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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0006 | June 19, 2001
2,800 subscribers



Logistic Skill

Guard the Boundaries of Your Process Container 
Manage your time and stay on schedule.



The Point?

Nothing can be more frustrating to those running groups than to have someone asked to facilitate a 10-minute exercise that takes 30 minutes to complete! Every agenda has a time frame. Be aware of it and stay on target! This can be very challenging, particularly when you're facilitating learning or personal breakthroughs, or when your group suddenly finds a direction that totally inspires them. This can be so precious that you don't want anything to interrupt it. So the question is, how can you create a relaxed environment that invites participation, often representing a significant risk on the part of the participant, and at the same time keep to the schedule? 

Have an agenda with timeframes but be willing to flex it for the audience. Remember that when you're the facilitator, you control the agenda AND the agenda can be participant driven. This may seem like a contradiction but it's not. Think of yourself as the coach of a football team, you may advise, sometimes even direct the plays, but all you can do is remind the players how much time is left. It's up to them how they use it. So as a facilitator remember that you are not responsible for the results achieved by your participants but you are responsible for "containing the process."




On many occasions as a facilitator, I've been tempted to run over time, and very often have when the group is really taking off or on to what appears to be a breakthrough. What I've learned is that every time you let the schedule slip, you deflate, every so slightly, the value of the group's time spent together. If time frames are disregarded consistently, you may weaken the groups' resolve to get things done, creating the expectation that there's always going to be more time if needed. It's kind of like thinking that we will live forever. With that attitude, we'll never accomplish anything because there will always be tomorrow. 

I've found that it's sometimes a good thing to cut off a process to stay on schedule. It can leave the participants curious and motivated enough to take further action on their own outside of the group

Bottom line, just keep the group apprised of how much time they have frequently, work with the group to adjust the schedule where needed and possible, and remember that most tasks will simply fill the time you allot. Give too much time and the task may drag on. Give too little and miracles may happen!

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Write down three things you could do to better manage time as a resource in your facilitation. Or send me your stories and ideas around using and managing time in group process. I'm interested in hearing from you. Please email me your thoughts, stories, and experiences on this issue.



Skill Related Resource
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity,
by David Allen

With first-chapter allusions to martial arts, "flow," "mind like water," and other concepts borrowed from the East, you'd almost think this self-helper from David Allen should have been called Zen and the Art of Schedule Maintenance.

Not quite. Getting Things Done offers a complete system for downloading all those free-floating gotta-do's clogging your brain into a sophisticated framework of files and action lists--all purportedly to free your mind to focus on whatever you're working on. As whole-life-organizing systems go, Allen's is pretty good, even fun and therapeutic. 



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Interactive Forum
Creating Dialogue With Our Readers

In an effort to stimulate discussion on facilitation tips, tools, and processes that are relevant to your interests, we'd like to hear from you. Please post your answers to the following question at on our interactive forum to stimulate discussion on this topic.

1. Which competencies on the Master Facilitator Self-Assessment are most challenging for you?

Other questions or comments? Please email us.



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About the Author: 
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to stretch beyond their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 



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Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on June 26, 2001. 

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