Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0541, June 6, 2012

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Dear Friends,

Much of the trouble we encounter with communication lies in unspoken assumptions--ideas that we've accepted as true without verification. When we react to our assumptions, we react to the unreal, and often, to the projections of our worst fears. As facilitators, we provide a great service when we help people get conscious of their assumptions, which often present huge barriers to clear communication and understanding. This week's article, Turn on Your Crap Detector
offers an exercise for us each to experience our own assumptions and some guidelines for detecting and moving through them in our work with groups.

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



The Point

Turn on Your Crap Detector
Cultivate your ability to detect and expose assumptions

Group Process Skill


In order to be a great writer, a person must have a
built-in, shockproof crap detector.

--Ernest Hemingway--

This quote by Hemingway, as a writer for writers, applies equally well to facilitative leaders.

So often we communicate with one another through unspoken assumptions and agendas, often without realizing it. Unconscious assumptions present huge barriers to clear communication and understanding.

As group leaders, one of the most powerful things we can do is to act as detectives in search of assumptions, rout them out, and expose them for what they are, ideas that we've accepted as true without verification. Once our insidious assumptions are discovered and labeled, deeper relationships can be cultivated based on mutual respect and understanding. But when we react to our assumptions, we react to the unreal, and often, to the projections of our worst fears.

Are you operating free of assumptions?

It's possible, but unlikely. Ponder the following story then revisit this question.

What choice would you make?

A group of children are playing near two railway tracks - one set of tracks is still in use while the other isn't. Only one child plays on the disused track, the rest on the operational track. The train comes, and you are beside the track interchange. You realize you could make the train change its course to the disused track and save most of the kids.

However, this would also mean the lone child playing by the disused track would be sacrificed.

What would you do? Let the train take its predetermined course or intervene to save all but one of the children?

Take a pause to think what kind of decision you would make...

  • Analyze the situation.
  • Think and reflect.
  • Decide on your answer and write down the assumptions you made.

What do your choices say about your assumptions?

Many would choose to divert the course of the train, and sacrifice only one child. To save most of the children at the expense of only one child is a rational decision, morally and emotionally.

But, did you consider that the child playing on the disused track had in fact made the right decision to play at a safe place? And the other children were aware of the risk and are in a better position to be alert and run from the danger when they hear the train?

If the train were diverted, that lone child would likely die because he wouldn't think the train could come over to that track! Moreover, that track was probably not in use because it was not safe. If the train was diverted to the other track, the lives of all passengers on board could be at stake as well!

This kind of dilemma happens around us everyday. In the office, community, in politics and especially in a democratic society - the minority is often sacrificed for the interest of the majority, no matter how foolish or ignorant the majority is, and how farsighted and knowledgeable the minority is.

There is an unspoken assumption that sacrificing the minority for the majority is the 'right' thing to do, but challenging this assumption with the train story brought to light far more layers to the situation.

While we are all aware that life is full of tough decisions that need to be made, we may not realize that hasty decisions may not always be the best ones. "Remember that what's best isn't always popular... and what's popular isn't always best."


Detecting assumptions

How do we detect assumptions? David Bohm, quoted by Peter Senge in the "Fifth Discipline," identifies three types of incoherence in our thinking that lead to assumptions:

1. Denial that you are a participant (It's not my fault! Look at what they did!)

2. You stop tracking with reality and start running your program (did you run a societal program in the exercise above to make your choice?).

3. You establish your own standard of reference for fixing problems, problems this frame contributed to creating in the first place (e.g. when someone harms us, we have to harm them in return).

Three conditions necessary for true "dialogue

Senge goes on to suggest three conditions necessary for true "dialogue":

1. All participants must "suspend" their assumptions, literally to hold them "as if suspended before us."

2. All participants must regard one another as colleagues.

3. There must be a "facilitator" (that's you!) who "holds the context" of dialogue (i.e. attends to group process).

Add Your Comments


Think of a task or problem you are working on right now. Chances are, you have some assumptions about the situation or people involved. Use the above criteria for detecting assumptions to figure out what they are. Please click on Add Your Comments to share your questions, feedback, or experience on this matter.

This Week's Offer

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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

Learn how to create a workshop that will entice your audience and deliver your message in a way that is impactful and memorable. By the end of the 5 days, you will:

  • Have learned how to chose a compelling topic for a workshop.
  • Have a new tool-belt of exercises and coaching skills to help enhance learning.  
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  • Have completed the design of your own workshop,  following Marion's 7-step approach.
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Course Outline...

Monday: Introduction to Workshop Design and Framing Your Message

  • Choosing a Great Topic, whether it's chosen for you or not.
  • Designing a Fresh, Memorable Title
  • Developing an Overriding Message
  • Design your own workshop week

Tuesday: Being Prepared: 10 Critical Behind the Scenes Strategies

  • Know Your Audience
  • Resolve Introduction Issues
  • Room Arrangements
  • Presentation Equipment/Accessories
  • Handouts
  • Workshop highlights
  • Practice your presentation
  • Dress professionally
  • Wear your own nametag
  • Eliminate Gaps

Wednesday: Knitting it All Together

  • Managing the three stages of a workshop
  • "The Beginning"
    - Building Trust and Rapport
    - Setting the Stage and Tone
    - Clarifying Objectives and Ground rules
    - Introductions
    - Icebreakers
  • "The Middle"
    - Delivering the content
    - Delivering your overriding message
    - Delivering experiences
    - Leaving them with inspired curiosity
  • "The End"
    - Reinforce learning and overriding message.
    - Clarify additional resources
    - Short promo about your services
  • JIT Coaching

Thursday: Experiential Exercises and Just-In-Time Coaching. 

  • Creating Experiential Exercises
    - Reflect on your experiences
    - Read about and reflect on the topic
    - Consult Exercise sources
    - Gather supporting material
    - Generalize Observations
  • Delivering Experiential Exercises
    - The Kolb Learning Cycle
    - Timing
    - Adjusting to group specific needs
    - Managing emotional elements
  • JIT Coaching
    - Permission
    - Observe, question, comment

Friday: Icing on the Cake

  • 7 Tips to polish your workshop
    - Be yourself
    - Marketing Tips
    - Client relationship building
    - Extended relationships with participants.
    - Join Online Training Networks
    - Manage your time wisely
    - Handle difficult participants
  • Individual Coaching and Q&A

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In addition to the 5-Day training described above, you also receive:

1. Free copy of the 7 Simple Secrets to Successful Workshops ($30 value)

2. Free access to audio interview with instructional design expert, Marg Wall for yet another perspective on workshop design in this one-hour session,
"How to Design Winning Workshops and Seminars that Inspire and Engage Your Audience." ($20 value) This comes with 3 additional bonuses.See details here.


The class was packed! I loved it! It was so helpful and moved at a nice clip. I have created workshops for 10 years and this gave me some information that I had missed!! Well delivered and engaging. I learned a lot. It is definitely an art.

Excellent class. I am in the process of developing two different workshops and this class helped me get over a hump with both of them!

Self-Guided 5-Day MP3 Version
If you'd like to learn this material at your own pace and on your own schedule, you can purchase the MP3 version of this teleclass complete with the workbook and all the other bonuses above. You'll be provided with access to recorded offerings of the five-hour teleclass (5 hours total) that you can listen to online and follow along in the workbook used in the live class.


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Self-Guided 5-Day CD Version
The Compact Disk (CD) version comes with all of the self-guided features listed above, together with 5 CD's you'll receive by mail that you can listen to anywhere you have access to a CD player.


Click here to purchase the CD Version for $89
plus $4 Shipping and Handling

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If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this package, simply email us with a request to refund/credit your credit card in the full amount and we will do so immediately. This policy completely removes the buying risk for you and keeps our customer-satisfaction rates extremely high.

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