Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0245, February 28, 2006 ....

Dear friends,

Many readers have commented to me over the years how facilitation is simply one of many roles they play on their job from time to time. They exercise this role officially when asked to facilitate a meeting, workshop, or retreat. At other times, they may simply "be" facilitative in the way they show up in the meetings and groups they are part of.

In organizations becoming increasingly "participatory" in nature, everyone is called to be a leader. When you must exercise leadership as a skill or attitude rather than a position, a facilitative form of leadership often works best. In this week's article, "Be a Facilitative Leader," we explore ten qualities of facilitative leaders. Have a look at these and let us know which ones you practice and which ones are your biggest challenges either as the official group leader or as the "guide on the side."

Walking Your Talk. Sue Walden and I are hosting a live four-day version of the Improvisational Facilitator class called "Walking Your Talk" in San Francisco from March 15th - 18th. It will provide a multi-dimensional approach helping you build the skills to create an environment for participative learning; one that encourages openness and risk-taking for you and groups. See details after the article. I'd love to meet you there in person where we will take our skills to the next level!

Have a great week!

Steve Davis


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The Point

Be a Facilitative Leader
Ten Qualities of Facilitative Leaders

Self-Facilitation Skill

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
-- Margaret Mead --

Are you are in a formal leadership position? If so, you probably know better than anyone that leadership represents far more than merely a job position. Leadership spans a spectrum of skills and qualities.

If you aren't the formal leader, it's quite likely that you've had ideas about what your leader "should" be doing. Perhaps you've felt powerless to affect any change from where you stand.

Facilitative leadership is an attitude that anyone can practice.

The basic definition of Facilitation is to make easy. In terms of group facilitation, to design, conduct, and manage a healthy group process making it easier for the group to accomplish its purpose.

Facilitative leadership invites and empowers others as opposed to commanding and directing. While there are situations where facilitative leadership may not work, in most instances, it's the best way to lead, especially when you want to build leadership within your team. As a relational form of leadership, it also lends itself to being practiced by unofficial leaders.

Again, leadership is more than a mere position. John Tropman has this to say about leadership in his book, Making Meetings Work: Achieving High Quality Group Decisions:

Leadership can exist everywhere and anywhere-in the firm, in the family, and in the civic organization. It's not associated with a position as such, though common parlance often makes that association. We talk, for example, about senior managers as organizational leadership, we expect moms and dads to exercise family leadership, and we think of clergy as religious leaders. This misconception needs correction. Leaders are, as defined above, people who help us to change. They sometimes are those who occupy positions of power, but often they are not. Indeed, many individuals in high positions continually disappoint in the leadership dimension.


Ten Qualities of Facilitative Leaders

So now you may be asking, "How do I improve myself as a facilitative leader? What does one look like?" The following list will help you identify some of the behaviors, attitudes, and characteristics of a facilitative leader. Try them on one at a time and see how they work for you in your groups.

1. You're Facilitative vs. Directive. Facilitative leaders know that they're not here to "fix" anyone. While they may be the "designated" leader, they understand that they don't always need to have all the answers. As a facilitative leader, you see your job as one where you help your team members expand the horizons of their awareness, and facilitate them taking responsibility for their actions, past, present, and future.

2. You're not a "know-it-all." Being the leader doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be the "authority" on the subject at hand. The amount of brilliance unleashed in your team depends on how well you let go of your need to know more than anyone else.

3. You're a guide on the side vs. a sage on center stage. The way most of us were raised and schooled, we were conditioned to shut up and listen to the wisdom of the "expert" on the podium or the person "in charge." But if you consistently approach your leadership from the perspective that the wisdom in the "room" is far more potent than the "sage" in front of the room, you'll see your people more engaged, having more fun, and achieving greater results.

4. You believe in your people. You see, invite, and challenge your people, not based on what they've done, but what you know they can do based on the latent abilities you see in them - abilities that they may not be aware of just yet. Empowering your team takes a huge burden off of you to do everything as the leader. This is replaced by the burden of faith you must maintain in what's possible and hold that vision in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.

5. You're transparent. You don't withhold relevant thoughts and feelings to try to look good to your team. To the degree we are honest about what we see and experience, the more effortlessly we will move forward, and the more powerful our invitation is to others to accept and see what is.

6. You make adjustments instead of judgments. Facilitative leaders are models of functional behavior. You engender trust by telling the truth and doing what you say you will do. You gracefully accept constructive feedback from your team members. When you make mistakes, you own them, correct them, and move on.

7. You're over yourself. You accept yourself fully, flaws and all. You've given up presenting an image you think others want to see and offer your unique self as you are, placing your focus on greater visions, on others, and on the task at hand.

8. You practice extreme responsibility. You get that you choose your thoughts, feelings, and actions in every moment no matter the outer circumstances. When the unexpected occurs, instead of letting it set you back, you simply ask, "What's my next action?"

9. You practice being present. You live in the present knowing that this is where you get your power and knowledge of right action. You simply notice where you are and when you're not here, you choose to be "here" now. People's ongoing patterns of behavior show up constantly in their everyday interactions. Being available to the present moment helps you discern these behaviors, provide compassionate feedback when possible, and see the underlying dynamics that cause problems in groups. Ironically, the best future possible will be derived from living solidly, fully, and effectively in the now.

10. You take excellent care of yourself. You engage in regular centering and self-care practices to help you stay in peak condition physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Engage in practices to expand and cultivate your awareness such as meditation, martial arts, tai chi, yoga, good nutrition, exercise, diaphragmatic breathing, practicing presence, etc.


Which of the qualities above really got your attention? Take a minute to jot down some thoughts on what you can do to exercise this quality today. Then go take action. What is your own definition of facilitative leadership? Are there any qualities missing that you would add that you're good at? That you'd like to improve? Feel free to send me any comments, insights or feedback about this lesson - just click reply and type them directly into this email.

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In the Spotlight

Walking the Talk

An interactive "train the trainer" experience in facilitating interactive learning

Learn improv techniques to revitalize your "inner" leader and put you in the master's class of group facilitators, trainers, and leaders

March 15th-18th, 2006, 9:00 am - 4:30 pm daily.

I attended Sue Walden's 4-Day Train the Trainer and wanted to tell you about my experience.
This wonderful, insightful seminar helped me become even more aware of my impact. Using videotape and group feedback, I was able to see where I accomplished my desired impact and when I'd get in my own way. It was fun, delightful and very beneficial. This class helped me be more aware of when I show up in my strength.

Sue provided lots of materials from her extensive experience in improv work and I walked away feeling it was well worth my time. Sue is a Pro and a bright light in the industry. Feel free to call or email me if you want more information or encouragement to attend.
Marti Bolton, (503) 694-6165,

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

1. Do you take your work with groups way too seriously? So seriously that sometimes you get uptight and afraid about what might happen. In this class, you'll learn and practice tools that will help you relax and have a lot more fun with your groups.
2. Are you afraid of encountering the unexpected? Learn simple strategies that will help you to be more open and flexible to the specific and dynamic needs of your groups.
. 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.
4. Do you have a tough time being "present" with your groups, trying to juggle all that needs to be done? Learn and practice strategies that will let you take a breath and get comfortable being "in the moment" with your groups..
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.
8. Do you often feel like you're doing this group leadership thing all alone? Come collaborate and learn from a community of your peers, all passionate about empowering groups.

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then read on. You'll find help overcoming these issues and more in this dynamic 4-day workshop.

The Improvisational Facilitator Workshop...
The inner attitudes of facilitators, trainers, and leaders is the key to their success with groups. However, very few trainings address the development of those inner qualities that can make a good leader great. In this workshop, you'll learn, practice, and receive video feedback on powerful, practical improv techniques you'll put to work with your group of fellow students. Through this experience, you'll not only learn to apply improv skills to solve the problems listed above, but you'll get real clear about how you affect others positively and negatively as a group leader.

This dynamic workshop, led by master trainer, Sue Walden, is for anyone who facilitates, manages, teaches, mediates, coaches, counsels, directs any group. This highly interactive workshop provides an experiential approach using very novel exercises to help you build the skills to create an environment for participation; one that encourages openness and risk-taking for you and groups.

March 15th-18th, 2006, 9:00 am - 4:30 pm daily.

Improvisational Facilitator Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the course...

  • Crucial core skills for working with groups of any size. Do you tend to fall into lecture mode for fear of losing control? Facilitating experiential learning is a lot different that lecture-format learning. There is less control because there are more surprises; and this only increases with greater numbers of people involved. In this workshop, we'll practice the skills of presence, openness, and flexibility and how to use them to consistently embrace the big picture (the learning) while flowing with what happens in the room.

  • Environmental dynamics that set the stage for interactive learning. It can be tough to get strangers to trust one another enough to take the risks required to learn new behaviors. Come to know the environmental dynamics that set the stage for interactive learning. Learn to manage and adjust the many factors that contribute or detract from an environment that encourages experimentation and exploration.

  • Verbal and non-verbal communications skills. Our unconscious behaviors get in our way without our consent! Whatever we're thinking and/or feeling "leaks" out in our non-verbal behaviors, our tone of voice, and our choice of words. The more aware we are of our unconscious behaviors, both the ones that work for us and those that don't, the more "at choice" we become in the message that's received.

  • Giving and receiving objective, constructive and encouraging feedback. Do you have a hard time giving and receiving objective, constructive and encouraging feedback? Negative feedback only increases inhibition. We use the "Positive Feedback Model" to guide our feedback sessions. We focus on "what works" so that we can continue to grow in that direction. You'll learn and practice this model throughout the workshop so that it becomes second nature.

  • Video-feedback of facilitating group exercises. Wouldn't you love to know how you really "show up" in your groups? Participants get daily practice in leading activities that are video-taped and debriefed for an objective view of your unconscious competencies. The truth is, we all are coming across much better than we are thinking. Wouldn't you like to see that and know it in your gut?

  • Generous number of energizers, exercises and resources. How would you like to feel comfortable facilitating, and even designing, your own experiential exercises? You'll receive extensive resources and practice in conducting and "tweaking" energizers and interactive exercises throughout this workshop.

  • Special Treat: Your attendance includes a ticket to see "Sue & Friends," Sue's one-woman [sorta] improv show on Sunday, March 19th.

Sue Walden's Train the Trainer workshop gave me an invaluable opportunity to try out leading some exercises, get immediate feedback from Sue and the other participants on my impact, and see myself improving everyday (on video!) That was well worth the price of admission!
Marj Plumb, (415) 492-8692

The full cost of training/access is $850 and this is the last time Sue will not be offering the training at this price again as she plans to raise the fee to $1,200 on future offerings of this program.


Contact Sue Walden at 415-863-9500 or to discuss your goals, your objectives and to register. To hold your spot, send a $100.00 non-refundable deposit by check or money order made out to ImprovWorks, 1801 Franklin St. Suite 404, San Francisco, CA 94109. Limited space. Early Registration Discount: Price is only $808 if you register by March 4th.

I took the Train the Trainer program with Sue Walden and my skills in leading grew exponentially, as well as increasing the number of icebreakers and other exercises available to me. The class got my creative juices going and I even created some of my own exercises.
-- Chris Pepper-Wong, (702) 562-0886

Your instructor

Sue Walden. Sue Walden is the Founder and Director of ImprovWorks, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to building Life Skills through Improvisation. Her experience includes a BA in Education and 26 years of teaching, performing and adapting and widely applying the techniques of improvisation. She approaches improv training as a powerful and joyful way to peel away constraints, restraints and inhibitions, allowing the naturally expressive, collaborative and creative self to emerge.

Sue is a skilled teacher in ImprovWorks' public workshop program, a dynamic corporate facilitator, an engaging speaker, an author (Working with Groups to Enhance Relationships, Whole Person Assoc.), the delightful "Playmeister" of both the public and corporate Recess! programs, the director and a regular performer with San Francisco's longest-running improvisational theater company, "Flash Family". She has been a member of the Specialty Staff for the year-long Co-Active Leadership Program since its inception eight years ago.

Her current passion is training trainers and consulting on how to design powerful experiential workshops. Sue promises that, in any of her programs, while the learning may be challenging, it will also be fun!


Please contact us with your comments. Thanks for your help!


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