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  Skill of the Week

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0119 | September 23, 2003 | 9,000 Subscribers

Intro to Appreciative Inquiry. New 4-week Teleclass Starts Oct 7th at 2PM EDT. Click here for info.

Check out this basic teleclass for Facilitators. Starts October 20th at 8PM EDT. Click here for details.

Click here
to learn more about our new Virtual University for Facilitators.

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

Dear friends,

This week's article, "Spellbound," was inspired by a strange email I received last week containing a paragraph that appeared to be gibberish. In my unceasing efforts to squeeze MFJ article ideas from my everyday experiences, I found some interesting principles I could glean from this email that I believe apply directly to facilitating groups. Check it out and let me know what you think.

We're also excited to announce the launch of our new MFJ blog! For those of you not familiar with Blogs, they're like web diaries where owners post regular content that visitors can respond and comment on. They're similar to discussion boards but a little more topic focused and directed by the publisher. I plan to post to it several times a week to share ideas for articles and facilitation in general, and would love for you to visit and enter a dialogue with me on these subjects. Your inputs will help us improve the quality and relevance of this journal. Read more below or click here to check it out: http://facilitatoru.blogs.com/mfj_topics.
Please visit. It gets lonely staring at this little box all day!

Upcoming Teleclasses:

1) Our next "Appreciative Inquiry " Teleclass starts October 7th and runs four consecutive Tuesdays through
October 28th, from 2:00-3:00 PM EDT.

2) Our next "Random Acts of Facilitation" Teleclass runs for five consecutive weekdays from Monday, October 20th through Friday, October 24th, from 8:00-9:00 PM EST. We're running this one a little later in the day than usual for our friends "down under" who don't like the idea of getting up at 4:00 AM for a teleclass...who can blame them! And for our east coast friends who would rather not interrupt their workday.

Click on the relevant banners to the right for further info and registration for these classes.

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.

Thanks for your support!
Steve Davis


GAME Skill

Recognize the power of the container, context, and expectations.


I received the following paragraph in an email the other day. Please read it first, then we'll talk about it...

According to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Interesting isn't it? What's it got to do with facilitation? Good question. My commitment to write and publish useful content on this subject every week is a strong inspiration for me to look for connections anywhere and everywhere. Fortunately, with everything in the universe ultimately connected, you can always find them. Here's what I see.

The paragraph I ask you to read above has three striking characteristics that I believe are connected to facilitation and how groups function.

1) Each word in the paragraph is contained in a consensual manner. By that I mean, the first and last letter of each word are "correct." By correct, I mean that each of us who can read the English language and can spell, agree on the the proper characters that begin and end each word. Without that agreement, the words would be unintelligible.

2) The words form a coherent paragraph that define a clear context. If the words were randomly joined without conveying something that made sense, it would become gibberish. Consider this sentence:

Wrod rset porbelm tihs taht iprmoetnt frist is ltteer be the wouthit mses huamn bcuseae lteter.

This is a random selection of some of the same words in the above paragraph that aren't arranged to convey any meaning. Without the context of coherent speech, it's far more difficult to decipher the meaning of the individual words.

3) We all experience life through filters. Declaring expectations is like "tuning your filters" to my particular station. In this case, I set up an expectation that you might learn something from reading this paragraph. If you were to have found it in your email without an explanation in the midst of a seemingly normal message, you might not have given it enough consideration to figure out it's meaning.


For me, the above exercise underscores three important elements of facilitation:

1) Build a consensual container. Defining and agreeing upon which behaviors are "functional" is "analogous to building a container" within which your groups will function. This container is made up largely of the groundrules and the external environment. If the container is comprehensive, relevant, and supported by the group, then they can pretty much do anything inside of it without sacrificing the meaning they seek. Just as the jumbled words in our paragraph still work within their functional boundaries.

2) Define a clear and relevant context for your work. If a group is clear about why they've come together, what they're there to accomplish, and engage in processes designed to get them what they want, then the "who," "what," and "how" of the group is congruent. They form and reinforce the context for their being together and will therefore present fewer barriers to getting what they want.

Again, just as our gibberish words were understandable when woven together into a cohesive paragraph with clear meaning, connecting people with agreed upon objectives and processes to get there will bring meaning and progress to their work.

3) Clarify and agree upon group expectations. When the early work in our groups entails exploration of individual and collective expectations, we can chart a much clearer course to realize them. Thus minimizing the many tangents, disagreements, and general confusion that often accompanies people working together toward an "uncommon" goal.

Evoking and managing expectations can help people remove blinders, barriers, and judgements, to better focus on the work at hand. This makes everyone's work easier and helps us chart a more direct course to our destination.

I hpoe you ejnyeod tihs atrclie!


What can you do with your groups to better design their container, context, and expectations? We'd love to hear from you. Please email us your comments.

New MFJ Blog Site!

Hey we just launched a new blog for MFJ. How exciting! It will be especially exciting for me if I can get many of you--my dear, bright readers--to come and get involved with me in this new article-building brain trust.

I'm basically using this to put ideas out around prospective MFJ articles before they're fully written and published in the hopes of getting more perspectives and examples from you, my readers. Using this approach, I hope to improve the quality and relevance of what we publish. Please click here to have a look and make a comment or two!


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

5-day Teleclass
for facilitators and change agents.

Discrete skills and attitudes for the new and experienced facilitator who wants to get their group into serious motion.

Random Acts of Facilitation, 5-Day Teleclass

This class will meet for five consecutive weekdays October 20-24, 2003 at 8:00 PM EDT (NY Time) to cover 25+ discrete facilitative actions you can take to empower and move groups forward. This course is for facilitators at any level or group members that simply want to know more about facilitation so that they can make the groups they are a part of more effective. Being discrete acts of facilitation, they also lend themselves to being taught to your group members who desire to become more self-facilitative.

How the 5-Day Format/Training works...
1. You dial into your class every day for 5 days (Mon-Fri) for a 60-minute focused training segment using a conferencing bridge.
2. You work a 25-point checklist during the 5 days (about an hour a day of study and field work) which you complete by Friday afternoon, or sooner if you wish.
3. You will have the opportunity to discuss issues on the subject matter with the instructor and your classmates via an online listserve during the course.
4. During the week, you may access the instructor via email for help or situational questions.

5-Day Random Acts of Facilitation Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the 5-Day course...

Introduction to the Facilitation and Self Facilitation Skills.

1. Set the Stage.
2. Share the Dream.
3. Get Facilitation
4. Juggling.
5. Me First.

Relating with compassion and understanding.

6. Be Ignorant.
7. Make Smiles Happen.
8. Hold 'em High.
9. Acknowledge the Elephant.
10. Turn on Your Crap-Detector.

Group Dynamics and Facilitation

11. Build the Container.
12. Build trust.
13. Mine the Unexpected.
14. Evolve Your Team.
15. Honor the Process.
16. Facilitate Full Participation

Organizing and Presenting yourself confidently, professionally, and authentically. 

17. Prepare for Success.
18. Get Real.
19. Make Experiences, Not Speeches
20. Watch the Body Talk.
21. Be your message

Intervening to shift group energy

22. Tame the Tormentors.
23. CareFront.
24. Use the Struggle.
25. Break through barriers.
26. Facilitate from Within.
27. Embrace Facilitation as a Master's Path

Benefits to you of participating from the 5-Day Random Acts of Facilitation Training...
1. Get a great introduction to the concept and practice of facilitation skills if you are contemplating becoming a facilitator, team leader, board member, manager, mediator, etc.
2. Learn some "easy to remember," discrete tools you can use to empower any group.
3. Learn how to challenge and empower every group you come in contact with.
4. Learn to appreciate and use surprises by getting comfortable dealing with the "unexpected" in your groups.
5. Gain reinforcement for the facilitative work you're already doing and learn some language and theory to back it up.
6. Collaborate and learn from a community of your peers, who are all passionate about empowering groups.

Also included with your training...
In addition to the 5-Day training described above, you also receive:
1. Free access to the participant-only website (lots of resources, forms, etc.).
2. Free access to the RealAudio version of the 5-Day training.
3. Free copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value).

The full cost of training/access is only $79 for MFJ readers ($89 for the general public) including a free copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value). Everything you read about above is included. And, we offer a 100%-satisfaction-guaranteed guarantee.

October 20-24, 2003, 8:00-9:00 PM EDT (NY Time)

Please click here to register. Immediately upon completion of your registration, you will receive an email with instructions to access the course and free article bank. This course is limited to 20 individuals, first come, first served.

About the satisfaction guarantee
If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this package, 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-course/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.)

Real Audio Testimonials
Click here for a one-minute audio testimonial from several participants on the final day of the teleclass.


Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal. Look for your next issue on September 30, 2003.


Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved