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  Skill of the Week

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0108 | July 8, 2003 | 8,500 Subscribers

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picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.From the Publisher: 

Hello MFJ Readers. 

We're eager to present you with
this week's article from a slightly different point of view. Read "Facilitation Crisis in Smalltown, USA," an intriguing story presented as a case study of a recent, group experience that went somewhat awry. I apologize that this issue is a bit long, but I trust you'll find it interesting and informative.

If any of you have had interesting experiences with groups as either a participant or as a facilitator, please tell us about it. We may invite you to interview with us to highlight your story as a case study for a future issue.

Also, because our recent teleclass on "Full Participation" met with such success and interest, we've decided to offer it again this Thursday and are offering a special package option for those who haven't already purchased our new Facilitator Guide by the same name. Please see details below at the end of this aritcle.

Thanks for your support!
Steve Davis


Case Study

Facilitation Crisis in Smalltown, USA
What can we learn from our mistakes?

The Story

I recently had a disappointing experience as a member of a local personal growth group. As a person publishing a weekly ezine on the subject of facilitation, I found that I was a major contributing factor in the demise of the group. I decided to write about the experience to seek some clariy into what went wrong and what I might have done differently. I hope that many of you, who may have had similar experiences in groups may glean some lessons from it as I have.

Here's the essence of the story.

I joined a small support group that had been together for several months using a personal growth book as their guide. At the completion of the book, they decided to split into two different subject groups and invited three new participants into the groups, of which I was one. Group 1 continued with the book and was facilitated; Group 2 went in a different direction. Group 2 is the focus of this article.

At our first meeting, the defacto group leader immediately lead us into an activity for the first 20 minutes. Feeling a little uncomfortable starting a group this way, particularly when there were three new members, I spoke up and suggested we talk about how we were going to conduct this group, what was its purpose, what did we all expect from it, and to allow each of us to introduce ourselves. I suggested that we adopt the ground rules that were being used by the other group. Everyone agreed.

Then I experienced a great deal of resistance from the leader to talk about a process, and I began to feel frustrated. I expressed my frustration, perhaps a bit too strongly, in a way that I feel may have put some members off a bit. I continued, to no avail, to explain to this one person the value of process attention. Finally someone jumped in and suggested we go around the room to hear what each of us wanted from the group.

The subject of facilitation never came up again and no facilitator or formal leader was assigned. I consciously chose to surrender any responsibility to facilitate this group.

After a few weeks, and after a particularly unproductive meeting, discussions began among some members outside the group about discontinuing it. We had agreed earlier that if anyone in the group decided to leave, we would come to a meeting and explain our reasoning. Therefore, we decided that it was time for both groups to meet and discuss process issues.

During this meeting, one member facilitated and some interesting things came up. Two participants from the group spoke out about my behavior stating that I tried to force a process that they didn't want, and felt demeaned by me. By the time they finished, I was THE problem. I garnered my most diplomatic conflict resolution and facilitation skills to elicit feedback from them. I asked them to stay with me to work it through, but to no avail. Their belief was that additional members, especially me, tarnished the original group. My efforts to express a larger perspective to them seemed to fall on deaf ears. Again, I was the problem and they were leaving. However, the other members did not feel the same way.

Group 2 disbanded and I felt that something had gone terribly wrong. Through reflection, I came up with the following points. I share them and this story in the hopes that many of you may have been in similar circumstances and may be able to glean some value and lessons from it as I have.


- My enthusiasm and belief in facilitation may sent the group off course. When my passion for the process became more important than the process, the process went haywire. Hard to admit, but it looks like I may have fallen into the trap of getting to attached to my beliefs. Where else do we see this dynamic create disastrous outcomes?

- I surrendered my responsibility to facilitate this group because the group resisted an assigned facilitator. This is another amazing trap. I am one who preaches the value of facilitating as a participant and here it looks like I let me ego and my feelings get the better of me. Bottom line: because I wasn't in charge (lead facilitator that is), I just let the group go off course. In essence, I played the role of a dysfunctional participant to make it apparent why facilitation is important. Certainly this was not my intention, but this may have been my unconscious motive.

- Several group members were reluctant to consider any process at all.The group never agreed to assign a facilitator or design a process, and operated without one, albeit dysfunctionally.

- New members change a group dynamic. Sometimes it's hard for an established group, particularly one not familiar with group process, to believe that they must start over in some ways to bring in the new members.

- Accepting poor leadership is a choice we all made. Still as participants we had the option to exercise leadership from within the circle. Why do we find it so easy to give up our informal power when we don't have the formal title?

- Developing ground rules is a good thing. Remembering to enforce them is even better!. This experience reinforces and highlights the importance of agreeing to ground rules and appropriately intervening when they are breeched. In this case, several groundrules were breeched:

o Discussions were conducted with partial group membership outside the group about problems going on inside the group.
o Open sharing of personal email interactions were shared without permission with select group members.

I had the perfect opportunity here to intervene on a breech of ground rules but completely forgot about them! Go figure.

- Disowning of one's power through silence, can contribute to a group's demise or unrest. There were many group members who were silent and never voiced support either way. In many ways, I was expressing the previously silent voice of frustration of silent members toward the group leader.

- Separate personal agenda from group agenda. When I first requested certain facilitative functions be performed by a leader who didn't understand or support such functions, my request was ignored. I could have stated my desire for a facilitative process and queried the desires of the group rather than going toe to toe with the leader. In essence I gave her all the power and failed to draw on the power of the group.

- Pay attention to what's missing as well as what's obvious. A good portion of the group was relatively silent with regard to their perspective on how the group was working and where the problems were. What were they thinking? Their input would have been very valuable to hear up front. There were many opportunities to intervene on this silence.

- Some groups simply do not want to be bothered with attention to process. Either choose to stay or go. Just make sure you find out that it's a group position, not simply a vocal minority. As I strongly believe most healthy groups want a healthy process.

- Wow! I really learn a lot from my mistakes...if I take the time to unravel their cause. Giving myself permission to experiment and make mistakes in this volunteer group really helped me learn a few things about facilitation that I might not have learned otherwise.


Have you ever run into any of these dynamics? What did you learn? I'd love to hear from you. Please email us your comments.

Reader Survey

What has been your greatest lesson as a facilitator?

Does the above case study bring to mind any experience you've had as a facilitator that really helped you to better understand the practice of this art?
Please email us your responses. All those who respond will be sent the entire collection.


About the Publisher
Steve Davis is "The 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
Micro-Skills Teleclass for Group Workers

Are you ever challenged to get full participation in your groups?

Our recent teleclass on "Full Participation" met with such success and interest, we've decided to offer it again this Thursday and are offering a special package option for those who haven't already purchased our new Facilitator Guide on this subject.

Join us Thursday, July 10th, when we'll review our new model for Full Participation and answer any questions you have about applying it to your groups.

When is it? ...Thursday, July 10th

What Time? ...8:00 PM EDT

How Long? ...90 minutes.

How Much? ...Only $19.95

Here's a sample of what you'll learn during this rich teleclass::

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.

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

Full participation strategies. Learn strategies you can employ now to get Full Participation.

Get your questions answered. Prior to the class, we'll ask you to send in your most pressing challenges in getting full participation and we'll address them during the call.

RealAudio link to a recording of this TeleClass for later reference.

How do I Register?

Option 1: Teleclass only, $19.95. Click here to register.

Option 2: Teleclass, teleclass recording, plus Facilitator's Guide ($17.95 value alone and includes training license. Details here), $29.95. Click here to register

Class size is limited so please register now if you're interested. We look forward to seeing you there!

About Your Teleclass Leaders

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

Steve Davis
Publisher, MFJ

Rob Berkley
Executive Coach

Rob Berkley. Acclaimed for his ability to help people transform their businesses and lives, Rob is following his personal calling as a leadership and communications coach for the owners and leaders of technology, information and idea-based businesses.

In more than two decades of professional experience, he was a successful entrepreneur, board director for public and private companies, CEO, CIO and executive coach.

Rob earned his bachelor's degree from Cornell University and has received advanced education from Insead in France, Harvard and Stanford. He is a graduate of and has served on the faculty of CoachU, the industry's leading online coach training organization. He is a Master Certified Coach, the highest accreditation in the coaching industry.

A New York native, he also brings to his coaching extensive knowledge, training and practice in the healing arts of meditation, Reiki, Shiatsu, Cranio-Sacral therapy and Jin Shin Jyutsu.

Steve Davis. Coach, master facilitator and writer Steve Davis gently guides people to perfect their personal and business lives.

Steve publishes the "Master Facilitator Journal" weekly to over 8,000 readers and develops teleclasses, coaching programs, and e-courses, including an upcoming virtual university to support business, government, community, and personal transformation called FacilitatorU.com. He co-developed "The Authentic Marketer,"an 8-week Teleclass focused on spiritually-based marketing principles, was a founding partner in the first Affiliate Directory for the Personal Growth Industry called "Conscious Marketing Solutions,"and recently developed a training program called "Random Acts of Facilitation" to help anyone empower the groups within which they work.

Steve has master's degrees in spiritual psychology and administration, and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. He is a graduate of Coach U, served on their staff for two years, and served as the founding manager for CoachVille.com, a leading coach training school.

Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal. Look for your next issue
on July 15, 2003.


Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved