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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0014 | August 14, 2001
5,000 subscribers

Group Awareness and Management Skill

Build Trust
Get the group connected and comfortable with itself.


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The Point?

So often I attend meetings or working groups where near total strangers have come together and the facilitator begins the meeting moving right into the work at hand. I think that we're all so used to focusing on "work" when we come to a working meeting that we all accept urgings from others, even from within ourselves, that sound something like, "lets just get on with business," or " let's just DO something," or "we have a lot to do here, so let's get to it," etc. The problem with this is that people who don't know, trust, or understand each other will produce only marginal results. You need only look around at most organizations to see that this is true. And if you look closely at those few exemplary organizations, you'll find that they have built a foundation of trust and shared understanding between their members. Taking the time to build trust between team members creates the foundation on which all the other work will rest. Though this will take some time, it can be time well spent. A team of people who have come to rely on and understand each other will avoid a lot of misunderstandings, resulting in hurt feelings, and sabotage, down the road. A team who has their baggage on the table and sorted out will free up energy to do the really creative work they came to do. 


In our experience as facilitators, the most important step after establishing ground rules is to develop group trust and teamwork. This requires that you, the facilitator, begin by modeling this behavior. You might start by sharing your own personal story or vulnerability. If you expect others in the group to open up, then you very often will have to lead the way. After one person risks being real, it's safer for the next person to do the same. This practice will also actually increase your credibility as a facilitator by making you appear "human" to the group, and just one of the participants. After sharing something of ourselves with the group, we've found it very helpful to conduct exercises that build intimacy, trust, and teamwork between group members. These experiences should be light, non-threatening, and fun. Though this doesn't happen often, sometimes we do encounter participants who think it's silly to be playing "games" at a working group and are reluctant to participate. If you can encourage them to give it a try, they will often enjoy themselves and see the value in it later. The idea here is best explained by drawing on your childhood. When you were a child, most likely you learned about and related to new people by "playing" with them. It didn't take you long to find out a lot about this new boy or girl in the arena of play because when we're having fun, we seldom feel the need or desire to put up our guard. So using play can be a great way to get people relating fast. When we're laughing, our barriers are down, and we're a whole lot more creative. So we need to begin to challenge the old rule that says, "if you're laughing and having a good time, you can't be getting any work done." I know for a fact that my best work gets done when I'm laughing and playing.


The next time you're facilitating a group, spend 10 minutes doing a short, simple, fun exercise that gets people loosened up and allows them to learn something about each other in a non-threatening way. Notice how this changes the energy of the group and how it impacts the rest of the meeting. I'm interested in hearing about your experience. Please email me your thoughts, stories, and experiences on this issue.

Skill Related Resource
Team Workout : A Trainer's Sourcebook of 50 Team-Building Games and Activities, by Richard P. Kropp, Glenn M. Parker

Teams have evolved into an important structure in business today--and are now needed more than ever. An insightful collection of activities, Team Workout provides facilitators, trainers, leaders, and managers with a wide variety of tools to increase team effectiveness and upgrade skills and knowledge within today's challenging organizational environment. The book focuses on such current team issues as virtual teams, trust-building, customer satisfaction, recognition, and respect. Trainers will learn the key ideas that underlie all of the activities in this manual, including:

* Each team has a common purpose, mission, or goal
* Members are interdependent; they need each other to achieve their purpose
* Agreement that working together effectively will help to reach their goal.

This collection will help team leaders, team-building specialists, trainers, and others interested in creating collaborative, harmonious and effective work teams.

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Interactive Forum
Creating Dialogue With Our Readers

In an effort to stimulate discussion on facilitation tips, tools, and processes that are relevant to your interests, we'd like to hear from you. Please post your answers to the questions at on our interactive forum to stimulate discussion on these topics.

If you know someone who might benefit and enjoy this newsletter, please send this link to a friend.  

About the Author: 
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to stretch beyond their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 

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Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on August 21, 2001. 

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Copyright 2001. All Rights Reserved.