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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0106 | June 24, 2003
8,000 Subscribers

picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.

From the Publisher: 

Hello MFJ Readers. 

Are you a catalyst or a control freak? Read this week's article to find out and explore the challenge of the professional facilitator trying to walk the fine line between taking control of their group vs. being a catalyst for the group's empowerment.

New Facilitator's Guide From We're very excited to announce the release of our
first of many planned Facilitator's Guides by, on the subject of "Full Participation." These guides provide "Just in Time" Training to facilitators and group workers in key skill areas and situations. This very affordable Guide fully explores the concept and practice of Full Participation and comes complete with a full teaching license to use it in your workshops and trainings. These illustrated guides will help you to drill down deep in each skill area, enhancing your mastery in facilitation, one competency at a time. Please see details below and consider adding this information-packed guide to your personal Facilitator's Toolkit.

If you or your colleagues are interested in submitting an article for consideration, please email your ideas. I'd love to hear from you.

Have a great week... 
Steve Davis

Group Process Skill

Are You a Catalyst or a Control Freak?
Is Your Style Restricting Group Flow?

The Point

When we step into a group as facilitators, we know that our presence will definitely change the group dynamic, hopefully in a very positive way. However, when playing the facilitative role, do you ever question how much "control" you should exert on your groups? If so, you're not alone. Walking the fine line between controlling and catalyzing your groups can be quite a challenge at times.

Let's look briefly at the definitions of control and catalyze.

Control: To exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; direct. To hold in restraint; check.

Catalyze: To modify. To bring about; initiate. To bring about fundamental change in; transform.

Though there may be times when you'll need to exercise control over your group, I believe that in general, you'll want to seek to be a catalyst instead. Lets' look at some tips below on how to do this.


I'll have to admit that at times, I still catch myself exercising undue control over my groups. But my intentions are always pure, I promise!
I think I get controlling for a number of valid reasons.

For example, if I'm trying to cover too much in too little time, I tend to be more rigid and controlling of participant input and tend to be more directive. If I'm more concerned with the intellectual content than the emotional aspect of the process, I can get a little uptight. Or, if I feel that the group is heading off on a tangent, I sometimes think it's my job to bring them "back on course."

Here are some general tips to help you be more catalytic.

- Use a light touch when working with your groups, even when things get heavy. Even when you need to provide direction to your groups, remember that they are all humans doing the best they can. You can be very effective by simply asking questions and making suggestions leaving "control" of the group, with the group. For instance, "It seems to me this line of discussion is moving us away from our stated goals. Do you want to continue on this course or should we make a course correction?"

- Release your need to exert power and control. Now I could be wrong here, but there may be some of us who get a thrill out of having the power that comes from being "center stage." If I was to be totally honest, I'd have to say I have some of that myself. But when I'm at my best, I realize that my real power, and my biggest thrill for that matter, is expressed when I find a way to totally empower a group to the point that they don't need me so much anymore. This may take a shift in perspective. Consider the possibility that the highest good you can do as a facilitator is to help groups self-facilitate, which may lead to them getting along without you. Just as a catalyst is consumed in a chemical reaction that yields a new form, let your ego dissolve (temporarily ofcourse) in service to the transformation of your groups.

- Encourage participants to interact directly with each other. You can invite this as part of your introduction to an event and even include it in your ground rules. Let participants know that you encourage them to interact directly with each other within the group, to ask clarifying questions, and even to help draw others in to be heard.

- Coach participants in the basics of facilitation as you facilitate them. Though some groups invite you in to catalyze them toward a specific solution, there are almost always opportunities for you to coach participants in communication and process skills that will help them work more effectively together in the future by virtue of their enhanced ability to self-facilitate. If this truly happens, your work will leave a legacy in its wake.

- Trust the wisdom of the group--unless it's hiding. Assume that the higher wisdom of your groups--that aspect which knows what needs to be done or discussed--is always the best facilitator. However, at times this wisdom may be submerged beneath individuals fears, insecurities, and confusion. When this is the case, you'll probably need to exert more control to help the group work through processes that free their collective wisdom.

So in a sense we might suggest that your need to control a group is directly proportional to a group's inability to effectively direct itself. As you help your groups realize their own power and control, you can back off and operate more as a catalyst and focus on the finer points of facilitation.


Can you relate to the situation above? How do you balance controlling and catalyzing? I'd love to hear from you. Please email us your comments.

cartoon image of a talking man.

Reader Survey

How do you find a balance between controlling and catalyzing?

I'd like to hear your ideas, perspectives, and practices that help you walk this fine line.
Please email us your responses. All those who respond will be sent the entire collection.


About the Publisher
Steve Davis is a Facilitator's Coach helping leaders enhance their effectiveness through the application and perspective of facilitation. Please email or call me at 805-489-4130 to schedule a Free exploratory session, or to share your suggestions and ideas for the journal. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading!

In the Spotlight

Facilitator U Releases First Facilitator Guide!

We're very pleased to announce the release of our first of many planned Facilitator Guides called, "Getting Full Participation." Here are some reasons you'll want this guide:

  • Offers "Just in Time" Training to facilitators and group workers in key skill areas or situations. This Facilitator Guide explores Full Participation more completely than any other document we've seen before.
  • No fluff! This guide is practical, easy to read, with ideas and actions you can use right away.
  • Includes an audio portion that answers real world problems in getting Full Participation from group members.
  • Includes a full training license so that you can teach this material to others.
  • Includes tools and perspectives that will help your group members understand what it means to participate fully.
  • Illustrated 20-page guide will help you to drill down deep and master the art of facilitating Full Participation in any situation.
  • This information-packed guide is a must to include in your personal Facilitator's Toolkit

Who is this guide most useful for? This learning guide is for anyone who plays a facilitative or leadership role in a group who wants to discover new and creative ways to get more involvement from individual group members. In particular, it is useful for group facilitators, trainers, life coaches, teachers, business and community leaders, and managers.

Here's an overview of the contents of this information-rich guide:

Why full participation? Explores the benefits of full participation and ramifications of not having it.

What is full participation? Explores a new model of full participation from a 3-dimensional perspective.

Facilitating full participation. Looks at perspectives to take to facilitate full participation using this new model.

Facilitator's full participation inventory. A 10-part self-assessment to help facilitators become better at this skill.

Participant's full participation inventory. A 10-part self-assessment for your participants to help them be conscious of behaviors that make up Full Participation.

Full participation strategies. 25 strategies you can employ to get Full Participation.

Worksheets. Worksheets to collect your own ideas, resources, and actions to employ what you learn from the guide.

Cautions. Explores special situations to be aware of around this skill.

Contrarion perspective on full participation. Resources that look at possible negative impacts of full participation.

License Rights. Owners of this guide are granted a license to copy and distribute this material in their own trainings, workshops, and groups. Basically, you can do anything you want with this guide expect sell it yourself.

RealAudio of the 45 minute TeleClass.
Contains a lively real-audio recording of a recent teleclass exploring the application of Full Participation Strategies to participant's real-life problems.

Cost of this Guide: $17.95

Click here to order now.

100% Money-Back Guarantee. If for any reason, you are not satisfied with this product, simply email us with a request to refund/credit your credit card in the full amount and we will do so immediately. It's our policy to do this and we honor this in every single case. (Why? Because we are sensitive to the fact that you are buying an e-product from us and we feel that if this package isn't EXACTLY what you expected or wanted, that you should be able to get 100% of your money back. This policy completely removes the buying risk for you and keeps our customer-satisfaction rates extremely high.)


Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal. Look for your next issue
on July 1, 2003.


Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved