Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0317, September 25, 2007

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Howoften have you been a participant in a group that was starving for good leadership and facilitation? Clearly seeing the ineffective dynamics going on in the group, you wonder to yourself, "Should I intervene here?" And if so, "When and how should I do it?" This can be a frustrating situation!  I've been there and I know you have too. So what can you do to improve group effectiveness as a mere follower? This is the subject of this week's article, "You Can Facilitate Group Process as a Participant."

If you are a current or past organizational leader, please have a look at our survey questions at the end of the article. We're giving a reward to respondees!

Have a great week!

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The Point

You Can Facilitate Group Process as a Participant
Can you really improve group effectiveness as a mere follower?

Intervention Skill

Howoften have you been a participant in a group that was starving for good leadership and facilitation? Clearly seeing the ineffective dynamics going on in the group, you wonder to yourself, "Should I intervene here?" And if so, "When and how should I do it?" This can be a frustrating situation!  I've been there and I know you have too. So what can you do to improve group effectiveness as a mere follower?

If you decide to intervene, consider this FACCT:

F: Focus. Get a clear focus by establishing a positive intent for intervening in the group process. It's important to find an intention that is both for your own good and for the greater good of the entire group. Then when you do intervene, you do so from a
place of compassion and support for all participants, including yourself.

A: Attitude. Think about how you want to say what you have to say to the group. To come from a positive attitude, it may help to first internally acknowledge any emotion you have arising in the moment. You may fear the impact speaking out might have on your job if this is a work group. You may fear an emotional reaction from the leader or from other participants. You might simply fear the appearance of looking stupid. You may be angry about what's going on. Simply naming and acknowledging these emotions inside and accepting that they are natural and OK will help you to use their energy for your next action.

C: Context. With whom do you intervene? At times it may be appropriate to address the whole group; at other times, an individual. Which approach is likely to achieve the best outcome and minimize negative reactions?

C: Content.Be prepared to suggest an action that the group should take. A participant offering a new direction is viewed far more positively that a participant complaining about what's going on without offering an alternative. You don't have to offer answers. Your intervention could be as simple as for clarity around the purpose or process.

T: Timing.
Where in the meeting should you intervene? Certainly you want to be diplomatic and not interrupt anyone if at all possible. You may choose to make your intervention after an official break or at a logical break in the session, possibly between agenda items. This may largely be a matter of trusting your intuition by simply asking yourself, "is this the right time to speak?" Don't let your concern over timing stop you, however, if you have strong feelings that something needs to be said. This is particularly true if it appears that time is simply being wasted. 


I remember sitting in weekly staff meetings during my last stint in a Corporate job. They seemed to go on forever. There was so much tension in the air, you could cut it with a knife. So much unsaid frustration, fear, resentment, and just plain exhaustion as a result of holding all the tension inside. Lacking the facilitation skills I have now, I remember making feeble attempts to shift the energy but felt like I was speaking in a foreign tongue. The leader was very controlling and emotionally shut down, and I felt instinctively that sharing my truth was off limits.

In retrospect, I realize that while the leader may have not been as open as I'd liked him to be, I believe he sincerely did want to hear my feedback and ideas. But he wanted them in a certain way. That is, complaining or disagreeing with what's going on without suggesting some useful alternatives, or simply shutting down, is not all that helpful. Here are at least three things I could have done to improve the situation:

1. While the corporate culture of this organization rubbed against my grain, I could have just accepted it as it was and learned its language so that my inputs were better received.

2. I often resigned myself to these meetings being boring and came with a negative attitude and low energy. Instead, I could have prepared myself better for the meetings so that I came with positive ideas and suggestions to move things forward.

3. I often just clammed up and withdrew. Instead, I could have taken more risks in the meetings, facing my fears and sharing my ideas and opinions more often. I then would have received more feedback from the group to learn to improve the expression of these inputs down the road.

Even if the group doesn't take advantage of your inputs, you are putting your best foot forward and building your critical and creative thinking skills. You are also polishing your ability to
effectivelyo present yourself. These are skills all good leaders appreciate.


I’m interested in hearing your perspectives on this topic and how this information might help you in your efforts to facilitate a group as a participant. Reply to this email and let me hear from you!

Reader Survey

How Does Your Participation in Meetings Reflect on Your Career?

Do you or have you worked in a leadership capacity within an organization? If so, I have a couple of questions for you.

1. What kinds of behaviors stood out for you among meeting participants that either elevated or diminished your professional opinion of them?

2. What should meeting participants know about how they're being viewed as potential leaders or managers by those in power?

Those of you who send your comments will receive an editted compilation of all the responses. You will also receive a fr'ee MP3 recording of any of the expert interviews in our library. Just let me know which one you'd like with your response. I appreciate an contributions you can make here!


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