Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0175 October 19, 2004 | 7,000 Subscribers...

Dear friends,

All of us know what it's like to be on the receiving end a control drama. We've experienced plenty of it, control that is, in our lives. So as adults, it's not surprising to find many of us sensitive to, even resentful of being controlled in any way. Further, as facilitators we're taught to be neutral in our approach to content and let our groups do their own work. This is a good policy to be sure, however, it's important to remember that exercising strong control over your group process is at times, essential. This week's article, "The Role of Control," explores the need for healthy use of control in your groups.

Be sure to visit our new Facilitator's Forum to ask questions or make comments on various aspects of facilitation. We hope you'll use this forum to you advantage and please let us know what you think of it.

In this Issue:

Feature Article: The Role of Control

Facilitation Micro-Skills Tele-Seminar: "We've Got to Start Meeting Like This

Resource: Intervention Skills : Process Consultation for Small Groups and Teams

Intervention Guide: Facilitator's Guide for Small Group Intervention.

If any of you have any interesting stories or experiences about facilitation, group process, work groups, team building, training, etc. that might interest our readers, please send them to us.

Have a great week!

Steve Davis


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170 articles and growing
Intervention Skill

The Role of Control
Know the degree of control groups require

The Point

Most of us have undoubtedly been on the receiving end of many control relationships throughout our lives. This was certainly true growing up as children when we needed certain boundaries for our own safety and hopefully for maintaining some sense of civility in the family. Then on into our schools, churches, and other community institutions, where subjugation to the control of others was a fact of life.

So as we grew up and moved on into our workplaces, i
t's no wonder that many of us are sensitive to the dynamics of control. As adults, many of us now resent being controlled in any way. And some get off controlling others and their environments. In my own experience, I know that at times I've overreacted to what I experienced as controlling behavior, and have even been accused of being too controlling myself.

So what is control really and where do we draw the line? Let's first look at the dictionary definition:


1 : to exercise restraining or directing influence over especially by law
2 : to have power or authority over <precedent controls the outcome in this case>

So is restraining, directing influence, or authority ever appropriate? Of course. Think big city riots, stampeding elephants, insane serial killers, unchecked nuclear reactions, gravity, burning solid rocket fuel, etc. Without the proper use of control and authority, our lives would be quite a mess I'm sure.

So as facilitators, how much and when should we control a group, if ever? I've received questions in the past from facilitators concerned that controlling unproductive behavior in a group is just as dysfunctional as the behavior in question. Poppycock!

Here's are at least five good reasons groups need to be controlled:

1. We can attend to only one item at a time individually. Groups can multifocus---can you say "where in the !@#$! is this group headed?"
2. Left to their own devices, groups tend to fail to separate task from process.
3. Without leadership (a form of control) the loudest and fastest get the floor.
4. Group attack syndrome is common--attack of people stimulated by the ideas they express.
5. Misuse of power. Managers typically have the power and dictate the process.

As facilitators, we're taught to be neutral in our approach to content and let groups do their own work. This is true to be sure, however, sometimes the personalities best able to remain neutral and out of the limelight may have concerns about exercising strong control over the group process when necessary. And yes, it is sometimes VERY necessary.


Revisiting the Container.

We've talked in the past about the importance of maintaining the integrity of the "container" for healthy group process. This is typically designed by the group with the help of the facilitator in the form of ground rules by which the group agrees to abide.

Once the container is in place, it's your job as facilitator to maintain its integrity. Certainly, you'll want to maintain these boundaries firmly, yet with compassion. But remember this, if ever an individual is attacked by another, you may need to match the attacker's energy to hold him/her in check. The integrity of the group and the spirit of collaboration and trust may be severely, if not irrevocably damaged if you don't. One of your most critical roles as a facilitator is to provide "protection" so that individuals can trust that they can share what's on their minds without being personally attacked.

This extends to protecting the "airspace" as well so that everyone is granted equal opportunity to speak. You can call this control, and in a sense it is, but in reality, it's the agreement everyone has made that is controlling their behavior. You are there to provide friendly, and sometimes "fierce" reminders of this fact. In the case of protecting others from personal attack, think "traffic cop." In the case of protecting the airspace, think "air traffic controller." Both are essential functions, especially during rush hour and over densely populated groups.

So remember, it's one thing to be controlled against our will. It's quite another to be controlled by being held to our mutual agreements by someone who we've given our authority to do so. If the facilitator has done his/her job correctly, that's how control should be exercised. By simply reminding those breaching the ground rules (their agreements) that they are doing so, and requesting that they either make good on their commitment or seek renegotiation with the rest of the group.


What are your thoughts around group "control" as a facilitator? What is the nature of your relationship to control? Let us know what you think.

Facilitation Expert Series

Facilitation Micro-Skills Tele-Seminar: "Present, But Not Accounted For." A pre-recorded interview featuring Susan Wilson, Facilitator, Speaker, Author and Founder of Executive Strategies, Inc.

Susan, thanks for an hour packed with so many good strategies to apply when we face difficult situations in a meeting. I especially appreciated your "Preemptive preparation" approach. Acknowledging specific challenges and establishing guidelines at the outset can certainly set a meeting on a more productive mode, while eliminating much of the usual frustrations and tensions that participants often go through.
-- Pierre-Claude Élie--

Order this one-hour tele-seminar with Susan Wilson and Steve Davis and learn...Specific Strategies to Build Curiosity, Commitment and Collaboration. Some of the points discussed are...

How do you deal with the participant who have all the answers?
How do you handle participants who continue side conversations and disrupt the flow?
How do you deal with group members who don't believe in the team process, but who remain on the team?
How do you shift a group who's settled for the status quo and just tell you, "Well that's just the way things are," or "That's just the way he is"?
How do you handle group members who sabotage the good work done by others through bad mouthing and other negative behaviors?
What do you do with team members who don't prepare before meetings?
How do you assure that participants take away something of value from each meeting?
How do you handle participants with personal and/or political agendas who have no intention of shifting their ground for the greater good of the group?

I thought the tele-seminar this morning was outstanding. A well spent hour. Susan did a great job sharing experiences, weaving some story telling in with her learnings. I would highly recommend it to others. --Sandy Brown, Intel--

Four Free Bonuses!

1.GOMO® Audit. Get Over it and Move On (GOMO) is a proven 5-step system for acknowledging the issues that create obstacles in our lives…and for overcoming them!

2. Great Meeting Quiz. Do your meetings leave you fully satisfied or are you starving for results? Offer this brief quiz to your clients to help them discover the changes that need to be made to make their meetings more appetizing (and effective)!

3. Random Acts of Facilitation Wallet Card. This handy little tidbit is the size of a business card and lists 25 Random Acts of Facilitation anyone can commit to further the results of a group. Great little resource to have handy at meetings.

4. Icebreakers. Three nice icebreakers exercises with a dozen or so variations that can be used to start a variety of meetings.

Steve, I have just gotten around to listen to your tele-seminar with Susan Wilson. It is fantastic! A really great “living” example of facilitation. The notes are great and I loved the fact that Susan’s “tips” were based on experience, not theory! --Elaine Wylie, Coach/Trainer--

Click here for details about this interview, the bonuses, and purchase.


Intervention Skills : Process Consultation for Small Groups and Teams, by W. Brendan Reddy

A functional guide that focuses on putting the concept of group-process consultation into actual practice. Readers will learn how and under what circumstances a process consultant should intervene to make a group's work more effective. They'll also discover how to help groups identify, diagnose, and resolve problems as they occur. Real-world examples show how to make critical group concepts work. Also includes responses to commonly asked questions from working group-process consultants. A much-needed guide for the professional consultant and a useful resource for anyone who plays a role in the workings of a small group.

In the Spotlight

Facilitator's Guide for Intervention!

According to our readers, and in our own experience, Group "Intervention" is one of the most challenging skills to develop as a facilitator. So, we are especially pleased to finally announce the release of our second of many planned Facilitator Guides, "Intervene With Confidence." Here are some reasons you'll want this guide:

  • Offers Just in Time Training" to facilitators and group workers in the crucial skill area of Group Process Intervention, more succinctly and completely than any other document we've seen before.
  • No fluff! This guide is practical, easy to read, with models, tips, and strategies you can use right away.
  • Includes an audio portion that answers real world problems around Intervention.
  • Includes models that will help you decide when and when not to Intervene, how deep to Intervene, and how to Intervene gracefully.
  • Illustrated 33-page guide will help you to drill down deep and master the art of Intervention 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 guide is for anyone who plays a facilitative or leadership role in a group. It explores practical ways to effectively intervene on individual and group behaviors to realign, refocus, challenge, or protect group process. In particular, it is useful for group facilitators, trainers, life coaches, teachers, business and community leaders, and managers, whatever level of skill they have in group facilitation.

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

What is an Intervention? Our guide is built on the following definition of Intervention:

Any interruption by the facilitator to further the goals of a group and the health of its process, using as light a touch as possible.

Types of Interventions. Why do we intervene? What kinds of things are we after in an intervention? The reasons are many. Learn about the five key "types" of Interventions.

Core Values of Intervention.
Learn about the three core values Facilitators can draw upon to inform their decisions to intervene and their approaches for doing so.

Intervention Skills.
Learn the three basic skills required by a facilitator to effectively Intervene in groups.

What are Effective Behaviors?
Learn the 12 Characteristics of Functional Groups recently developed by FacilitatorU. They build upon each other in a functional hierarchy that moves from inwardly to outwardly focused behaviors, which each one building upon the next. This model will give you the Snapshot of a Functional Group--critical as a foundation from which to Intervene.

A Model for Diagnosis and Intervention.
Learn a simple 6-step model for diagnosis and intervention that will make Intervention a whole lot easier.

Guidelines and Strategies for Intervention.
Learn 10 practical guidelines and strategies that show you when and how to intervene.

When Not to Intervene.
Learn to recognize the situations where Intervention is not appropriate.

Raising the Bar.
Learn 6 keys to continuously building your capacity to Intervene Effectively.

Facilitator's Intervention Checklist.
A 10-part checklist to help you decide when an intervention is appropriate.

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

RealAudio of the 50-minute TeleClass.
Contains a lively real-audio recording of a recent teleclass exploring the application of Intervention models and strategies to participant's real-life problems.

Cost of this Guide: $17.95

Click here to purchase for $17.95

Special Offer

Order any two guides or any combination of our other products totalling $18 or more by this Friday and receive 20% off your total. Click here to view our other products and take advantage of this offer. Your discount will be computed at checkout.

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