Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0411, September 29, 2009

Dear Friends,
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Do you ever struggle with how much you should step in and take control of your groups as opposed to letting them sort things out themselves? Read this week's article, Are You a Catalyst or a Control Freak? to find out and explore the challenge of the professional facilitator trying to walk the fine line between taking control of their group vs. being a catalyst for the group's empowerment.

Motivational Speakers: How Charismatic Delivery Can Short Change Your Audience". Join this experiential teleseminar on Thursday, October 14, 10:00am Pacific Time. In this concise, 90-minute module you'll have the opportunity to practice the 3 keys to empowering your audience with less effort as a speaker. You'll also get to experience our fully interactive teleconference bridge courtesy of MaestroConference, a new technology that allows you to engage me and other participants as if we're in a live workshop.
See details after the article.

This concise, one-hour module will offer you the opportunity to practice and learn the pitfalls and procedures for effectively setting up and facilitating one yourself. See full details after the article below.

Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration Workshop.
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motivational speakers
The Point

Are You a Catalyst or a Control Freak?
Is Your Style Restricting Group Flow?

Group Process Skill

When we step into a group as facilitators we know that our presence will definitely change the group dynamic, hopefully in a very positive way. However, when playing the facilitative role, do you ever question how much "control" you should exert on your groups? If so, you're not alone. Walking the fine line between controlling and catalyzing your groups isn't always easy.

Let's look briefly at the definitions of control and catalyze.

Control: To exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; direct. To hold in restraint; check.

Catalyze: To modify. To bring about; initiate. To bring about fundamental change in; transform.

There will be times when you'll need to exercise control over your group. But most of the time I believe that you'll want to be a catalyst instead. Lets' look at some tips on how to do this.


I'll have to admit that at times, I still catch myself exercising undue control over my groups. But my intentions are always pure, I promise! I think I get controlling for a number of valid reasons.

For example, if I'm trying to cover too much in too little time, I tend to be more rigid and controlling of participant input and tend to be more directive. If I'm more concerned with the intellectual content than the emotional aspect of the process, I can get a little uptight. Or, if I feel that the group is heading off on a tangent, I feel that it's my job to bring them "back on course."

Here are some general tips to help you be more catalytic.

- Use a light touch when working with your groups, even when things get heavy. Even when you need to provide direction, remember that your participants are all doing the best they can. You can be very effective by simply asking questions and making suggestions leaving "control" of the group to the group.

For instance, "It seems to me this line of discussion is moving us away from our stated goals. Do you want to continue on this course or should we make a course correction?"

- Release your need to exert power and control. Now I could be wrong here, but there may be some of us who get a thrill out of having the power that comes from being "center stage." If I was to be totally honest, I'd have to say I have some of that myself. But when I'm at my best, I realize that my real power and my biggest thrill for that matter, is expressed when I find a way to totally empower a group to the point that they don't need me so much anymore. This may take a shift in perspective.

Consider the possibility that the highest good you can do as a facilitator is to help groups self-facilitate, which may lead to them getting along without you. Just as a catalyst is consumed in a chemical reaction that yields a new form, let your ego dissolve in service to the transformation of your groups.

- Encourage participants to interact directly with each other. You can invite this as part of your introduction to an event and even include it in your ground rules. Let participants know that you encourage them to interact directly with each other within the group, to ask clarifying questions, and even to help draw others in to be heard.

- Coach participants in the basics of facilitation as you facilitate them. Though some groups invite you in to catalyze them toward a specific solution, there are almost always opportunities for you to coach participants in communication and process skills. Skills that will help them work better together by virtue of their enhanced ability to self-facilitate. If this truly happens your work will leave a legacy in its wake.

- Trust the wisdom of the group--unless it's hiding. Assume that the higher wisdom of your groups--that aspect which knows what needs to be done or discussed--is always the best facilitator. However, at times this wisdom may be submerged beneath individuals fears, insecurities, and confusion. When this is the case, you'll probably need to exert more control to help the group work through processes that free their collective wisdom.

So in a sense we might suggest that your need to control a group is directly proportional to a group's inability to effectively direct itself. As you help your groups realize their own power and control, you can back off and operate more as a catalyst and focus on the finer points of facilitation.

Reader Comment

Here's a comment from Betsy Healey of KM Consulting with regard to her use of the above perspective.

I have recently been learning the exact things you expressed about using facilitator skills to give control to the group. I do love being the center of attention, but the growth of the group as they interact and tap into their own power is even more fun. As a control freak facilitator, my job is to help the group set clear expectations and objectives and then help them stick to them.

As a catalyst facilitator, my job is to provide a framework and nudges so they can tap into their own abilities, emotions, and synergies. As long as I do a good job of framing how I want the group to step up, they ALWAYS exceed my expectations and hopes with cooperation, additional energy, deeper commitment, and better results.

The hard part is doing this on the fly. Part of my preparation is to anticipate a few of the inevitable deviations from the design, and then think of some potential ways to take advantage of those deviations. That preparation makes thinking on your feet a lot easier.

Plans are nothing.  Planning is everything
--As Winston Churchill--

This should be tattooed on every facilitator's palm so they can remember it when the design flies out the window. Keep up the great journals, Steve!


Can you relate to the situation above? How do you balance controlling and catalyzing? Please reply to this email and share your comments. I'd love to hear from you.

This Week's Offer

motivational speakersExperiential Module Course
From Charismatic to Catalytic

Motivational Speakers: Charismatic Delivery Can
Short Change Your Audience

At times the strengths of dynamic, high energy presenters can get in
the way of their group’s progress. Most audiences we address as
leaders have been conditioned to sit and listen to the teacher, leader,
or speaker in front of the room and view her as the expert or authority.
But this may not always serve the growth of your participants.

In this module, you'll learn 3 skills that you can use without surrendering your strengths as a presenter to empower your audience. I’ll also do my best to model being a listener as much as a speaker during this call, so that you are engaged and participating as much as I am.

What do you get? Here's what comes with the cost of this module:

- Active participation in the course above.
- Viewgraphs used during the presentation.
- An MP3 recording of the call.

Format. This course is conducted over a telephone bridge line and webinar platform. The webinar connection is optional as view graphs will be provided prior to the call that can be printed as a backup option.

When? This class will be held on Thursday, October 15th from 10am-11:30am Pacific (1pm Eastern).

Cost. The cost of the above course is $29. If you are a FaciliatorU member, the cost is $19. If you are a member, contact us for the coupon code if you haven't already received it.

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