Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0367, Nov 3, 2008
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News from Steve

I send my heartfelt greeting to my fellow facilitators and faithful readers of the MFJ! Just last week I returned from a six-month meditation retreat in Wolf Creek, Montana. I was part of a spiritual community of 27 teacher trainees, 6 staff, 2 teachers and numerous retreatants who visited periodically. It was an experience like none other. I am now a teacher of the Ishaya’s Ascension, a unique meditative method that blends the Eastern teachings of Advaita Vedanta with the mystical tradition of the West. For now, I'm allowing myself some time to integrate back into the unreal world and to begin working on what’s next for FacilitatorU. You’ll be hearing more from me as I look forward to sharing more about my experiences in the coming weeks. So until then...

This week’s article is the second of a two part series by Michael Wilkinson, Managing Director of Leadership Strategies Inc, a leadership training and strategy consulting firm specializing in group facilitation. Michael is considered a national leader in the facilitation industry.

bullet Join us on Nov 11, from 12 - 1 pm EST, for a dialogue with Michael Wilkinson. Michael is a Certified Master Facilitator and author of The Secrets of Facilitation and The Secrets to Masterful Meetings. Michael Wilkinson is also the founder and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies.

bullet The increasingly popular Journey of Collaboration and Facilitation workshop is being held again the week of January 12th in Madison Wisconsin. We only have five spaces left and we would love to meet some of you there in person. Please click here for details and for a recorded teleclass explaining this offering.

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.

Site Manager,


Michael Wilkinson
Click here for details
journey of collaboration

The Point

Smart Facilitation
Produce consistent repeatable results

Intervention Skill

SMART Facilitation, Structured Meeting and Relating Techniques, is based on ten principles that provide SMART facilitators with a clear vision of facilitation excellence. This article continues where last week's article left off to complete principles 6 through 10.

Supporting the principles are specific techniques that demonstrate how SMART facilitators execute the principles in practice. Together, the principles and techniques comprise a comprehensive methodology for SMART Facilitation that can be used to produce consistent, repeatable results.



Principle 6. Managing Dysfunction – Conscious Prevention, Early Detection, Clean Resolution
How do you deal with someone who is constantly saying, “No, that won’t work. We’ve tried it before, and it won’t work. It’s a bad idea. It’s not practical. It’s not realistic. It just won’t work?” What about the people who want to dominate the discussion? Or - just the opposite - the people who sit there and say nothing, until they go out the door and then tell everyone how much a waste of time the meeting was?

Many facilitators fear dysfunctional behavior and seek a wealth of techniques to address dysfunction should it occur. However, SMART facilitators know that the key to dysfunction is to address it before it occurs (conscious prevention), detect it early if it does happen (early detection) and cleanly resolve it so that it goes away for good (clean resolution).

  • Through this principle you learn:
  • What is dysfunctional behavior?
  • How do you identify dysfunctional potential during the preparation stage?
  • What are strategies you can take prior to the session to prevent dysfunctional
    behavior from occurring?
  • What are the needs and typical dysfunctions of the different communication styles?
  • How do you detect dysfunction early?
  • How do you address some of the more common dysfunctions such as the drop-out,
    the nay-sayer, the whisperer, the verbal attacker?
  • What do you do when something unexpected happens in a session, such as an
    emotional outburst?
  • How should you respond when one or more participants indicate you have made a
    mistake or suggest a change to the process that you don’t want to make?

bullet Principle 7. Consensus Building – Create and maintain a consensus-focused process
SMART facilitators know that, in terms of consensus building, the good news is that people disagree for only three reasons. However, SMART facilitators also know the bad news: if you use an inappropriate consensus building strategy, you will likely fail. For, level-3 disagreements can’t be solved by a level-1 technique, and level-1 disagreements can’t be solved by a level-2 technique. SMART facilitators know the three reasons people disagree and they have consensus building tools for addressing each one. This Principle answers:

  • What is the definition of consensus?
  • Why might full consensus not be the recommended approach for group decision making?
  • What are the three reasons people disagree?
  • How do you address a disagreement in which the argument appears to be irrational?
  • How do you slow down a conversation to ensure that everyone is getting the facts?
  • How do you resolve a disagreement based on different values or experiences?

bullet Principle 8. Keeping the Energy High - Set the pace, anticipate the lulls, react

Whether you are leading a single two-hour meeting or a series of half-day meetings, a degree of energy is essential to keeping the group interested and engaged. This Principle answers:

  • What is the impact of energy on the session topic, the session participants, and the
    participants’ view of the facilitator?
  • How do you start a session with energy?
  • How do you maintain energy throughout a session?
  • What are the lullaby times during the day and what should a you do about them?
  • When are team building activities appropriate? How do you use them well?

bullet Principle 9. Closing The Session - Review, evaluate, end, debrief
Often meetings end without a clear understanding of what was accomplished or what will happen going forward. SMART facilitators know that, in closing a session, it is important that everyone is clear on what was done, the benefits of what was done, the actions to take place once the meeting is over, and the method for ensuring that the actions were accomplished. This Principle includes answers to:

  • What are the most important activities to do before closing a session?
  • What do you do with the participants’ personal objectives identified at the beginning
    of the session?How do you ensure buy-in and commitment to the decisions made in the meeting?
  • What do you do with the items remaining on the Issues List?
  • What are guidelines for assigning responsibility for the Action List?
  • What feedback is needed from the team and the sponsor of the meeting?
  • What do you do if it looks like you are going to exceed the scheduled ending time?

bullet Principle 10. Agenda Setting – Adapt your agenda to address the need
The last Principle ends at the beginning, with constructing agendas using the techniques covered in the other Principles. This Principle answers:

  • What is a standard agenda and why do you need it?
  • How do you customize a standard agenda to meet a specific need?
  • How do you create an agenda from scratch?
  • How do you ensure that you know your process cold?
  • How does an agenda differ from a detailed facilitation guide?
  • What should be included in a facilitation guide?
  • How do you estimate time?


This week, practice at least one of the five principles described in the article above. We'd love to hear about your experiences.
Please send us your questions and comments.

This Week's Offer

An interview with Michael Wilkinson

"In my career, I've seen many, many facilitators. He is the best.”
“He is hands down the most talented and effective facilitator with whom I have ever worked.”

Comments like these are worth noting, especially when they come from Len Roberts, the CEO of RadioShack, and Brian Gallagher, the CEO of the United Way of America.

Mr. Wilkinson is the Managing Director of Leadership Strategies Inc, a leadership training and strategy consulting firm specializing in group facilitation. He is considered a national leader in the facilitation industry.

bullet Author of The Secrets of Facilitation and The Secrets to Masterful Meetings.
bullet Board member of the International Institute for Facilitation.
bullet Founder of the National Facilitator Database.
bullet One of the first five Certified Master Facilitators in North America.
bullet Named Facilitator of the Year in 2003 by the Southeast Association of Facilitators.

Active in both the private and public sectors, he has provided leadership training and strategy development assistance to such diverse organizations as The Coca-Cola Company, Unisys, Sears, EPA, CDC, the Georgia Society of Association Executives, and the United Way.

Click here for more information

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