Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0486, April 26, 2011

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Dear Friends,

It's a privilege to witness a group of 24 people move from a disjointed collection of individuals to a high functioning team. Nearly each time we run the JOFC workshop, this is exactly what happens. In this week's article How Do Highly Functional Groups Emerge?
I share some of the insights and lessons we've gleaned from facilitating groups through this experience that might help you help groups reach this state. This includes suggestions for how facilitators and participants can show up to facilitate the emergence of a high functioning team, and how to recognize its emergence.

JOFC Madison! Our Summer session of the JOFC Workshop is meeting the week of June
13th in Madison, Wisconsin. Many participants who have attended this workshop have come away transformed in their view of facilitation and their behavior as leaders, facilitators, and as people in general. Even those with intermediate and advanced skills leave the workshop having been impacted both personally and professionally. I'd love to take this workshop journey with you as well if you feel so inclined. Sponsored through the University, the price for this training is very modest, and in addition, an early bird discount is available until May 9th . Click here for details and registration.

I can honestly say that this workshop transformed my approach to dealing with myself, group dynamics, teaching, and everyday problem solving. I could sing the course praises that would cover the Skagit River shorelines, but I think the best approach would be to experience it yourself!
--2009 Workshop Participant--

If you or your colleagues are interested in submitting an article for consideration, please email your ideas. I'd love to hear from you. We hope our work continues to bring inspiration to your world. Thank you for being a part of our growing community and please continue to send your wonderful feedback.


Steve Davis


assessment primer
journey of facilitation and collaboration

The Point

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

Group Process Skill

It's a privilege to witness a group of 24 people move from a disjointed collection of individuals to a high functioning team. Nearly each time we run the JOFC workshop, this is exactly what happens. I want to share with you some of the insights and lessons we've gleaned from facilitating groups through 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. In 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.

  • Later in the process, we 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 for clues.

  • We expect and look for synchronicities and encourage participants to do the same.

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

Participant 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.

  • Participants share and make requests to meet their personal interests, desires, and needs.

  • Participants 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. The sound of a contained but vital flow that could be likened to the sound of a happy hive of bees.

  • 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 recent participants, 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 few 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 one 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 Madison in June for our next JOFC workshop.

Add Your Comments


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? Click on Add Your Comments to share your questions, feedback, or experience on this topic.

This Week's Offer

Tax Season Special

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by April 30th

Add items to your cart, enter "april" and the discount will be computed at checkout.

Two of our most popular classes are described below. Click here to view our entire collection.

improv facilitator

The Improvisational Facilitator

Are you afraid of encountering the
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teleclass facilitation

Facilitating at a Distance
The Essentials of Teleclass &
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This class is for those of you wanting to offer a teleclass but don't feel you have all the skills and knowledge you need to do so, or for managers working with distributed teams that require you to facilitate virtual meetings. See details at the end of this issue. This class will teach you methods, skills, and processes to employ this inexpensive way to train, collaborate, and problem-solve using Teleclasses and Virtual Meetings. Remove the fear and uncertainty of teleclass/virtual meeting design and facilitation.

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