of the Week
Journal | Issue #0110 | July 22, 2003 | 8,500 Subscribers
Check out this basic teleclass for
Facilitators. Coming September 8th. Click
here for details.
Ad-free pdf version of MFJ now available. Click
click" on the above logos and "Save As" to save these
logos to your harddrive to use on your website or emails.
Get help with that upcoming presentation. Click
Here to check out an affordable alternative
to "live" coaching.
to learn more
about our new Virtual University for Facilitators.
to the small town facilitatorion crisis I wrote about
a couple of weeks back, we've formed a new personal
growth group and we're starting off on the right foot
this time. In
the spirit of new beginnings, this week's article,
Grounded With Ground Rules,"
explores the starting point of most healthy groups,
by briefly exploring the significance of setting ground
rules, a list of good rules to start with, and some
strategies to improve buy-in.
At the end
of this article, we announce the
next scheduled offering of our ever-popular class on
the basics of Facilitation, "Random Acts of Facilitation,"
scheduled for September 8th-12th. MFJ
readers get a registration
discount. See details,
schedule, and testimonials at the end of this issue.
If any of you have had interesting
experiences with groups as either a participant or as
a facilitator, please tell us about it. We may invite
you to interview with us to highlight your story as
a case study for a future issue.
Thanks for your support!
Getting Grounded With Ground Rules
and enforcing good ground rules are essential for the effectiveness
of ongoing groups.
are ground rules important?
I see ground rules as the boundary of what I call a
group's "process container." They govern the
functional ways and means within which participants
will engage with one another. In a world where many
of our ways of communicating with each other are habitually
dysfunctional, creating, committing to, and following
good ground rules are huge positive step toward healthy
relating. They also give the facilitator, and others
in the group, implied consent to intervene when they
What role do they play in group process?
I'm involved in a new personal growth group where we
spent the first two meetings just working through our
ground rules. In fact, discussions around one of them,
"We will test inferences and assumptions,"
sent us into a heated hour long discussion and quite
a bit of awareness around our own personal patterns
Why would we spend so much time belaboring a single
ground rule? There were moments when comments and questions
like this came up during our meeting: "This is
ridiculous. This is too nit-picky. We'll never get on
with the real work if we keep going like this."
It's ironic that when we see the need to form a group
to build a stronger team, to solve a pressing problem,
to build a cohesive strategy, or to develop ourselves
personally or spiritually, we get focused on "doing"
something and want to bypass or rush by "how"
we do it.
But it's the "how" we do it that can make
all the difference in the world. How we go about defining
problems and working together to solve them will often
determine the quality and duration of a solution. How
we communicate and understand each other contributes
to the prevention or inflaming of problems in the first
place. Taking the time to explore and improve how we
relate and work together can give us the leverage, insights,
passion, and staying power to accomplish the extraordinary.
It's our ground rules that guide how we work together.
So yes, they are worth the time to pound out. And pounding
them out together is when the work of becoming an effective
team usually begins.
do we establish ground rules?
It's important to spend the necessary time to come
to consensus on the specific rules for an ongoing
group. With that said, you can always suggest ground
rules you believe would be important after the group
takes a cut at them, and let them decide to include
them or not.
If you're meeting only once for a two-hour meeting,
you may simply suggest a few basic ground rules you
believe will support your group's work together.
When you find participants reluctant to work through
their ground rules, ask this question. "Would
it be worth taking some time now to unravel some of
our most disempowering patterns of communicating and
relating, if their awareness would positively impact
the remainder of your relationships for the rest of
What are some good ground rules?
Here is a comprehensive list of *ground rules. These
ground rules assume a group meets regularly to deal
with nonordinary problems, and has sufficient time
to solve them.
assumptions and inferences.
all relevant information.
on interests, not positions.
on what important words mean.
the reasons behind one's statements, questions, and
openly with any member of the group.
statements, then invite questions and comments.
design ways to test disagreements and solutions.
the discussion focused.
not take cheap shots or otherwise distract the group.
members are expected to participate in all phases
of the process.
relevant information with nongroup members.
Make decisions by consensus.
groups will draw on some of the above but also include
rules like the following:
- No side-talking.
- Keep what's shared in the group confidential.
- Show up on time at the start of the meeting and after
- Listen actively -- respect others when they are talking.
- Be conscious of body language and nonverbal responses
-- they can be as disrespectful as words.
Buy-in and enforcement strategies.
Buy-in to ground rules is critical before you start
group process. To do this, get a verbal acknowledgment
from each of them and read body language to check for
hesitance or an uncertain commitment. Resolve barriers
to full consensus before moving forward.
Post the ground rules in the room for all to see. Refer
back to them as necessary to remind the group of their
Challenge the participants on the ground rules early
and often. If you do not set a tone of strict adherence
to the items early in the process, it may become impossible
to enforce them later.
you are using more than two or three ground rules, try
focusing on particular items during appropriate activities
or discussions. For example, if you are facilitating
a discussion in a large group, state before the discussion
starts that you would like to focus on active listening.
Challenge participants to refrain from any side discussions.
The same can be done if you are facilitating an experiential
activity, by introducing it as a "silent"
these ground rules in your own participation. This is
especially true for an item such as #4 (be specific,
use examples). Be sure that your own language reflects
ownership and responsibility by using as many "I"
and "me" statements as possible.
a particular ground rule is routinely broken, bounce
it back to the participants. A fruitful discussion can
often arise from a close examination of why the participants
are not adhering to particular items.
the ground rules occasionally, and if time allows, ask
whether the participants would like to add any new items.
remember, you are "doing" the work of helping
the group meet their objectives by processing the challenges
and behavior patterns that show up around accomplishing
this first major task of the group, establishing ground
rules--their process container. After all, you wouldn't
go out to collect gold nuggets without a bucket, would
These groundrules come from "The Skilled Facilitator,"
Roger Schwarz, Jossey-Bass Inc., 1994, wiith permission
of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
there anything you need to change about the way you help
a group develop or enforce ground rules? I'd love to hear
from you. Please email
us your comments.
your favorite ground rules?
We'd love to hear particularly powerful ground rules
you've found helpful in your groups. Please
us your responses. All those who respond will
be sent the entire collection.
Steve Davis is "The 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!
for new facilitators and change agents.
and attitudes for the new facilitator or group
member who wants to get their group into serious
Random Acts of Facilitation, 5-Day Teleclass
This class will meet for five consecutive weekdays September
8-12, 2003 at 10:00 AM PST, 1:00 PM EST (NY Time) to
cover 25+ facilitative actions you can take to empower
and move groups forward. This course is for beginning
facilitators or group members that simply want to know
more about facilitation so that they can make the groups
they are a part of more effective.
the 5-Day Format/Training works...
1. You dial into your class every day for 5 days (Mon-Fri)
for a 30-minute focused training segment using a conferencing
2. You work a 25-point checklist during the 5 days (about
an hour a day of study and field work) which you complete
by Friday afternoon, or sooner if you wish.
3. You will have the opportunity to discuss issues on
the subject matter with the instructor and your classmates
via an online discussion forum during the course.
4. During the week, you may access the instructor via
email for help or situational questions.
Random Acts of Facilitation Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the
Introduction to the Facilitation
and Self Facilitation Skills.
1. Create the Ambience.
2. Share the Dream.
3. Get Facilitation
5. Me First.
Relating with compassion
6. Be Ignorant.
7. Make Smiles Happen.
8. Hold 'em High.
9. Acknowledge the Elephant.
10. Turn on Your Crap-Detector.
Dynamics and Facilitation
11. Build the Container.
12. Build trust.
13. Mine the Unexpected.
14. Evolve Your Team.
15. Honor the Process.
16. Facilitate Full Participation
and Presenting yourself confidently, professionally,
17. Prepare for Success.
18. Get Real.
19. Make Experiences, Not Speeches
20. Watch the Body Talk.
21. Be your message
Intervening to shift group
22. Tame the Tormentors.
24. Use the Struggle.
25. Break through barriers.
26. Facilitate from Within.
27. Embrace Facilitation as a Master's Path
to you of participating from the 5-Day Random Acts of
1. Get a great introduction to the concept and practice
of facilitation skills if you are contemplating becoming
a facilitator, team leader, board member, manager, mediator,
2. Never waste another minute in an ineffective meeting
3. Learn how to challenge and empower every group you
come in contact with.
4. Learn skills to help groups make quantum leaps in
5. Be a catalyst for positive change in your community.
with your training...
In addition to the 5-Day training described above, you
1. Free access to the participant-only website (lots
of resources, forms, etc.).
2. Free access to the RealAudio version of the 5-Day
3. Free copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value).
The full cost of training/access is only $79 for MFJ
readers ($89 for the general public) including a free
copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value). Everything
you read about above is included. And, we offer a 100%-satisfaction-guaranteed
September 8-12, 2003, 10:00 AM PST, 1:00 PM EST (NY
Time), 45-60 minutes each day.
here to register. Immediately upon completion
of your registration, you will receive an email with
instructions to access the course and free article bank.
This course is limited to 20 individuals, first come,
the satisfaction guarantee
If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this
package, simply email us with a request to refund/credit
your credit card in the full amount and we will do so
immediately. It's our policy to do this and we honor
this in every single case. (Why? Because we are sensitive
to the fact that you are buying an e-course/product
from us and we feel that if this package isn't EXACTLY
what you expected or wanted, that you should be able
to get 100% of your money back. This policy completely
removes the buying risk for you and keeps our customer-satisfaction
rates extremely high.)
here for a one-minute audio testimonial from
several participants on the final day of the teleclass.
you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal. Look
for your next issue on July 29, 2003.
©2003. All Rights Reserved