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The Master Facilitator
Journal | Issue #0031| December 11, 2001
Withheld energy impedes group progress
The importance of full group
participation is often overlooked and undervalued, particularly
by groups whose inordinate focus is on the "results"
or product, at the expense of the process. Often, the damage
done by this approach, in time, is what stimulates a group to
seek expert facilitation. Continued inattention to process may
lead to weakened or strained relationships between group
members, decline in group effectiveness, decreasing buy-in and
resultant support of decisions made by the group, reduction of
group energy, synergy, and enthusiasm, and a real lack of
enjoyment participating in the group.
On the plus side, here are several reasons you might want to
facilitate full participation from all group members:
- Get larger buy-in from group members, which tends to make the
execution of any solutions more long-lasting and efficient.
- Generate fewer opportunities for barriers to develop. Some
content being held by silent group members can provide the
missing piece necessary to free up a group that is stuck.
- Lower tendency for group to fall into group-think and
resultant narrowing of perspectives and possibilities.
- Get access to the full wisdom and knowledge available to the
group. Often, those who are the most quiet have the most to say,
as they tend to be more observant and sometimes more objective
about what's going on in a group.
So how do you go about getting full
group participation? Here are some suggestions:
- Set the tone for full participation at the start of the
meeting with a dynamic and entertaining icebreaker exercise that
engages everyone. This loosens everyone up and gets them
talking. This is especially important for the shy ones.
Make full participation part of the ground rules and facilitate
full commitment from participants.
- Address any pretenses participants may be playing from the
start. For instance, if you're facilitating a working group in
which many participants are forced to be involved, give them the
opportunity up front to air their honest concerns and help them
create a perspective that will help them to use this time to
- Help people clarify and share their purpose for being in
the meeting and adjust your content to
address everyone's needs to the degree possible.
- Break large group into smaller
groups or dyads and conduct exercises or working sessions to
engage each participant. Results can then be
reported back to the larger group and be collated and
- Get people to participate physically by moving them around in
the room based on some criterion your illustrating. Let them
physically and creatively express a problem, barrier, solution, or vision, through dance, movement, mime, etc.
- Always value a participants input, even if it seems irrelevant
or off base. As a facilitator, you have a lot to do with
creating an environment of trust where others feel comfortable
participating. So it's important to always make participants
feel good about sharing. How you treat each individual will show others the treatment they can
expect when they share.
participation fun and non-threatening for everyone. Use humor
whenever possible. Risk being a fool.
- Ask lots of open-ended questions using language and content to
engage the various operating styles and temperaments, i.e.
visual, kinesthetic, aural, intuitive, logical, feeling, etc.
- In an ongoing group where trust is strong, ask the quiet ones
directly what can be done to facilitate more participation from
- Have people write their inputs
down and post them in the room, or collate them for later
distribution if that supports your process.
- Use silence effectively. Ask for
input from the quiet ones and WAIT until they respond. Often the
shy ones are slower processors because they are processing more
deeply and take more time to respond. Silence also gives every
responsibility for carrying the group forward.
- Do round-robin types of queries to get input from everyone.
- Ask for contrarian ideas or perspectives from the group.
assignment this week is to practice using two or three
of the above methods to increase your group's participation. You
can even employ some of these methods in meetings where you are
a participant. We're
interested in hearing about your experiences. Please email
us your stories and perspectives. We'd love to get hear from
As a Facilitator, what can you tell us about the design of
As facilitators, we know
the impact that experiential activities can have on group process and
adult learning. Our questions this week focus on the design of
such exercises. We'd like to hear about your experience in this
area. Please reflect on the following questions and share your
wisdom with us:
- How do you go about designing exercises for a particular group
- What are the attributes of an effective exercise?
- How do you design the exercise to account for the unique
content focus of the group?
We'd appreciate your thoughts
on the above question that might be valuable for other readers to know about. We may
use your responses as a resource for future issues of the
journal or for other works. Please email
us your responses. All those who respond
will be sent the entire collection of responses. Thanks so much for your consideration of my request.
Thanks for your help in making the Master
the best facilitation resource site on the web!
know someone who might benefit and enjoy this newsletter, please send
to a friend.
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to
reach their full potential in their business and
personal lives. Please email
your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. Or call me at
800-216-3854. I'd love to hear
from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it
to your friends.
Thanks for reading!
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