Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0294, March 20, 2007 ....

Dear friends,

It's amazing how easily we can establish and build business and personal relationships around the globe today. Business globalization and the Internet has made this a way of life for many of us. Yet as US citizens, in general, we tend to be more insulated from the challenges of dealing with other cultures.

This was brought home to me when in two teleclasses I recently led for Asian participants employed by a large global corporation. English was a second language for most of these participants and it was a stretch for myself and all concerned. In this week's article, "We're All in This Together," I share some lessons learned in virtual training of a culturally diverse groups. As the world becomes a small, more interconnected place, this is a challenge we all must get a handle on. I hope you learn something from this article and I look forward to your feedback.

Have a great week!

Steve Davis
Publisher and Founder of


Click here for detail

Click here for details

Click here for details

The Point

We're All in This Together
Facilitating inter-cultural groups requires alternate structures, methods, and processes.

Group Process Skill

It's amazing how easily we can establish and build business and personal relationships around the globe today. Business globalization and the Internet has made this a way of life for many of us. Yet as US citizens, in general, we tend to be more insulated from the challenges of dealing with other cultures. Though our country is often referred to as a "melting pot" of world cultures, we "Americans" are accustomed to having everyone within 3,000 miles of us pretty well understand our way of relating compared to differences that would show up if we were in another country.

This was brought home to me when in two teleclasses
I recently led. These classes, delivered to 45 people operating in the Pacific Rim for a large global corporation, focused on virtual meeting facilitation. Most of the participants on these calls were from Asian cultures for whom English was a second language. It was a stretch teaching this class and a challenge for my students as well. As a facilitative trainer, I rely on ample interaction with and among participants and I encourage disagreement and alternative perspectives on what I present. In cultures where students are taught to revere instructors, this approach doesn't float all that well. This issue, coupled with the language barrier taught me a few things about working with diverse cultures in the future. I've included some of my lessons learned below and I look forward to hearing your perspectives on this too.


Enlist a superior. I observed that when the "boss" was present on the calls, participants were far more interactive. This almost seemed counterintuitive to me as an American where people usually feel more free to interact and share their ideas when the boss is isn't present. In the future, I thought, why not ask that a supervisor be present if it makes the course more valuable and interesting for all concerned?

Require an intermediary or translator. During these calls, I had to expend a lot more time and energy just trying to understand what people were saying. On some of the calls, my regional sponsor was there to support me with certain logistical functions such as: setting up partner breakout sessions, serving as a role-play partner, helping with name recognition, and at times even translating heavily accented English. I realized how helpful my sponsor was when she wasn't on the calls. In the future, I'll ask that an regional sponsor be present on all calls.

Speak slowly and clearly. This seems obvious but it's easy for habit to take over during a one-hour teleclass, and before long, you'll find yourself speaking and moving at your regular speed. For nonnative speakers, your normal talking speed, especially if your an American, will probably be too fast for your participants. Speak slowly, clearly, and leave more time than you might otherwise for understanding and processing. Use your sponsor to signal you to slow down or speak up when necessary.

Use more visual aids. For nonnative language speakers, it helps to offer alternative means of understanding that are rich in visual images, or written words that give participants another channel of information to help them stay with you.

Be more structured. As a learning facilitator, I pride myself on my ability to improvise. Consequently, I often follow a very loose structure that often isn't defined until a few minutes before my call. Going light on structure may be attractive when language and cultural comprehension are non-issues. When language and culture are issues, a well defined structure allows participants to relax around the context of your session to put their energy into content and process.

Seek out extroverts. Seek out or solicit a handful of extroverts or especially fluent participants to help you carry the interactive portion of your class. I found that in some sessions, I had good interaction from four or five people. This made all the difference in the world for me and I'm sure for the class. Personally, when I have people to interact with, my material comes to life in relationship to their inputs and their comments and questions allow me to deliver what they need versus what I think they need.

Break into sub groups. Participating in dyads or small groups is far less threatening than speaking out into the large group. When working with multicultural groups, pair up participants according to country for activities. They are more likely to get involved and language won't be an issue for them. Coming back to the larger group, they'll be more prepared to share. I've find this can even be done on teleclasses and discuss this strategy, among others, to enliven teleclasses and virtual meetings in my Leading from a Distance
teleclass and workbook.

Ask them to stretch. I let my participants know up front that I plan to stretch to the best of my ability to meet the needs of their culture. I also ask them to do the same--to stretch a bit out of their comfort zone to meet me halfway. I explained what this might mean for them:

In my culture, it's OK, in fact it's encouraged for students to question, even challenge the instructor. Good adult instructors in my world encourage their students to do most of the talking in the form of open discussion and cooperative discovery of new knowledge, insights, and applications. This class is not all about me teaching you things. It's also an opportunity for you to try out new behaviors. This is a great place for you to make mistakes. I give you full permission to make mistakes in this class, please give yourself that permission as well.

I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and speak up more than you might. I invite you to commit to speaking out in class without being called at least once or twice each session. Ask questions, speak openly about what's on your mind, even disagree with me. I will welcome it and enjoy it and this will get you in the habit of taking new actions that may not normally be comfortable, but within this safe environment. It will also help those of you who have shared your challenges in working with fast talking Americans in a foreign language.

These ideas will help streamline the cultural issues you encounter in your groups. Please email me any additional approaches that have helped you deal with multicultural groups and I'll send you everything I receive.


How can you employ at least one idea above to improve interaction in your culturally diverse groups? Have you found any approaches that I haven't mentioned that help you deal with multicultural groups. If so, I'd love to hear them. Just reply to this email to submit them.

Reader Survey

How do I get collaboration going in a Multi-Shift Organization. My colleague, MFJ reader and facilitator, Jim Smtith ask that I pose this question to you. Within a large three-shift organization -- each shift does different work, but all are interdependent -- their workflows feed each other. They need to be working together, but can never BE together at the same time. Second shift can cross with third, third with first, first with second. But the troika can never meet same place/same time. How does a facilitator work with an organization like this to help these subgroups work together more effectively?

Please email your comments to me and I'll share the collection with Jim and all those who contribute. Thank you!

Note to Publishers
Would you like to republish this or other articles from the journal? You are f$ree to do so providing you follow these guidelines.

We grow by recommendation only when you find our material of use! If you enjoyed this issue, we'd love it if you'd spread the word. Click here to use our interactive form to tell your friends about MFJ, and as a thank you, you will receive our f$ree Facilitator's Self Assessment.

In the Spotlight

5-day Teleclass
for new facilitators and change agents.

Skills and attitudes for the new facilitator or group member who wants to get their group into serious motion.

25 Actions You Can Take to Empower Any Group

This class will meet for five consecutive weekdays April 16-20, 2007 to cover 25+ facilitative actions you can take to empower and move groups forward. This course is for beginning facilitators or group members that simply want to know more about facilitation so that they can make the groups they are a part of more effective.

How the 5-Day Format/Training works...
1. You dial into your class every day for 5 days (Mon-Fri) for a 60-minute focused training segment using a conferencing bridge.
2. You work a 25-point checklist during the 5 days (about an hour a day of study and field work) which you complete by Friday afternoon, or sooner if you wish.
3. During the week, you may access the instructor via email for help or situational questions.

5-Day Random Acts of Facilitation Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the 5-Day course...

Introduction to the Facilitation and Self Facilitation Skills.

1. Create the Ambience.
2. Share the Dream.
3. Get Facilitation
4. Juggling.
5. Me First.

Relating with compassion and understanding.

6. Be Ignorant.
7. Make Smiles Happen.
8. Hold 'em High.
9. Acknowledge the Elephant.
10. Turn on Your Crap-Detector.

Group Dynamics and Facilitation

11. Build the Container.
12. Build trust.
13. Mine the Unexpected.
14. Evolve Your Team.
15. Honor the Process.
16. Facilitate Full Participation

Organizing and Presenting yourself confidently, professionally, and authentically. 

17. Prepare for Success.
18. Get Real.
19. Make Experiences, Not Speeches
20. Watch the Body Talk.
21. Be your message

Intervening to shift group energy

22. Tame the Tormentors.
23. CareFront.
24. Use the Struggle.
25. Break through barriers.
26. Facilitate from Within.
27. Embrace Facilitation as a Master's Path

Benefits to you of participating from the 5-Day Random Acts of Facilitation Training...
1. Get a great introduction to the concept and practice of facilitation skills if you are contemplating becoming a facilitator, team leader, board member, manager, mediator, etc.
2. Never waste another minute in an ineffective meeting again.
3. Learn how to challenge and empower every group you come in contact with.
4. Learn skills to help groups make quantum leaps in their effectiveness.
5. Be a catalyst for positive change in your community.

Also included with your training...
In addition to the 5-Day training described above, you also receive:
1. Access to the participant-only website (lots of resources, forms, etc.).
2. Access to the RealAudio version of the 5-Day training.
3. F$ree copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value).

Pricing and Dates...
The full cost of training/access is only $89, which includes a free copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value). Everything you read about above is included. And, we offer a 100%-satisfaction-guaranteed guarantee. Class meets at 1:00-2:00pm EST daily, April 16-20, 2007.

Please click here and you'll be taken to the teleclass registration page. Register there and you'll see your discount computed and applied as you check out. Immediately upon completion of your registration, you will receive an email with instructions to access the course and free article bank. This course is limited to 20 individuals, first come, first served.

About the satisfaction guarantee
If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this package, simply email us with a request to refund/credit your credit card in the full amount and we will do so immediately. It's our policy to do this and we honor this in every single case.

©2008. Powered by All Rights Reserved.