Volume 12, March 2002: Facilitation

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2002 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Facilitation is the provision of opportunities, resources, encouragement, and support for the group to achieve its aim, and to do this through enabling the group to take control and responsibility for the way it proceeds.” — Trevor Bentley

“Facilitation is leading from the back of the room. The job of the facilitator is to hold the space for the meeting to be successful.” — M. K. Key


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Incorporating facilitation skills into leadership training.
  • Making more decisions with the help of a team, therefore asking for assistance with group process.
  • Use of social contracts as ways to agree on roles and relationships.
  • Viewing dysfunctional behavior within the context of a system – an uneven participation process rather than a meeting dominator.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Leaders are held to a high standard when it comes to personal integrity. To gauge integrity, followers read consistency of word and deed, with the actions speaking louder than the words. This applies to the keeping of promises, as well.

Some leaders get caught in promises that they can’t keep – but fail to acknowledge this openly. The social contract needs a tune up. What is required is to rework the agreement – “I intended to do this, but for these reasons, I cannot. Here is what I can do …” And thus the preservation of integrity.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Can the team leader also be the facilitator?”
This was the 70’s model – leading, recording and managing group process from the front of the room. When the facilitator role was broken out, at first people were instructed to sit back, take notes and provide feedback at the end of the meeting. Now the role has been expanded to include so much assessment and intervention, and an active seat at the table, it is hard to imagine doing both jobs as one.
“Is it okay to take notes during the meeting?”
A facilitator needs to observe at many levels and be prepared to provide feedback. It is hard to imagine keeping track with out taking notes. But be sure to explain to the team that you are writing things down and why. Always seek their permission to use any kind of recording.
“In your experience, what are the most powerful facilitative interventions?”
Two come to mind: 1) the innocent question. e.g., “What’s going on here?” and 2) clarification of “What are we trying to achieve?” and “What method will get us there?” These are introductory skills yet are often so helpful. I might add a Process Check: “How do you feel about what we’re doing right now?”
“I’m reluctant to jump right in to facilitate. Any suggestions?”
Of course, confidence comes with experience. But even with my own practice, I start at the gentle end of the intervention continuum and move up as needed. Here’s my tickler list:
  • Non-intervention
  • Silence
  • Nonverbal
  • Question to Clarify
  • Descriptive Feedback
  • Evaluative Feedback
  • Question to Move
  • Debrief
  • Reframe
  • Teach/Train
  • Share Your Idea
  • Make Suggestions
  • Guide
  • Mediate
  • Direct
  • Third Party Intervention


Key Associates, LLC offers a two-day experiential course in facilitation. See The Art of Facilitation.

For modeling of group and meeting facilitation, contact Orchard Advisors at .

The Facilitation Factory is creating an online course in Facilitation. Preview the first modules at The Facilitation Factory.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Facilitate provides your organization with a powerful set of conferencing tools. Your employees, clients and team members work together in the same room or join in from across the Internet to exchange ideas, solve problems and create new opportunities. All they need to participate is a standard web browser.

3M Meeting Network offers tools and ideas for the meeting facilitator.

Order supplies and publications for facilitators at Pfeiffer. Search for “The 2002 Annual” and request a catalogue.


  • ASTD. How to Facilitate, Alexandria, VA: ASTD June, 1994.
  • Bentley, Trevor. Facilitation: Providing Opportunities for Learning. London: McGraw-Hill, 1994.
  • Bolton, R. People Skills. New York: Touchstone, 1979.
  • Cohen, Herb. You Can Negotiate Anything. New York: Citadel Press, 1980.
  • Crum, Thomas F. The Magic of Conflict. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1987.
  • Doyle, M. and Straus, D. How to Make Meetings Work. New York: Jove Books, 1976.
  • Fisher, Roger, and Ury, William. Getting to Yes. New York: Penguin Books, 1981.
  • Hart, Lois B. Thoughtless Facilitation: An Instructor’s Manual for Facilitation Training. Amherst, MA: Human Resource Development Press, 1991.
  • Heider, John. The Tao of Leadership. Aldershot: Wildwood House, 1986.
  • Mayer, Richard J. Conflict Management: The Courage to Confront. Columbus: Battelle Press, 1989.
  • Neuhauser, Peg C. Tribal Warfare in Organizations. New York: Harper & Row Press, 1988.
  • Parker, Glenn M. Cross-Functional Teams: Working with Allies, Enemies, and Other Strangers. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1984.
  • Pfiefer and Jones’ Annuals for Developing Human Resources (all years have good exercises for teams and facilitators).
  • Phillips, R.C. The Art of Managing Differences: Part I: Levels of Conflict. Presentation to the Michigan Construction User Council, October 20, 1987.
  • Reddy, W. Brendan. Intervention Skills. San Diego: Pfeiffer, 1994.
  • Rees, Fran. How to Lead Work Teams. San Diego: Pfeiffer, 1991.
  • Ross, M.B. Coping with Conflict: The 1982 Annual for Facilitators, Trainers, and Consultants. University Associates, 1982, pp. 135-139.
  • Ryan, Kathleen D., and Oestreich, Daniel K. Driving Fear Out of the Workplace. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1991.
  • Schein, E.H. Process Consultation: Its Role in Organizational Development (Vol. 1, 2nd ed.) Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1988.
  • Scholtes, Peter. The Team Handbook. Madison, WI: Joiner Associates, Inc., 1988.
  • Schwarz, Roger M. The Skilled Facilitator: Practical Wisdom for Developing Effective Groups. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994.
  • Senge, Peter M. The Fifth Discipline. New York: Doubleday, 1990.
  • Senge, Peter M. The Leader’s New Work: Building Learning Organizations. Sloan Management Review, Fall 1990, 7-23.
  • Van Gundy, Arthur. Idea Power. New York. Amacom, 1992.
  • Varney, G. Building Productive Teams. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989, pp 40-41, 68-77.
  • Walton, Richard E. Managing Conflict: Interpersonal Dialogue and Third Party Roles. Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1987.


Buy MK’s latest book!