Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0547, July 17, 2012

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Dear Friends,

This week's article, Spellbound, was inspired by a strange email I received some time ago containing a paragraph that appeared to be gibberish. In my unceasing efforts to squeeze MFJ article ideas from my everyday experiences, I found some interesting principles I could glean from this email that I believe apply directly to facilitating groups. Check it out and let me know what you think

Putting Out Brushfires Teleclass: Intervening in Difficult Situations. This 5 hour teleclass will increase your ability to know when and how to intervene effectively in difficult situations to get your meetings back on track. Each class includes a short content presentation, discussion, demonstration, participant exercise, debrief, and discussion of application. This course is for anyone who facilitates, manages, teaches, mediates, coaches, counsels, directs any group. teams that require you to facilitate virtual meetings. See details at the end of this issue. MFJ readers save 30% by entering the coupon code VIP30 at checkout.

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


facilitation checklists
virtual facilitation teleclass

The Point

Recognize the power of the container, context, and expectations.

Group Dynamics Skill


I received the following paragraph in an email one day. Please read it first, then we'll talk about it...

According to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Interesting isn't it? What's it got to do with facilitation? Good question. My commitment to write and publish useful content on this subject every week is a strong inspiration for me to look for connections anywhere and everywhere. Fortunately, with everything in the universe ultimately connected, you can always find them. Here's what I see.

The paragraph I ask you to read above has three striking characteristics that I believe are connected to facilitation and how groups function.

1) Each word in the paragraph is bounded by the familiar. By that I mean, the first and last letter of each word are correct. By correct, I mean that each of us who can read the English language and can spell, agree on the the proper characters that begin and end each word. Without that agreement, the words would be unintelligible.

2) The words form a coherent paragraph that define a clear context. If the words were randomly joined without conveying something that made sense, it would become gibberish. Consider this sentence:

Wrod rset porbelm tihs taht iprmoetnt frist is ltteer be the wouthit mses huamn bcuseae lteter.

This is a random selection of some of the same words in the above paragraph that aren't arranged to convey any meaning. Without the context of coherent speech, it's far more difficult to decipher the meaning of the individual words.

3) We all experience life through filters. Declaring expectations is like tuning your filters to my particular station. In this case, I set up an expectation that you might learn something from reading this paragraph. If you were to have found it in your email without an explanation in the midst of a seemingly normal message, you might not have given it enough consideration to figure out it's meaning.


For me, the above exercise underscores three important elements of facilitation:

1) Build a consensual container. Defining and agreeing upon which behaviors are functional is analogous to building a container within which your groups will function. This container is made up largely of operating agreements and the external environment. If the container is comprehensive, relevant, and supported by the group, then they can pretty much do anything inside of it without sacrificing the meaning they seek. Just as the jumbled words in our paragraph still work within their functional boundaries.

2) Define a clear and relevant context for your work. If a group is clear about why they've come together, what they're there to accomplish, and engage in processes designed to get them what they want, then the "who," "what," and "how" of the group is congruent. They form and reinforce the context for their being together and will therefore present fewer barriers to getting what they want.

Again, just as our gibberish words were understandable when woven together into a cohesive paragraph with clear meaning, connecting people with agreed upon objectives and processes to get there will bring meaning and progress to their work.

3) Clarify and agree upon group expectations. When the early work in our groups entails exploration of individual and collective expectations, we can chart a much clearer course to realize them. Thus minimizing the many tangents, disagreements, and general confusion that often accompanies people working together toward an uncommon goal.

Evoking and managing expectations can help people remove blinders, barriers, and judgements, to better focus on the work at hand. This makes everyone's work easier and helps us chart a more direct course to our destination.

I hpoe you ejnyeod tihs atrclie!

Add Your Comments


What can you do with your groups to better design their container, context, and expectations? Please click on Add Your Comments to share your questions, feedback, or experience.

This Week's Offer

30% off Putting Out Brushfires (coupon VIP30)

Putting Out Brush Fires...

How to intervene in
difficult group situations

Learn how to effectively
intervene when things
heat up in your groups

After nearly 30 years of facilitation I was both surprised and pleased at the level of learning and number of new insights I gained from this excellent teleclass. The trainers modeled outstanding facilitation skills, and the format was highly interactive and very engaging. The teleclass was administered flawlessly and was customer friendly. I'd recommend this class to anyone who wants to become a better facilitator. --
Mary Hoagland--

The Teleclass...

Do non-stop talkers, silent groups or dramatic conflicts ever knock your meetings off track? These meeting situations take a toll on a group’s ability to work together and cost time and money. This 5 hour teleclass, taught by Dee Kelsey and Pam Plumb, authors of Great Meetings! Great Results, will increase your ability to know when and how to intervene effectively in difficult situations to get your meetings back on track. You will find the course Putting out Brush Fires: Intervening in Difficult Situations to be highly interactive. Each class includes a short content presentation, discussion, demonstration, participant exercise, debrief, and discussion of application. This course is for anyone who facilitates, manages, teaches, mediates, coaches, counsels, directs any group.

Benefits to you for participating in this Training...

1. Increase your ability to know when and how to intervene in difficult situations.
2. Get practice and coaching on your intervention skills to internalize your ability to intervene.
3. Gain confidence to manage challenges with ease so your meetings will be more productive and more fun.
4. A chance to work through the specific kinds of issues you face with the experts
5. Collaborate and learn from a community of your peers, all passionate about empowering groups.

Putting Out Brushfires Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the course...

Day one: Introduction to each other and the course

  • What is a “brush fire”?
  • Why does intervention matter?
  • What are our values for framing interventions?
Day two: Know yourself and assess the situation
  • Staying grounded in the face of difficult situations
    • Gaining insight into your personal reactions to brush fires
    • Knowing how to get and stay grounded
  • Assessing the situation
    • Introduction of the Great Meetings! Intervention model
    • What to look for when considering an intervention
    • What questions to ask to determine if an intervention is needed
Day three: Step into the situation: interrupting
  • Different ways to intervene
  • Interrupting as one key tool
    • Cultural and personal frames on interrupting
    • The Art of interrupting
  • Application of the technique to your own situations

Day Four: Step into the situation: other intervention options

  • Review of Intervention model
  • Examples of other interventions
  • Choosing the right intervention
  • Choosing the right level of intervention
  • Application of the techniques to your own situations
Day Five: Help the group move on and prepare to prevent difficulties
  • Moving on from the intervention
    • Understanding what the group needs
    • Choosing tools
  • Good preparation: essential to preventing difficulties
  • Parking lot issues
  • Questions and answers
  • Wrap up and final evaluation

Also included with your training...
In addition to the training described above, you also receive:
1. A downloadable version of the book, Great Meetings! ($25 value) and a 20-page workbook to serve as resources in the future ($15 value)
2.Articles and resources around using Improv in leadership and facilitation:

- Steps for negotiating conflict in a group.
- Meeting Assessment checklist: Questions to ask during the client interview.

Thank you, Pam and Dee! I have facilitated group meets for years and have taken a number of classes to enhance my facilitation skills. But your classes have been the best I have attended and what I've learned from you will help me be more effective in serving these groups.
-- Leslie Krauz Stambaugh, Principal, RLS Associates--

Self-Guided MP3 Audio Version
If you'd like to learn this material at your own pace and on your own schedule, you can purchase the MP3 audio version of this teleclass complete with the learning guide. 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 learning guide is used in the live class. Click here to purchase for $79.


Click here to purchase the
MP3 Version for $79

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