Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0273, October 10, 2006 ....

Dear friends,

One of the keys to getting results with groups is creating a safe space for people to share what they might not otherwise share. But in a world where judgment is rampant, most of us have learned to keep our guard up and to be very careful about what we share, especially if it's of a personal nature. In this week's article, "Notice What Works," we explore the use of discernment in favor of judgment to help
groups identify their most effective path.

Improv Skills Solve Facilitator's Greatest Fears! A strong statement? Perhaps. And I've found the improv skills taught by Sue Walden in this 5-day teleclass, "The Improvisational Facilitator," to be life changing whether you apply them to facilitation or to any other endeavor that involves relating to others, to yourself, and to your own creativity. We'll present powerful, practical improv techniques you can use to immediately enhance your facilitation, training, and group leadership skills. This class is highly interactive, uses many innovative experiential activities that will surely surprise you, and always receives rave reviews. Come join us the week of October 23rd. Register by tomorrow, October 10th for a $10 discount. Click here for details. membership Discount for College and University Students.
In an effort to get our materials in the hands of future leaders and those involved in educating our future leaders, we've recently instituted a significant 66% discount on FacilitatorU memberships for college and university students and faculty. If you are in any way connected to a college and university and can help us get the word out, please contact me to discuss it.

Have a great week!

Steve Davis


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The Point

Notice What Works
Use discernment in favor of judgment to help
groups identify their most effective path.

Self-Facilitation Skill

One of the keys to getting results with groups is creating a safe space for people to share what they might not otherwise share. But in a world where judgment is rampant, most of us have learned to keep our guard up and to be very careful about what we share, especially if it's of a personal nature.

Before we continue, lets draw a distinction between "judgment" and "discernment." By "judgment," I mean placing a label of "right" or "wrong," "good" or "bad" on something or someone. I use the term "discernment" to denote the act of simply noticing observable facts.

For example, consider one of your participants, we'll call him "Joe," who continues to take the floor and take the group on tangents. If we called Joe a troublemaker or a jerk for this behavior, we would be making a judgment of him. However, if we instead used discernment, we might say that every time Joe speaks, he seems to speak about things other than what the rest of the group is talking about.

See the difference? Judgment casts blame, which often inspires guilt. Using discernment, we simply notice what's going on in a factual way.

As facilitators, we want to use discernment and avoid making judgment. To support our groups, we use discernment to help them discover what's working and what isn't. Discernment language comes from a neutral stance, and when directed to an individual, it's difficult for its recipient to take offense. However, when a judgment is made, offense is almost always taken. And judgment tends to make us defensive or to withdraw.

So, mindful facilitators are accepting of all people, they don't make judgment. However, they are adept at discerning functional from dysfunctional behaviors and inquiring into the perceived value of such behaviors.


Using discernment instead of judgment gives you the opportunity to call out behavior of questionable value and let the owners of this behavior decide whether they want to continue it or not.

Now I know that most of you are probably well aware of the distinction between judgment and discernment. But what if you were to teach this distinction to your participants, offering them the opportunity to practice it as well? How might that impact their communication and teamwork?

For example, consider a group within which you notice judgment being cast about among their teammates. Sue tells Bob that he's a procrastinator. Bob snaps back calling Sue an army sergeant. These of course are judgment, judgment that don't necessarily communicate the true nature of the behaviors.

Suppose you were to coach Sue and Bob to express to one another their observations of each others behavior instead of making judgment. For instance, you might say something like, "Sue and Bob, how are these judgment you're making of one another working for you? Are they helping you improve your working relationship? Helping you to be more productive?"

They both respond with, "Well no, not really."

You've then created an opening to coach Sue and Bob to move past their judgment and to describe instead, the particular behaviors that caused them to judge in the first place. Once behaviors are defined, you can help them sort out the truth of the matter and seek resolution that works. Again, keep checking in with your group about what works, helping them move toward an orientation of progress rather than getting stuck in a morass of judgment that go nowhere.

How can you use discernment in your work with groups? Please click reply and share your comments. I'd love to hear from you.

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Note to Publishers
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In the Spotlight

The Improvisational Facilitator

It's easier than you think...your life is already an improv!

Learn improv techniques to become a more effective facilitator, trainer, and group leader

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 think 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 5-day teleclass.

October 23rd-27th, 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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