From the Electronic Discussion on Group Facilitation

Advice To New Facilitators

Compiled by Fred Niziol


This first email is my original request to the facilitators on the grp-facl list.

The list members email responses follow.

 - Fred


Editors note: dates and times shown for some of the emails may be incorrect.


From:          Fred Niziol <>
Subject:          [GF] Advice To New Facilitators
Date:          Sat, 19 Feb 2005 06:06:50 +0800

We just started a training class for 35 in-house facilitators. A few have some experience facilitating, some none, others are interested in learning but not sure about getting involved - quite a range actually. Anyway I've told them what a great resource this list is.


I've decided to ask you, the list members: "What one thing about being a facilitator would like to share with this class?" It's important to me to bring to the students more about being a facilitator than just my & the other instructors ideas, because it's the breadth of your experiences through this list that has made me better in my practice. Ned, Jo, Jon & Maureen, Jan, Sandy, Marge, Kristin, everyone else around the world join me in helping them along.


I'm not sure about the list protocol with this kind of request, but unless you're all interested in reading replies here, feel free to send your comments to my work email:


Thanks in advance

Fred Niziol

Social Security Administration

Baltimore Maryland USA




From: "Goldhammer, Lynn A. LCDR" <>

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2005 16:55:58 -0800

Here are some "lessons learned" I put together a year to 2 ago..

Facilitation Lessons Learned

Lynn Goldhammer

206-220-7367 (w)

206-523-1553 (h)


Over the past 6 months I have been involved in several volunteer Facilitation projects.  Three of them have been focused on Strategic Planning.  By working on three at one time it provided me some insights into patterns that I may have missed if I had done them separately over a couple of years.


  1. Keep agenda’s simple:

One group consistently created very ambitious agenda’s with very specific times for beginning and ending each topic.  This often resulted in folks rushing or dragging things out to stay on the time target.

Lesson Learned:  Keep the agenda modest, with additional items in mind to expand upon if time permits.  Provide the members a list/overview of the agenda, but don’t include the times.  And, sometimes there is value in not having an agenda until you get with the group and ask them what they want to address/discuss that day.


  1. Don’t be too quick to go into techniques:

With one group we were very quick to jump into using specific techniques (brainstorm, multi-vote, SWOT).  This brought out a lot of issues and concerns.  But it didn’t necessarily help them identify or choose the biggest and most critical concerns.  As a result, as we tried to move forward with what was chosen, the group wouldn’t move.  They hadn’t really bought into the issues chosen that they were their biggest concern.  (i.e., world hunger seems more important to address than planting your own garden, but which are you more interested in addressing?)

Lesson Learned:  Begin more with a conversation that allows them to tell you their issues or concerns they are interested in addressing.  This may be enough.  If further tools are used, review those findings vs. the initial findings and see if they match up.  If not, have more conversation regarding what concerns they truly wish to address.


  1. Don’t prepare all questions in advance:

One consulting group with 5 trainees and a senior consultant would get together before meeting with the client and develop each question they wished to ask. 

Lesson Learned:  It’s fine to go into a meeting with some questions you want to ask.  But be free enough to listen to the answers and tailor more questions as needed.  Some preparation is helpful.  Over preparing can bog things down with approaches and questions that may lack effectiveness and leave the facilitator afraid to think on the spot – a needed skill.


  1. Start with simple questions:

That same group would often be so over focused on creating just the right questions that the questions they created often became too complicated and complex – often asking more than one question within that one sentence.

Lesson Learned:  Start simple.  Build up based upon the responses.  But always ask one question at a time or answers become mottled and responses get missed.


5.  Keep the process/project as simple as possible:
Most folks are too busy to take on huge projects.  If it looks too big too soon it will become too overwhelming and hard to get folks to want to take on or to commit to. 
Lesson Learned:  If a project becomes large, prioritize the issues to be addressed.  Keep it manageable.  Address one thing at a time, then move on when the first is either completed, or far enough along that there is now time and resources available to focus on the next issue.  If there is an adequate number of people more issues can be addressed at one time, but preferably a different group within the team/organization can address each issue.


6.  Know when to use tools, and when not to:

I recently facilitated a group utilizing just some questions/techniques to focus conversation, then moving on to “Dynamic Facilitation” to address a specific issue.  When done I asked the group what went well and what could be improved upon.  One member said, “I’m disappointed that we didn’t use Brainstorming, Multi-voting and Affinity Diagrams”.  As I went to capture his input he yelled, “Just kidding!  I hate that stuff – don’t do it!”
Lesson Learned:  Specific facilitation tools can be effective when used at the right time and place.  But no tool is an end all and be all.  I utilize these tools more when a group is stuck, but I find I use them less and less all the time.  I focus more on getting conversations going between people, ensuring everyone has a say, that no one monopolizes the conversation, that issues are captured, additional questions are asked to keep them focused or get the focus moving, etc.  Kind of like a fireman:  he needs a hose and an ax and training on how to use them, but there’s much more to his profession than hosing things down or chopping them up, so he needs to know where and when to apply those tools.



Mitch Owen []

Fri 2/18/2005 5:17 PM


One of my best points is that Facilitating is part art and part science.

One has to learn the science and practice the art.. And like all great artist, one is always exploring new brush strokes...


Mitchell B. Owen

Innovation & Organizational Development Leader


(919)515-8448  (919)513-1242 fax                                  

Personal & Organization Development, NC Cooperative Extension College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, N.C. State University

318 Ricks Hall,  Lamp Dr., Box 7569, NCSU, Raleigh, NC 27695-7569



Sue Martin []

Fri 2/18/2005 6:23 PM


I've been facilitating for about 12 years and I'm certified by IAF. Here's the advice I would give:


1.  Plan thoroughly but be prepared to be flexible - Most meetings benefit from an agenda and planned processes for moving through the agenda. However, some meetings need less facilitator control and more group spontaneous control. Meeting with group members in advance will give you a sense of what is needed.


2.  Learn many facilitation methods - You'll go along way with basic facilitation skills. But I'm discovering that there is a very deep base of knowledge and experience about what types of facilitation work best in different situations (If you read the GF list for a while, you'll know what I mean!). The IAF annual conference is a good place to learn new methods.

Also, the GF list often announces learning opportunities.


3.  Clarify follow-up - If there are decisions and action items that come out of a meeting, make sure they are captured and distributed to group members. I was taught that a facilitator "never does for the group what the group can do for itself," including documenting the meeting. However, as an outside facilitator, my clients usually find it helpful for me to compile notes and action plans and send it back to them. I like doing that because then I'll know it's been done.


I could go on, but that's probably enough. I will, however, attach a simple facilitation guide that I've given to some of my professional organizations.


Sue Martin, CFP

Communication Strategies



Nadine Bell []

Fri 2/18/2005 6:55 PM


I train facilitators as well and I make a point of telling them that Facilitator and Flexible start with the same letter. Good luck with the range in your class.


Nadine Bell,
Certified Master Facilitator/Assessor
Certified Professional Facilitator/Assessor


Sterling Newberry []

Fri 2/18/2005 10:56 PM


If I had to pick one thing it would be learning to be flexible in how you meet your clients needs.  If your meeting design isn’t working for them, find out, and find out why and renegotiate what to do on the spot.  This puts the responsibilities where they belong, builds trust and makes it more likely that they will buy into the result. 


Sterling Newberry

IAF Certified Professional Facilitator

(510) 541-9901

Co-Founder of:

On the other side of change.
Consulting, Facilitation, Mediation, Coaching & Interactive Learning Experiences for
Humanistic, Artful, and Effective Individuals and Their Organizations

Sterling P. Newberry, The Greater Possibility LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this email may be reproduced in any fashion without prior written consent and agreement by Sterling P. Newberry. This notice also applies to any and all attachments.


Jon Jenkins []

Sat 2/19/2005 4:41 AM


Our basic structure for all the technique we teach is as follows


1. a discussion about their experience with the methods we are teaching using the Focused Conversation Method, a ToP method.


2. a presentation about how the method works, how you adapt it to a specific workshop and a bit about the function of the facilitator.


3. an exercise where the participants prepare the method to be used with the course participants.


4. a practise session where the participants try out the method 5. Feedback on how the did.


This normally takes a day but can take longer and in a few cases it can take a 1/2 day.


For us, the key value is hands on experience.  To understand what a facilitator does they need to do facilitating.  While the class room situation is less than ideal it can be a starting point.  Once they have reached some minimal level of skill, we shift over to coaching and communities of practise.


Jon C. Jenkins

Imaginal Training, Groningen, The Netherlands International Facilitators Companion


Dr Graham Rawlinson []

Sat 2/19/2005 5:25 AM


When we are born we have a knowing that there are other minds our there.


When we get older we seem to forget this.


When listening to others, try to go back to when you really knew there were these other minds and that they are important.


Have fun too!


Deborah Levine <>

Sat 2/19/2005 8:44 AM


In the Fall 2002 I published a humorous piece in the on-line facilitators' magazine entitled "Trials & Tribulations of a Budding Facilitator."  Your students can have a good laugh over some of the things that can go wrong.  Try the Fall 2002 issue of for this article and many other articles that your students will enjoy.


Deborah J. Levine, President
Communication Prose Ink
118 Lee Parkway Dr. Ste #304
Chattanooga, TN  37421
         Mailing address:  PO Box 9126
         Chattanooga, TN   37412
phone:  423.867.5564



Matt Beane []

Sat 2/19/2005 8:51 AM


I just read your post to the Facilitation listserv (see below).  I found your request very compelling!


The one thing I’d share with your class is: I think we are often blind to our own ineffectiveness – the higher the stakes are for us, the less likely we’ll be aware of our contribution to the challenges we face.  Chris Argyris and Don Schon’s research (as well as our work at Roger Schwarz & Associates) bears this out, in my view.  The antidote for this is learning what “sets us off”, and learning to ask for feedback in those moments with genuine curiosity and willingness to learn.


Matt Beane


Roger Schwarz & Associates

518.265.8322 (mobile)


From: "Ayleen Wisudha" <A.Wisudha@WESTMINSTER.AC.UK>

Date:         Sat, 19 Feb 2005 13:09:21 +0000


What we say to those we teach is that in practising facilitation, it is essential to be flexible.


Whatever model or method (or combination of any) is being adhered to - an important awareness is HOW a facilitator applies it.


The starting point for us, therefore, is the facilitator as an individual. To build an understanding of the self, in a systematic way such that the knowledge is useable when it comes to working with others.


We raise awareness about behavioural preferences.

... that as a facilitator - we also have our own preferences, our blind spots about people.

.. it leads on to how as an individual within a facilitator role, we connect with individuals in the group or the group as a whole.


This links in with the practical bits in the teaching structure outlined by Jon Jenkins:

[StartQuote: JonJenkins]

Our basic structure for all the technique we teach is as follows 1. a discussion about their experience with the methods we are teaching using the Focused Conversation Method, a ToP method.

2. a presentation about how the method works, how you adapt it to a specific workshop and a bit about the function of the facilitator.

3. an exercise where the participants prepare the method to be used with the course participants.

4. a practise session where the participants try out the method 5. Feedback on how the did.

[EndQuote: JonJenkins]


Ayleen Wisudha


Business Psychology Centre

University of Westminster

309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW



From: "Terrence Metz" <>

Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2005 19:35:11 -0600


Attention is central to all.

The Rosetta Stone to appeal questions for facilitators is the level of focus (or distraction) resulting from the facilitator's chosen behavior (eg, gestures) and word choice.

Both neophytes and the experienced need appreciate the importance of being content neutral --- since facilitator judgment violates an environment of trust for workshop participants.

For additional proof, see Dr. Thomas Gordon’s research (eg, Teacher Effectiveness Training) or speak with a FAST trained alumni about their structured workshop leadership experience.
Terrence Metz
MG Rush Performance Learning
Division of Morgan Madison & Company
1301 West 22nd Street
Oak Brook, IL  60523
(847) 548-1240 - Phone   
(847) 778-8804 - Cell


From: "Ned Ruete" <>

Date:         Sat, 19 Feb 2005 20:14:19 -0500


I find the key is to change the meeting culture -- do something to make people realize this is not going to be "just another meeting." This hit home to me when I set up a room with T charts to collect lessons learned on a project that had gone very badly pear shaped. When the customer entered the room with his stack of complaints, he looked around the room and said, "Whoa, I didn't realize you had a PROCESS for this!" And the process worked, because that instant of recognition that things were going to be different made a space for it to work.


See my ten things about facilitation entitled "Write it Down and Hang It On the Wall" (below). Almost all of them are about creating a different psychic, social, and even physical space where people can get out of their usual bad meeting habits.


What do others think?


Ned Ruete

Waterford, CT USA


1.  Write it Down and Hang It on the Wall


2.  Work on one issue at a time.   Let the group choose and word the issue.

Write it Down and Hang It on the Wall


3.  Agree on how to work on that issue.  Tap the group wisdom for how to work before offering your own process.  Write it Down and Hang It on the Wall


4.  When someone offers an idea, Write it Down and Hang It on the Wall.  If they offer it repeatedly, point to where it is written down and hanging on the wall.


5.  If someone attacks a person for a "dumb" idea, ask them where the idea is written down and hung on the wall.  Move to it.  Move the discussion to the idea, away from the person who offered it.  If additions, qualifications, clarifications, or pros and cons are offered, Write it Down and Hang It on the Wall


6.  When the group is discussing, voting on, or coming to consensus around a solution,  Write it Down and Hang It on the Wall


7.  When the group moves away from the agreed-to issue, go to where you wrote it down and hung it on the wall, call their attention to it, and give them the choice to change the issue, go back to the one they agreed to, show how this one affects the one they agreed to, or put a time limit on the digression.  Whatever they decide, Write it Down and Hang It on the Wall


8.  When the group moves away from the agreed-to process, go to where you wrote it down and hung it on the wall, call their attention to it, and give them the choice to change the process, go back to the one they agreed to, show how this one affects the one they agreed to, or put a time limit on the digression.  Whatever they decide, Write it Down and Hang It on the Wall


9.  When someone says, "We ought to ______," find out who will.  Write it Down and Hang It on the Wall


10.  Before breaking up, find out when the group will get back together.

Write it Down and Hang It on the Wall


And mostly -- if someone is running on about something that is not germane, don't write anything on the wall. Pretty quickly they'll learn to focus their comments. This is the Jack Ryan's Grandmother's Rule -- If you don't write it down, it didn't happen.



From: "Bob Dick" <>

Date:         Sun, 20 Feb 2005 12:04:39 +1000


Hello Fred.  A personal response ...


For me, the joy of facilitating comes from its flexibility and immediacy.  Although it can be helped by process recipes and theory for me it remains essentially a performing art.


That's where the excitement and the occasional terror come from.


And something perhaps more directly relevant to your question ...


In many years of helping people learn facilitation skills, I've looked for concepts which change the way people experience the world.  A key concept has been the distinction between process and content.


This has important practical implications, I think.


For one thing, it is almost always a powerful intervention to "make the process visible".  That is, the facilitator draws the attention of participants to what is happening in the moment.

That changes the behaviour if it is unconstructive.  It also makes partners of the participants in finding a better alternative.


(It's easier to facilitate allies than enemies.)


For another, it is often valuable to intervene only in the process.  With some exceptions I usually stay out of the content.  If I do so I find participants will be more accepting of whatever process interventions I make.


  +---  Bob Dick  -------------------------------------------+

  |   Action research resources at:     |

  |     |


From: "Jo Nelson" <jnelson@ICA-ASSOCIATES.CA>

Date:         Sun, 20 Feb 2005 14:37:38 -0500


Thanks for the question, Fred.  I also tell new facilitators in my training programs about this list.


And welcome to all the new facilitators joining the list.


It took me forty years to learn the following secret (and sometimes my colleagues wonder if I've learned it yet!):


When you ask people for their wisdom and you really listen to their wisdom, they think you're wise!


The corollary, however, is even more important:  When you ask people for their wisdom and you really listen to their wisdom, you GET more wise!


This really helps shift the image of the facilitator from talker to listener.  At least it did for me --OK, while I'm facilitating anyway ;)


Sort of related to this are my working assumptions, which I put up at the beginning of nearly every facilitation, and run through quickly (since the short flipchart phrases are pretty trite or abstract without the accompanying  explanation). I use these instead of ground rules.  I've offered these before on this list.


Working Assumptions (with explanation of each in parentheses)


1. Everyone has wisdom. (This doesn't mean everything that everyone says is wise.  It means that behind what they say is wisdom, and we will listen for it.)


2.  We need everyone's wisdom for the wisest result. (In the same way that a diamond is more valuable when it is cut with more facets, what we come up with will be more valuable when we have illuminated more facets of what we are working with.)


3. There are no wrong answers.  (See number 1 -- behind what may seem on the surface as a wrong answer -- and I have heard some that were positively evil on the surface -- there is wisdom.  The corollary, of course, is that there are no right answers, only the best we can come up with given our



4. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  (Trite, yes, but points to consensus as creating a larger answer that is not identical to any one view, but includes the wisdom of many.  Diamond image again.  I think of compromise as smaller than the sum of its parts, consensus as larger.  Like a puzzle picture, which is the sum of the puzzle pieces and their relationships.  All puzzle pieces are included, or there is a hole.)


5.  Everyone will hear others and be heard. (This doesn't mean that everyone has to talk all the time -- then nobody would be heard. It means listening to others as well as making sure your wisdom is on the table.)


I've recently concluded that Aretha Franklin would probably summarize the whole list with "R.E.S.P.E.C.T."


The only time I had anyone argue with this was the first time I used them, about 13 years ago.  When I put up "there are no wrong answers" one lady in the back of the room shouted "there are too wrong answers!"  I thought really really fast and responded, " and that's not a wrong answer either!"


The whole group gasped, laughed, relaxed, and began to participate.  Since then, I tell that story when I put that item on the flipchart, and groups respond in the same way.)


From: "Myriam Driessen (Value!)" <>

Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 23:06:16 +0100


I'm a new member on this list. Interesting stuff, I feel a bit overwhelmed sometimes since I am quitte new myself in this profession.


Best advice to me sofar:

When in (front of) a group you feel the URGE to make an intervention..... this could mean your intervention is more about you then about the groupprocess. When doubting.......shall I or shall I not adress could be on the right track.


Myriam Driessen +31 6 51396868


Barbara J. Wind []

Sun 2/20/2005 6:47 PM


The one thing I would share is that facilitating a group to a positive outcome is fullfilling and satisfying. Receiving positive feedback and "Thank you's " are great! 


From: "Kristin J. Arnold" <karnold@QPCTEAM.COM>

Date:         Mon, 21 Feb 2005 08:30:19 -0500


Fred asked:  "What one thing about being a facilitator would like to share with this class?"


When I read this posting a few days ago, my initial reaction was "Trust the team."  If you do all the preparatory work (agree on outcomes/deliverables, understand who will be in the room, create a process/agenda etc.) then trust the team to know what it needs to do and where it needs to go.  Then simply "facilitate" the process - making it easier (not harder!)  Recognize "strategic moments" when the group wants to deviate from the process/agenda or where you want them to go!


Coincidentally, I started reading a new book last night, "The Wisdom of Crowds" by James Surowiecki.  Started it at 7pm and couldn't put it down.

Certainly reaffirmed my belief in the power of groups.


Kristin J. Arnold, CMC, CPF, CSP

President, Quality Process Consultants, Inc.

Helping Teams To Be Extraordinary

800.589.4733 or 703.278.0892   fax 703.278.0891


From: "Howell Thomas" <howell_thomas@ATT.NET>

Date:         Mon, 21 Feb 2005 19:05:10 +0000


Well, Ned and Bob talked about "levels" in our work:


"And I think with some people keeping it at my level will be more immediate, while with others your added layers will add value."


My two cents leads to some pretty straightforward (maybe simple minded?) approaches.  While we're always interested in help stakeholders reach results that are meaningful to them, it's instructive to realize the the facilitation process is inherently educational.  With that understanding as a talisman, it's easier to manage the thresholds associated with the work.


Here are some examples of what I mean.  Are you a servant or performer?  A teacher or a student?  An artist or an engineer?  How do you play to the dark side?  The bright side?


These questions don't have right/wrong answers except in the eyes of the stakeholders.  I think that by being more explicit/external about what's behind the "how" of what you're doing you give the group more information to use in evaluating your effectiveness.


I almost always start out sessions by asking groups what process they like to use to solve problems.  When they don't have one, I suggest one.  I also like to ask them how they typically make decisions.  When they don't have a way, I suggest one.  I also ask them how important "agreement" about conclusions is to them.  When it's important, I ask them what process they use to build an agreement.  Since I can predict they don't have one, I suggest a way.


Now they're ready to go to work.



From: "Robert McNeil" <robmcneil@VIRTUALHIVE.COM>

Date:         Mon, 21 Feb 2005 11:46:43 -0500


Some different advice to New Facilitators.


Decide early on if this is a career for you. Facilitation can be a most rewarding career. If it is going to be a career, think of the Facilitation Skill-set as life-long mastery. Here are some things that have helped me along the way.


Read George Leonard's book - Mastery


Get yourself a successful facilitator as a mentor. Offer to carry her bags.


Question everything you see in her designs.


Question especially when she abandons her design and designs on the spot.


Read The Effective Facilitator - Roger Schwarz Get good foundation in the Art of Facilitation - Try your local Graduate Schools.


Enroll in some Group Dynamics Courses -


If you enjoy these classes, get a masters degree in Group Dynamics


Become a member of NTL National Training Labs


Learn the Art of Design


Join a local Toastmasters club


Take project management classes and volunteer to lead a local project


Find a way to collect 360 feedback on yourself


Volunteer to help non profits facilitate their meetings. (There are hundreds of poorly conducted meetings occurring everyday - make a difference) The practice will greatly improve your skills.


Develop a diagnostic mentality. Sherlock Holmes is a good start.


Join IAF


Embrace technology - learn to apply it to your facilitation repertoire Develop your outside interests - music, literature, food, science, poetry etc. These will become great sources for metaphors your clients will appreciate someday.


Get a one year subscription to the Wall Street Journal. Use it to learn business speak. Then lean how to de-jargon your own work.


Rob McNeil



From: "Michael Bungay Stanier, Box of Crayons" <michael@BOXOFCRAYONS.BIZ>

Date:         Mon, 21 Feb 2005 14:08:51 -0500


What I love about this thread is that the whole concept of "new" facilitator is pretty redundant. 

There's just lots of great advice for facilitators, period.  I love your list, Rob - thanks.


My offering is this:


- Learn to treat the praise and the criticism equally.  It's all useful feedback, and none of it is the truth.  Know that the 20% of the people who didn't enjoy your facilitation are as right as the 20% of the people who think you are a facilitation god.


- Be prepared to fail some.  Pushes the edges of what's possible serves your client and serves you.


- Be mindful of what you might do, when you fail.



Michael Bungay Stanier

Box of Crayons

185 Indian Rd

Toronto, Ontario M6R 2W2


+1 (416) 532-1322


From: "Colin Wilton" <Colin.Wilton@BRISBANE.QLD.GOV.AU>

Date:         Mon, 21 Feb 2005 22:29:19 +1000


One thing I am grateful for being told was to be myself.

When I first started facilitating I copied the style and process of my more experienced colleagues and I thought the clumsiness I experienced would disappear with practice and a more polished performance. When I started to be myself with groups I had fewer things to worry about, I started to feel capable and had some energy available to truly work with the groups to achieve outcomes.


From: "David Jago" <>

Date:         Tue, 22 Feb 2005 10:58:36 +1000


As a facilitator, you are there to serve the group.  You get to do whatever it takes to enable the group to do what it needs to do...



David Jago

Smart Meetings

P: 61 7 3851 4205

M: 61 0410 361 769


ABN: 87 796 909 261



From: "Maitreyee Mukherjee" <Moon@NIIT.COM>

Date:         Wed, 23 Feb 2005 16:03:15 +0530


Go with the people

Live with them

Learn from them

Love them

Start with what they know

Build with what they have

But with the best leaders

When the work is done

The task accomplished

The people will say

We have done this ourselves

                 -Lao Tsu

                  China 700BC



From: "Colleen Baker" <colleen.baker@CENTERPOINTENERGY.COM>

Date:         Wed, 23 Feb 2005 07:49:06 -0600


Try to remind people and yourself to stay away from pronouns, like them, us, we, him, it......  I find it very helpful in promoting understanding if I stay away from pronouns and use the actual name of the person or thing I am referring to.


Colleen Baker, PMP



From: "Ann Epps" <jlepps@PC.JARING.MY>

Date:         Wed, 23 Feb 2005 14:29:55 +0800


My advice to new facilitators:  Remember that it's not about you; it's about "them" and the task they have to accomplish.  Keep in mind there is seldom any glory for you if you've done your job well.  As an effective facilitator, however, you will experience satisfaction and fulfillment beyond measure when the group discovers, accomplishes, succeeds beyond their wildest dreams in large part because of the way they were facilitated.


The secret is:  besides being a lot of hard work, it's also a lot of fun to be a facilitator.


Ann Epps

IAF Certified Professional Facilitator and Assessor LENS

International, Malaysia-Singapore Leadership Effectiveness & New

Strategies Wisma MCIS, 5th Floor, 1st Tower Jalan Barat, 46200

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

Tel: (603) 7957-5604, Fax: (603) 7956-4420



Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2005 14:20:28 +0000

From: Bonnie Koenig <>


Original message:


> Try to remind people and yourself to stay away from pronouns, like them,

> us, we, him, it......  I find it very helpful in promoting understanding if

> I stay away from pronouns and use the actual name of the person or thing I

> am referring to.


I think this is another one of these situations where your own experience and style, and managing the specific situation all have to come into play.  If you have a situation where a few people are defensive or disruptive, staying away from focusing on them by name and instead referring to what "we" have agreed to can often diffuse the situation.  So, the lesson here for new (and old?) facilitators might be that there are many different options to consider and you will need to develop your own range of tools, and your own instincts for which one to use when. As someone else suggested, this is when observing (or even shadowing) more experienced

facilitators can be enlightening.


Bonnie Koenig

Going International

Chicago, IL, USA



Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2005 09:25:42 -0600

From: Mary Jackson <>


My advice for new facilitators springs to mind because of the topic on

group size:


Be realistic about what the group can accomplish.


The outcome from a group greater than 50 is very different than that from a group smaller than 25.  By their nature, smaller groups are more likely (but not certainly) to comprise the people who can make actual decisions about how the group will go forward.  Larger groups are more likely to be contributing information, responding to proposals and ideas, or doing individual development.


Even with small groups, always check whether THIS GROUP has the authority, ability, and willingness to accomplish whatever goal has been established for the group.  If they don't, the first agenda item should be to decide what the group can successfully achieve.


Sometimes all a group can do is decide how they can be successful with a decision that has been thrust upon them.  That's still a worthy goal. Trying to make them be happy with it is none of your business.