Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0363, Oct 07, 2008
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This week’s article is about ‘Staying Healthy in Sick Organizations’ The Clover Practice™ for Facilitators by Kathleen A. Paris, Ph.D. She has just launched her new book and will be joining us for an interview on Wednesday October 8th from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm. Don’t forget to tune into her wisdom.

Next Monday Oct 13th 1:30 -2:30 PM EST we have a complimentary teleclass ‘Journey Of Collaboration’ an introduction to a 5 day workshop with Darin J. Harris and Harry Webne-Behrman – one hour of rich discussion on ‘Integral Facilitation’, stages of group development, introduction to archetypes, and course organization. Click here to register.

We still have room in our upcoming Women’s Retreat, Journey to Resilience, Creating Enlightened Leaders at the Blue Mountain Retreat Center, Oct 31, Nov 1 & 2. Click here for more details and to register for the retreat.

We hope our work continues to bring inspiration to your world. Thank you for being a part of our growing community. Please continue to send the wonderful feedback.

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The Point
The Clover Practice™ for Facilitators
Emotional health at work, less stress, being more effective.

Intervention Skill

A practice is something you do every day regardless of the circumstances.

The Clover Practice™ consists of three principles.

bullet Tell the Truth, Always
If peace of mind and reduced stress is the aim, we need to be truthful even when it’s not convenient or we don’t look too good. White lies even compromise our integrity and the degree to which others trust us. This doesn’t mean we verbalize every opinion that comes to mind. They are just our opinions, after all, and not eternal truths.

bullet Speak for Yourself
Talking to others about how things look from your perspective based on what you have heard and seen and experienced is a much better way to be heard than telling people they are careless, uncooperative, unprofessional, etc. If you make it clear that you are speaking from your own observations and are willing to entertain other views, you are more likely to be heard.

bullet Declare your interdependence
No one succeeds alone even if they think they do. If we really believed that we need everyone in the organization to be successful from the highest paid to the lowest paid, what would we do differently? We would probably communicate more widely and involve and thank people at all levels.

Organizations are living fabrics. It can be difficult to see how what we do affects others in ways we would never dream of. When we see these connections more clearly, we can choose different behaviors and experience less conflict and stress.

This practice is simple, but not easy. Some might think find it too simplistic. As Buddhist teacher Robert Aitken says, “Do you think this is naïve? Maybe so, but look where sophistication has brought us.”


Some of the most effective facilitator techniques reflect The Clover Practice™ in action.

bullet Tell the Truth, Always
In the largest sense, a facilitator creates a safe space to discuss “the truth.” Safety is communicated by the facilitator’s demeanor, attitude and structured processes for full participation. There can be as many versions of “the truth” of a situation as people in the room. A facilitator reinforces the expectation for listening to all the views.

To elicit views of “the truth,” facilitators ask engaging focus questions.
Great focus questions will take the group to new levels of understanding and new possibilities. (Field testing those questions in advance with a couple of participants is a very good idea.)

Another way in which a facilitator helps members of a group “Tell the Truth, Always,” is by asking clarifying questions.
1. Could you say more about what was going on?
2. You said it was “an unbelievable amount.” Can you give us an estimate?
3. Has anyone else experienced a similar problem?

These clarifying questions help ensure that the views are challenged rather than the people. (Creating ground rules also reinforces the norm of focusing on ideas, not individuals.)

Did you ever have an experience like this?
You are jotting key points on the flip chart. You suddenly realize that there is no sign of the box lunches. You think about how full the agenda is and how important it is to stay on time. Your mind races. And then you realize that you haven’t heard a thing that was just said.

A first impulse might be to fake it and exclaim, “Great point!”
The truthful alternative is, “I’m sorry. My mind wandered for a minute when I realized lunch wasn’t here yet. Could you please repeat the highlights of what you just said?” Groups are generally very forgiving and appreciate the honesty. We don’t need to be superhuman. And when we tell the truth ourselves, we are doing some very powerful modeling for everyone else.

Finally, a facilitator provides accurate information and feedback to clients, even if it is unpleasant news. It matters how you tell “the truth” of a situation.

Speak for Yourself
When you Speak for Yourself to a client, you bring to the conversation what you have heard, seen, felt, experienced, observed. The more observable facts, the better.

A group needs to deal with a difficult issue, but members clam up. If you said, “You are avoiding discussing X,” you would not be speaking for yourself. You would be talking about them. An alternative would be to say, “When I asked about X, the room got very quiet and no one has responded to my question. What is the worry you have or the reason it’s difficult to discuss this?”

Putting your own observations on the table and asking what it means is much more effective than telling people what their problems are.

You could tell project managers that their 14 day cycle time is “unacceptably long.” They will hear you with more equanimity if you leave out the value judgment (unacceptably long) and say, “The industry standard is 7 days compared to 14 days and I would like to help you achieve that.”

Declare Your Interdependence
One of the biggest facilitation challenges is helping groups think beyond their corner of the world and to consider the systems of which they are a part. It can even be a challenge for groups to think about what their stakeholders need.

A facilitator can encourage groups to include the right people in their deliberations in the first place. The facilitator’s probing questions can illuminate interconnections:

1. Whose cooperation do we need to make this work?
2. What unintended consequences might follow?
3. What can we do now to avoid them?

Facilitating any process improvement effort requires discussion of where processes start and end (which can be far removed from the group trying to make improvements). Process improvement will always involve helping a group consider how their work connects with the rest of the organization.

A facilitator can help a group recognize how it is causing some of its own problems by asking, “If we were on the other side of this, how would our actions look?”

Doing our Grown Up Homework
I believe that adults who want to be emotionally healthy need to do some reflection around their experiences growing up. The coping mechanisms we learned unconsciously as children may not serve us well as adults in the workplace. As facilitators, it is imperative that we do this. We take responsibility for guiding the work of whole groups of people. We need to approach that work with the healthiest communication and behaviors.


Listen for individuals who speak for themselves, who speak up about how things look to them but also leave room for others to do the same. What words do they use? Watch their body language. How do others respond? What can be learned?

If you would like to use The Clover Practice™ to support your facilitation skills, print out a bookmark to keep with you or post where you can see it.

Please send us your questions and comments.

This Week's Offer



Journey to Resilience
Creating Enlightened Leaders

Weekend retreat
with Neerja Arora Bhatia & Linda Kolstee-Ozkaynak

Oct 31, Nov 1 & 2, 2008

We invite you to join us in creating experiences which will evoke transformation through reaching the heart, mind, spirit and body. We will meet in a beautiful, natural setting at the Blue Mountain Retreat Center (Greater Washington DC)

As women leaders, facilitators and coaches, our core strength determines our ability to leave a lasting impact on the lives we touch. We owe it to ourselves and those we impact to make our core unshakable.

Upon completion gain inner wisdom to practice the following:
bullet From comparisons to unique self expression
bullet From avoidance to acceptance
bullet From holding on to letting go
bullet From conquering and competing to collaborating
bullet From problem solving to creative resolution
bullet From beating ourselves to lifting ourselves
bullet From being stuck to flying

Click here for more information

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