flaws and make counter-arguments Listening to understand and find basis for agreement
Defending your assumptions Bringing up your assumptions for inspection and discussion
Seeking an outcome that agrees with your position Discovering new possibilities and opportunities


Four Practices of Dialogue

In his book, Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together, William Isaacs presents the following four practices to support the process of dialogue:

1. Listen Fully: Recognize and put to aside the “resistances and reactions that we feel to what someone else is saying.” Notice your reaction and then continue to listen.

2. Respect: The principle of coherence underlies the practice of respect. Coherence, also meaning wholeness, invites us to look for elements of commonality as the dialogue unfolds. Or said another way, listen as if it were all in me. For if we can perceive something in another, assume then that it’s also a part of our own mental world. This is particularly helpful when irritated by someone’s contribution. Here we can examine our own thoughts, feelings and behavior, to find where we might have the same thing in us. From this perspective it is easier to fully acknowledge the other; not to agree, but to include whatever it is in the whole.

3. Suspending: Isaacs locates the meaning of the word suspend in its root, which means stretch or spin, and says that to suspend thought is “to spin it out so that it can be seen, like a web between two beams in a barn”. Isaacs proposes two levels of suspension:

a) Openly state the “contents of your consciousness”, thoughts, feelings, opinions, so that all can see what is going on.

b) Move upstream to be aware that thoughts and feelings arise in oneself in the very personal context of history and memory—hence they are our own productions, not objective facts about the external world. This awareness makes a crucial difference to the way we communicate them to others.

4. Voicing: Overcome self-censorship. One way of doing this is to consider what might be the risk if you don’t speak, as well as the risk if you do. Consider what it is that you really want to create.

Listening Levels and Group Development. Listening levels impact the quality of our conversations, and the quality of conversations impact the quality of our relationships. The quality of our relationships shift in accordance with how group mature in their development.

Deeper levels of conversation tend to correlate to more complex, higher performing stages of group development. In other words, the stage of a group informs the level of conversation we are capable of having and vice versa.

Group Stage
Conversation Level
Listening Level
Performing (True Community)
I Listen to Discover
Norming (Emptiness)
I Listen to Understand
Storming (Chaos)
I Listen to Win
Forming (Pseudo-Community)
I Listen to Filter

The bottom line? If you seek to enhanbce the capacity of a group, employ, teach, or facilitate deeper levels of listening.


How might you include more Dialogical Listening in your group and individual conversations this week? I invite you to share your questions, feedback, or experience on this topic in the Comments section below. Share this article with your friends on Social Media and share your comments, questions, and insights by scrolling to the bottom of this link. I'd love to hear from you!

This Week's Offer

Create Amazing Spacefacilitation training workshop
The Journey of Facilitation & Collaboration
5-Day Group Leadership Experience

While we call this a training, it is really much more an experience where a truly amazing space emerges for group evolution and collaboration…an experience we believe is very rare in today's world.

journey of facilitation and collaborationUnleash your untapped leadership potential! Harness a unique human technology called Integral Facilitation and 20 facilitation competencies.

Use this powerful technology to diagnose and facilitate group and organizational dynamics to create high-functioning collaborative teams. This approach has given life to new services, industries, and some of the world’s most powerful leaders.

group leadership experienceEnter a carefully constructed learning laboratory to work with real business situations that will challenge and fully immerse your senses. Get up out of your seat, this is not your usual training!

Own and live into your unique genius! This experience will inspire unrealized confidence as a leader. Graduates have gone on to become Captains and Deans, Directors and Council Members, Presidents and Team Leaders. You will end the Journey a more confident, effective, group leader by realizing your fullest potential.

Receive a professional certificate in Integral Facilitation and Collaboration upon completion of the workshop.

94% of participants say they would recommend this to others.
85% say that they use what they learned on a daily or regular basis.

ICF Continuing Education Coaching UnitsContinuing Education Units: ICF offers 33 credit hours to certified coaches. Course Elective (3 units) for Sustainability & Leadership Master’s Program at Edgewood College.

Dates. Three Workshops in 2018: January 8-12 (FULL); April 2-6; June 18-22

Pricing. $1,250 includes breakfast/lunch daily

Details & Registration: https://www.journeyofcollaboration.com/journey-facilitation-collaboration/

What past participants have said of their experience…

I have never felt more professionally accepted, encouraged and cared for in my 20 + years of work experience. THANK YOU Darin, Steve and Harry!

This was transformational – both at a personal and a professional level. This workshop gave me a new toolkit, one of which I draw upon in my personal and professional life. This week was one of the most impactful weeks I’ve had in my professional career.

I have been recommending this course to everyone I know. I feel like I went to a retreat, and it has truly improved my facilitator skills.

It feels really impossible to identify anything that didn’t work or could have worked much better. I’m hyper-aware of how workshops are planned and carried out, and this had to be the best example I’ve ever seen.

Attending this course helped me to understand the importance of facilitation skills in everything that I do from leadership, to supervision, to participation. I have thought about things I learned every day since.

Click Here to learn about an Unforgettable Adventure

Note to Publishers

Would you like to republish this or other articles from the journal? You are f$ree to do so providing you follow these guidelines.

We grow by recommendation only when you find our material of use! If you enjoyed this issue, we'd love it if you'd spread the word. Click here to use our interactive form to tell your friends about MFJ, and as a thank you, you will receive our f$ree Facilitator's Self Assessment.