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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0082 | December 3, 2002
5,500 Subscribers

picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.

From the Publisher: 

Hello MFJ Readers. This issue, includes an article written by Susan Parks entitled,
"The Power of Introductions," that explores how introductions can help develop relationships and trust, and provide information to help a group form and norm.

In our resources section, we introduce a new book authored by MFJ reader, Gayle Hudgens etitled, "
Collaborative Spunk: The Feisty Guide for Reviving People and Our Planet," which looks at empowering ordinary people to become "leaderful" and  to co-create joyful, just, and viable communities wherever they are. 

Also please check out our new "Magic Meeting Mug." This is a great little gift and tool to running more effective meetings by empowering those that attend them.

If you or your colleagues are interested in submitting an article for consideration, please email your ideas. I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading! 
Steve Davis

GAME Skill

The Power of Introductions 
 Introductions can be powerful information-gathering and trust-building tools.

The Point

As all facilitators know, one of the most critical factors to successful sessions is open, candid discussion by all participants. Yet this type of discussion is often difficult to achieve. There are several barriers: participants may not work together or know each other, there may not be a level of trust or knowledge of individual expertise, or participants may have a one-dimensional view of each other.

Effective facilitators must break these barriers so that the objectives of the session can be met. To do this, all three components of group dynamics - tasks, relationships, and processes - must be addressed. Since facilitators and participants are most familiar and comfortable with tasks, it is where we spend most of our time and effort. Yet, most team theorists agree that between 5% and 10% of the entire time that a group is together should be spent on "team formation" activities - those related to group process and relationship building. If this is done, then the time spent on tasks - brainstorming, consensus building, decision making, analyzing - will be more effective.

An easy way for facilitators to pay more attention to group processes and relationships is to use the effective but often overlooked tool of the introduction. Introductions serve many purposes. At a minimum, they provide basic information (name, department) and define roles (job title, responsibility). At the most, they provide insight (expectations, feelings, expertise) and engender friendship and trust (values, interests, personal life).


There are many types of introduction exercises from which to choose. Here are a few:

- Ask participants to state their names, area of responsibility, # of years with the company, expectations for the session, and a one-word description of themselves. Write the expectations on a flip chart; keep a running total of the # of years of experience.
Purpose: a low risk introduction to use when the group is first getting together; provides participants with basic information; gives group a sense of the group's total experience level; gives the facilitator insight into what to expect.

- Pair up the participants, preferably with people they don't know. Ask participants to interview each other on several topics: name, title, expected contribution to the session, family, home, hobbies, interests. Each interviewer introduces his partner to the group.
Purpose: a fun, non-threatening way to get participants to open up more and to get to know each other on many levels, including non-work areas; especially useful if the group is going to meet over a long period of time; encourages individuals to put "skin in the game" during the session by focusing on what they bring to the table.

- Ask participants to share an observation about a previous session - something they learned, a question, a metaphor to describe their feelings, or a symbol that describes the progress of the group.
Purpose: a way to build on relationships, provide continuity between sessions, check for understanding, demonstrate expertise, provide insight into how participants are feeling and relating to each other.

- Provide participants with a situation: "If you had a dinner party and could invite anyone (living or dead), who would it be? Why?" or "In your next life, what (animal, person, thing) would you like to be reincarnated as? Why?"
Purpose: provides sharing of values and interests; helps others to know how they think, feel and make decisions; a fun way to help people be seen in a "non-work" role.

Some tips on using introductions

Do some sort of introduction at the start of each session.

- Start with "low risk" introductions, until the group has "jelled"; gradually move to introductions that reveal more about the participants.

- Pick people from various locations in the room when soliciting volunteers; don't "go around the room" and let the person at the very end of the line get nervous waiting for his or her turn.

- Make introductions fun and non-threatening.

- Listen to what is said, and use the information to ensure session success.

In summary, introductions accomplish many things for the session participants - they break the ice, help form relationships and trust, and provide information to help the team form and norm. For facilitators, introductions also add value by providing insight into participant personality, interest level, and biases. They encourage buy-in to the process and assist in the review of concepts and issues. Introductions are powerful tools that every facilitator should exploit.

Written by Susan Parks
Communications Programming Inc.


Practice employing one of these introduction methods the next time you're running a group. I'd love to hear what happens for you. Please email me your comments.

Collaborative Spunk: The Feisty Guide for Reviving People and Our Planet by A. Gayle Hudgens, Ph.D.

Dr. Hudgens, founder of the firm, Sustainability Coaching, is known as the Cultural Creative Coach. Her book is an exciting, powerful, and sound alternative to the personal, social, ecological, and economic violence plaguing our world, Collaborative Spunk empowers ordinary people to become "leaderful" and co-create joyful, just, and viable communities wherever they are "planeted." Readers will discover they can have fun and find meaning in the process. 

Published by SOS Press, a division of Sustainable Obtainable Solutions, an emerging nonprofit in Montana dedicated to the sustainability of public lands and the plant, animal, and human communities that depend on them.

cartoon image of a talking man.

Reader Survey 

Share your favorite "Introductions" with us.

Please send us descriptions of your favorite Introductory exercises  to ../contact.html and we'll share with you all the inputs received. 

If you know someone who might benefit and enjoy this newsletter, please send this link to a friend.

About the Author
Steve Davis is a Facilitator's Coach helping leaders enhance their effectiveness through the application and perspective of facilitation. Please email or call me at 805-489-4130 to schedule a Free exploratory session, or to share your suggestions and ideas for the journal. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading!

In the Spotlight


Introducing the MFJ "Magic Meeting Mug!"

Lets quit wasting so much time in meetings that don't work. Arm your people with these magic mugs now! This mug will not only hold your coffee, it will also help you hold great meetings!  Great holiday gift idea.

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Front of Cup

Back of Cup

Meeting Power Questions.

Do we have a clear agenda and purpose? 
Have we identified desired outcomes?
Is this meeting being competently facilitated?
Are we staying on course and on time?
Is everyone positively engaged and participating?
Do I need to be at
this meeting?
Have we had sufficient break time?

Am I doing all I can to make this a great meeting?
Are we leaving with clearly assigned actions? 

Get everyone to practice asking these questions of themselves during their meetings and empower them to take actions necessary to get an affirmative answer to each of them. Then watch your meetings get interesting! What if people started getting more done in less time and actually started looking forward to them?

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Comments or Suggestion? 
Please send your comments to ../contact.html

Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on December 10, 2002.   

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