Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0242, February 7, 2006 ....

Dear friends,

As the world continues to shrink for many of us engaged in international consulting, training, and facilitation, it's more important than ever to be aware of and sensitive to cultural differences we encounter in our groups. This is an issue that especially begs the attention of us "Americans" who often think everyone is and should be thinking like us. This week's article, Get Culture Conscious, written by international consultant, Don Plunkett, offers some great tips for becoming more culturally aware.

Join Kevin Eikenberry this Thursday, February 9th at 1:00 PM EST (NY Time), to explore effective ways to "Influence Change in Groups and Individuals." You'll leave with ideas that will help both you and those you work with to become more flexible and open to change. See details after the article below.

The Improvisational Facilitator Returns
. Sue Walden and I will be leading another session of the 5-day teleclass, "The Improvisational Facilitator," the week of February 27th. This class always receives rave reviews. We'll present powerful, practical improv techniques you can use to immediately enhance your facilitation, training, and group leadership skills. This class is very interactive and uses many innovative experiential activities that will surely surprise you. Register by February 15th for a $10 discount. Click here for details.

Have a great week!

Steve Davis


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The Point

Get Culture Conscious
Multicultural Facilitation Tips

Group Process Skill

Facilitating groups is challenging enough, let alone facilitating overseas. Following are tips to help Americans facilitate in foreign lands. They're valid not just for Americans, but for anyone facilitating multicultural groups. Generalizations and exaggerations will be made to stress certain points.


- I'm sorry. Did I say Americans? If I was facilitating in Ecuador or Costa Rica, I'd better choose my words carefully! US citizens are not the only "Americans." A better choice might have been, "North Americans."

- Speaking of language, many idiomatic sayings are regional, so avoid them with groups not fluent in American English. If you say you want to "break the ice," someone might bring you ice for your water!

- If the session involves interpreters, speak slowly to allow for translations. Even if English is a second language, it might be British English. I once required two interpreters in rural Rajasthan to decipher my Bronx accent.

- When you introduce yourself it's helpful to know some greetings in the host language. This will help the group warm up to you, even if you can't get the pronunciation correct. In fact, I found that many in the group enjoy teaching you their language.

- Acknowledge and thank the key people in the room. If you're motivated to share past experiences, be conservative if it involves several places of employment. While in the US it's almost expected that you introduce yourself with a verbal resume, in places like Japan, for instance, your company loyalty might be questioned!

- Don't presume it's okay to "deal" your business cards around the table. In the Orient, Middle East, and other places, the business card is treated with respect. If you're in Beijing or South Korea, for instance, offer your card with both hands as if presenting a gift. They will often do the same in turn. Don't just tuck their card into your pocket either. Stop and look at it carefully, and compliment it.

- In many places it's very important to learn names. Although names you aren't familiar with are difficult to remember, some non-Westerners Anglicize their names. For example, Liu Zeng-Yuan (Chinese) might introduce himself as "John Liu." It can be helpful to politely ask, "Do you use any other versions of your name?" That's a culturally sensitive way to query for such Anglicized versions.

- In the US, we commonly use first names to be unpresumptuous. In some countries, it's expected that you address by title (doctor, engineer, etc.), even if they are duplicates! For instance, if Dr. Braun has two Ph.D's, he might expect to be addressed as "Dr. Dr. Braun."

- Avoid getting drawn into hot political topics. I once referred to Haifa, Israel, and was admonished that Haifa was not in Israel, but in Palestine. You can find similar sovereignty issues almost anywhere. Avoid discussing the war in Iraq and US foreign policy. It will surely come up in many places. You can respond to such queries with something like, "The world's international problems are best handled through international cooperation." Such neutral responses can help keep you out of disfavor even before your facilitation begins!

- But why be concerned with politics, names, titles, and war issues? Isn't it our job to just facilitate? Well, that too depends on the place. Some groups will expect for you to take the time to get to truly know them.

- Dutch social scientist Geert Hofstede categorized culture by "power distance." A culture with "high" power distance expects leaders (e.g., facilitators) to lead, and not to blend in with the group. The latter would be taken as a sign of your inability to lead. If you feel that power distance is high, position yourself in front of the group to help express your status as facilitator/group leader. This has implications for dress too. In high power distance groups you should dress as a "leader." In low power distance groups, you might roll up your sleeves and sit amongst the members.

- Be careful who you sit next to. Hofstede also categorized culture by "masculinity." High masculinity refers to strong differentiation between genders, and low masculinity the opposite. In the US you might not think twice about randomly dividing groups into smaller breakouts, or sitting next to someone of the opposite gender. But in India and other places, if you mix men and women participants, your group dynamics will probably be undermined.

- And that's just a primer. Every place is different and every person is unique. But before you facilitate overseas do your homework! Ask for advice from host country nationals or those familiar with the place you're traveling to. There are good resources available on the web too. covers the basics.

- Wherever you go, the most important thing you can bring is a smile and your good nature. Courtesy is a universal in all places, and it's good to know that most ignorance will be overlooked when the group likes you.

About the Author. Don Plunkett lives with his wife and two children in New York. Don consults internationally, owns a commercial lighting company, is Adjunct Professor of graduate business at the City University of New York, and lectures and writes on topics including group decision-making, fighting corruption in industry, and education. For more information visit


Which of the guidelines above will you employ in your next interaction with other cultures? Let me know your thoughts and experience in this area.

Facilitation Expert Tele-Seminar

Influencing Change in Groups and Individuals
Discover how change can be
in your best interest

Featuring Kevin Eikenberry, facilitator, trainer, author, and speaker

"Just in Time" Learning

Regardless of the role we're playing, whether a leader, facilitator, trainer, consultant, or coworker, change is a part of our work. And if we want to help people change, we have to help them decide that change is in their best interest. In other words, we have to influence people, not force change upon them. Join Steve Davis and guest expert Kevin Eikenberry on Thursday, February 9th at 1:00 PM EST (NY Time). You'll leave with ideas that will help both you and those you work with to become more flexible and open to change. Some of the points we'll discuss are...

What are people's basic beliefs about change?
How to we get people to examine those beliefs?
How do those beliefs relate to influencing change?
What are the key levers, we can use to understand and influence change?
What things can we expect from any group?
How fast can we expect change, to be accepted?
How does our role impact our ability to influence change?
We'll answer any questions you have too!

This seminar is free to members.
Click here
to view features and benefits of membership.

Click here for details about this interview and registration.


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In the Spotlight

The Improvisational Facilitator

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Do you encounter any of these problems when working with groups?

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. Are you bothered when participants try to take the group off on a tangent? Be able to connect whatever people share to the group purpose or theme.
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5. Do you ever fear that you'll "lose your place" in your workshop? In this class, you'll learn exactly what to do in that circumstance.
6. Is "speaker's block" a problem? You'll learn a tool so that you never have speaker's block again.
7. Do you sometimes question your creative abilities? Discover reservoirs of creativity within you that you didn't know existed.
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If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then read on. You'll find help overcoming these issues and more in this dynamic 5-day teleclass.

February 27th-March 3rd, 2006, 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern (NY Time), 75 minutes each day.

A week after the course I have found myself talking about and actually using the techniques taught! The experiential based learning really worked for me and I learnt whilst having fun – always a good way to retain new learnings. The course has provided me with a toolkit of great techniques to improve my own facilitation, as well as some enjoyable exercises to use with delegates. I have nothing but praise for both Sue and Steve, who walked their talk with their own facilitation skills – they simply flowed through the course with grace and intelligence. The content, the materials and the facilitators is 5 star stuff and I highly recommend it to any facilitator.
--Amanda Alexander, Coach and Founder of

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