Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0396, June 2, 2009

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Conflict is an element of group dynamics that challenges us most. This is so because conflict carries a lot of energy. Most of us have been conditioned to fear and avoid this kind of energy. Learning to view conflict as simply energy that can be used for good is a great first step toward effectively facilitating it. This week's article, Embrace and Resolve Conflict addresses just that subject.

JOFC Vancouver! Many participants who have attended our Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration workshop in Madison have come away
transformed in their view and practice as leaders and facilitators. Even those with intermediate and advanced skills leave the workshop having been impacted both personally and professionally. I'm looking forward to visiting Vancouver for this workshop during the week of July 27th. I've decided to make this into a driving adventure from southern California, taking extra time to meet readers and customers up in Vancouver and at spots along the way. If you live along this route and would like to meet, I'd love to connect with you on this journey. And of course, I'd love to take this workshop journey with you as well if you feel so inclined. Click here for details and registration.

Changing the face of teleclasses and virtual meetings.
If you're interested in checking out the new Maestro Conference teleconference platform that allows easy creation and facilitation of virtual breakout groups, click here to view a recording of a webinar demo I did recently.

Self-Guided Teleclass Special.
Learning to design dynamic workshops is an important skill set for the effective facilitator. The ability to be present, open, and flexible in order to effectively deliver your work in a way that transforms your participants is just as important, if not more so. This week we're offering a discount on two of our most popular programs that provide you with what you need to know to design and deliver effective programs on any subject. See details after the article.



The Point

Embrace and Resolve Conflict

Conflict is a sign that the group is moving deeper and can be viewed
as a seed for transformation

Relating Skill

Conflict is a natural stage of a group process. But most of us have been taught to avoid it at all costs. So when we encounter it in groups, we tend to retreat from it, to the apparent safety of avoidance. Conflict is often a healthy sign that participants are getting "real" with one another. Its effective resolution results in increased understanding, intimacy, and trust, which equates to superior group performance. 

It takes a fair degree of intestinal fortitude to walk through the fire of conflict. To skillfully make this journey, you as a facilitator must have developed, to some degree, the self-mastery skills we present throughout this journal, so that you can walk through the conflict with the group and without retreating!

Now with that said, a lot of conflict can be avoided by attending to ground rules, using effective decision-making processes, and good record keeping. But when it does occur, intervene immediately so that it doesn't escalate to the point that it compromises the fabric of the group.


Most conflict is the result of inaccurate assumptions and misunderstandings made by the conflicting parties. Your job as facilitator is to uncover these misperceptions while maintaining an atmosphere of respect.

Imagine that you're facilitating a working group and Sally is mad at Joe because she doesn't feel he's pulling his weight. The first step in resolving conflict is to get consent from the parties involved to work through it. You ask, "Sally and Joe, would you be willing to work this issue through with our support right now?" If they agree, get each of them in turn to explain their perspective, assumptions, and feelings, without blaming the other. 

Since emotions are usually charged during conflict, the challenge for you will be to get each side to stay with the facts, to own their own feelings around the history of the conflict, and to hear each other. When you get to the bottom of most conflicts, you'll usually find that both sides want something or have something in common that can form the beginning of an understanding between them. Your biggest task will be to help them break through the emotion and attachment to being right in order to get to this place and to hear the perspective of the other side.

Things to keep in mind when resolving conflict

  • Trust that the parties involved can work through the conflict.
  • Maintain mutual respect between conflicting parties.
  • Facilitate ownership language.
  • Make sure everything is spoken and heard by each party.
  • Have each party make requests of the other.
  • Check for resolution.


The next time you are faced with a conflict either in a one-on-one relationship or in a group, seek to objectively hear the information that the other party is conveying underneath any emotion that is present. Ask questions to uncover all the facts before resorting to "stating your case." Let go of the need to be right and instead, embrace the desire to understand the other. In Steven Covey's words, "Seek first to understand, then be understood." This approach will go a long way in resolving or avoiding conflict all together. Please send me your comments by replying to this email.

This Week's Offer

Essential Training for Effective Facilitators

Learning to design dynamic workshops is an important skill set for the effective facilitator.

The ability to be present, open, and flexible in order to effectively deliver your hard work in a way that transforms your participants is just as important, if not more so.

Each of the programs below provides you with what you need to know and to do to design and deliver effective programs on any subject. Purchase both the MP3 versions, or any other two recorded teleclasses this week for only $99. That's a savings of nearly $60. Once products are selected and entered in your cart, enter the Coupon Code "June" and your discount will be computed at checkout.

The Improvisational Facilitator

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Self-Guided 5-hour Recorded Teleclass. Learn improv techniques to become a more effective facilitator, trainer, and group leader

A week after the course I have found myself talking about and actually using the techniques taught! The experiential based learning really worked for me and I learnt whilst having fun – always a good way to retain new learnings. The course has provided me with a toolkit of great techniques to improve my own facilitation, as well as some enjoyable exercises to use with delegates. I have nothing but praise for both Sue and Steve, who walked their talk with their own facilitation skills – they simply flowed through the course with grace and intelligence. The content, the materials and the facilitators is 5 star stuff and I highly recommend it to any facilitator. --Amanda Alexander, Coach and Founder of

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Secrets to Designing Dynamic Workshops
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Self-Guided 5-hour Recorded Teleclass for facilitators, trainers, and coaches

Self-Guided 5-hour Recorded Teleclass. Learn a step by step approach to designing and delivering workshops on any subject

Secrets to Designing Dynamic Workshops from Scratch, 5-Day Teleclass

  • Have you been talking about developing and offering your own workshop but don't know how to start?
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Many thanks for a great experience. I received enough value before the first class to justify all of my costs – and it just kept getting better! I am now really looking forward to creating and delivering my upcoming workshop on retirement success -- can't honestly say that was true before the workshop. -- Doug Leland, Executive Coach & Retirement Specialist

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