Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0398, June 16, 2009

Dear Friends,
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This past week I had the honor of co-facilitating our fourth run of the Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration workshop in Madison with my friends Darin Harris and Harry Webne-Behrman. It was a privilege witnessing yet another group of 24 people move from a disjointed collection of individuals to a highly functioning team. This week, I want to share with you some of the insights and lessons we gleaned from this experience that might help you help groups reach this state.

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, facilitators, and as people. 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.



The Point

How Does
a Highly Functional Group Emerge?
Be what it takes to invite the full brilliance of a group to emerge.

Group Dynamic Skill

This past week I had the honor of co-facilitating our fourth run of the Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration workshop in Madison with my friends Darin Harris and Harry Webne-Behrman. It was a privilege witnessing yet another group of 24 people move from a disjointed collection of individuals to a high functioning team. This week, I want to share with you some of the insights and lessons we gleaned from this experience that might help you help groups reach this state. We share our suggestions for how facilitators and participants can show up to facilitate the emergence of a high functioning team, and how to recognize its emergence.


Facilitative structures

In the JOFC workshop we created a confluence of several structures that weave throughout the 5-day journey. After reviewing our approach, you may notice that the shepherding of a fully functioning group resembles the natural cycles involved in the parenting or nurturing of any living thing.

  • We design structures of individual involvement that increase in complexity and responsibility over time.

  • We introduce increasingly challenging activities that require the application of multiple skills practiced over time.

  • We purposely introduce and nurture the formation of factional subgroups. This is a natural stage of group evolution that allows smaller groups to create community with one another.

  • We later offer challenges that require the resources of the entire group which encourages them to reach outside of these factions.

Facilitator attitudes and behaviors

There are certain attitudes we hold about groups in general and certain behaviors that reflect these attitudes that we believe impact the unfolding of a highly functioning group.

  • We share our knowledge of a skill and how it will help the group meet its goals, followed by opportunities to practice it.

  • We teach participants tools to be as present in the moment as possible and encourage them to cultivate their awareness around what's happening within the group at multiple levels.

  • We believe and act as if the collective intelligence of the group will guide us in helping it emerge and we listen to it's promptings.

  • As the group matures, we gradually decrease facilitator interventions and contributions, culminating in nearly complete withdrawal from the group.

Participants attitudes and behaviors

There are certain attitudes and behaviors that we observe and encourage in participants that we believe also impact the unfolding of a highly functioning group.

  • Participants have a strong desire to be part of a high functioning group.

  • Participants appreciate the complexity of groups and are patient enough with themselves and others to allow the groundwork to be done.

  • Participants are willing to give their all to the group's task but are not attached to particular outcomes.
  • Particpants share and make requests to meet their personal interests, desires, and needs.

  • Particpants offer each other honest and respectful feedback.

  • Participants understand that no one reaches true community on their own. They reach out to participants to whom they feel less of a connection and seek to bridge divides.

Recognizing the emergence of a highly functional team

- The sound of the group shifts. The sound of the voices at work in subgroups takes on a hum or buzz. Voices seem to be attuned to one another. There is an evenness, almost a containment, yet a vitality to the sound.

- The silences are profound. There is an energetic sense of peace, calm, ease...a supreme presence that makes the silences feel very full. One of our participants last week, a police officer and K-9 handler, brought his German Shepard into the workshop during the last two days. During the time that we sensed the group had reached a state of high-function, we noticed that the dog had fallen asleep. The room was very active, but there was a peaceful, almost sacred sense in the room.

- Expressions are more clear, direct, even poetic. People are less tentative about sharing their observations, perspectives, and feelings. Communication is more authentic, concise, and respectful. There are fewer wasted words. Often what's shared seems to contain a quality of wisdom and eloquence that didn't exist before.

- The group becomes more important than the individual. When a group coalesces into a highly functional team, there is less concern with individual needs. The group has evolved and aligned to meet a greater need that transcends and includes individual needs.

- The line separating personal and work life begins to blur. There's something about being part of a high functioning group that shifts our view of ourselves and the world. Being part of such an organism fulfills many of the needs we're all after. One participant made the following comment at the close of last week's workshop: "When I started this workshop on Monday, I was planning on quitting my job. Now, that's changed. I'm going back next Monday and I think it's going to be OK."

While a 5-day workshop may not create a group that remains forever in its optimal state, it does offer its participants a reference point and a path to what's possible in any group. If you are interested in learning more about our approach and experiencing this kind of phenomenon for yourself, consider joining us in Vancouver next month for our next JOFC workshop.


Have you even been party to a highly functional team? What did it take to get there? I'd love to hear about your experience. And, if you're part of a group that's far from high functioning, what might you do to help them take the next step? Please send me your comments by replying to this email.

This Week's Offer

Facilitator's Questions Collection

This 35-page collection contains 20 sets of questions grouped according to the many themes upon which groups typically focus.

Use these lists in preparation for working with a group or use them as catalysts for the development of your own questions. You can put this practical guide to use right away with your groups without hours of study and contemplation.

This question collection can travel anywhere, from the classroom to the boardroom. Its templates are adaptable to your unique area of work; just be a little creative and the question will happen for your context. The Facilitator Questions Collection has become a desktop reference for me in both my writing and behavioral coaching work.

These questions support and instruct the facilitator as well, because so many of them are thought provoking, inviting the facilitator to pause and think about the possibilities in a given question. These menus of questions underscore that people learn differently, hence they are designed to tap into various learning styles to help people access their intelligence and draw out their best.
Ellen Mossman-Glazer M.Ed., Life Skills Coach and Behavior Specialist--

Table of Contents


Types Of Questions

Six Serving Men: Open-Ended Questions
Bloom's Taxonomy
Five Types of Questions

Focusing Questions
Questions to Clarify Group Understanding
Questions to Facilitate Commitment
Questions to Scope a Project
Problem-Solving Questions
Data Gathering Questions
Questions to clarify and focus on the problem
Organizational/Process Questions.
Decision-Making Questions
Questions to Assess Solutions
Questions to Stimulate Creative Thinking
Planning Questions
Questions to Facilitate Change
Questions to Evaluate Results
Questions To Improve Teamwork
Questions to Facilitate Participation
Questions to Identify Group Dysfunction
Debriefing Questions
Metaphor-Making Questions
Intervention Questions
Debriefing a Traumatic Situation
Questions to ask Yourself to Form Better Questions
Questions to Improve Your Facilitation Skills

Cost of this Guide: $29.95

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