The Ten Commandments of Facilitative Leadership

Following are our Ten Commandments or guiding principles for dealing with people (all based on “Treat others as you wish to be treated”):

  • People are creative if asked.
  • People are intelligent.
  • People are intrinsically reasonable.
  • People do not like to be blamed.
  • People have different goals in life.
  • People prefer the positive to the negative.
  • People share similar fears.
  • People want to be recognized.
  • Never embarrass people, especially in public.
  • People want to make a difference.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

Do not forget to order Change or Die if you working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

How to Manage Group Conflict Resulting in Higher Quality Deliverables

Don’t Run

A facilitator sees conflict in a workshop coming from the group and coming from within.  Internal and external conflict reflect emotions that, when harnessed, enable creative change.  A facilitator must understand and manage conflict.  A meeting without conflict is a boring meeting, and we’ve seen very little value derived from predictable and unexciting meetings and workshops.

Additionally the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) aspires for you to:

  • “Help individuals identify and review underlying assumptions
  • Recognize conflict and its role within group learning / maturity
  • Provide a safe environment for conflict to surface
  • Manage disruptive group behavior
  • Support the group through resolution of conflict”


Facilitators manage groups.  You must first understand how groups function and appropriate ways to help them without impeding their progress.  Here we discuss the evolution of groups and the types of group leadership to exhibit.

Managing Group Conflict

A Group Life Cycle

Groups, like people, develop and evolve.  They can also regress.  As a session leader, you are responsible for moving a group through a developmental process.  Most groups strive to evolve through four stages as they develop through this life cycle.  For any given group, you may see only the first two or three stages.  Do not forget—in a room of ten people, there are at least eleven personalities!

Stages and characteristics include:

  • Forming Orientation, hesitant participation, search for meaning, dependency
  • Storming Conflict, dominance, rebelliousness, power
  • Norming Expression of opinions, development of group cohesion
  • Performing Emergence of solutions, formation of a “team”

Note:   The four stages are adapted from Tuckman, B.W., “Development sequence in small groups,” Psychological Bulletin, 1965, 63, 384-399.

Stage 1

Forming— Key word: Confusion.  Groups at this early stage are working on two primary areas, the reason they are there (purpose) and social relationships.  Some landmarks:

  • Concern over purpose, relevance of meeting, “How this helps?”
  • Looking to the leader for structure, answers, approval, acceptance
  • “Why are we here?”
  • Quiet groups
  • Looking to the leader to prove that the session will work

Cultures that find themselves locked into this stage are frequently described as “Command Control” where all decision-making is done by superiors.  Participants meanwhile stay focused on “I” such as, “I wish I had eaten something before this meeting.”

Stage 2

Storming—Key words: Conflict (differences) and creativity.  Groups begin to acknowledge differences in perspectives; conflict is characteristic between members or between members and leader.  Some landmarks:

  • Struggle for control
  • Some members with strong needs to dominate
  • Possible hostility toward leader
  • Looking to, expecting the leader to be magical
  • Open expression of differences
  • Accepting conflicts as sources of creativity

Cultures in this phase focus on cultivating and changing through personal and professional improvement.  Participants get nudged to begin thinking about what “It” is that justified our time together.

Stage 3

Norming—Key words: communication and commitment.  Rather than focusing on differences, members begin to recognize the commonality and shared interests.  The participants are more comfortable about expressing their opinions.  Some landmarks:

  • More open communication
  • Still some unwillingness to be fully responsible for outcome
  • Inter-member support

Cultures here display and value competence, especially on the expert capabilities of a few members of the group or team.  Individuals can start thinking about the deliverables and how it impacts “Thou” people throughout the organization

Stage 4

Performing—Key words: Communication, community, consensus, and commitment.  Rather than focusing on differences, members begin to recognize the commonality and shared interests.  The participants form a cohesive team—they unite.  Some landmarks:

  • Open communication
  • Pride in the group
  • Focus on getting the shared goals, task of the group accomplished
  • Inter-member support

Here we have a collaborative culture where decisions are consensus driven and the team works in complete partnership toward success.  The individuals view themselves as an integral unit, known as “We”.

Not Clear

Boundaries between stages are not always clear, nor does a group permanently move from one stage.  As facilitator, you guide the group through the earlier stages into performing.


In working with the group during a meeting, you need to gauge how the group, as a whole, is able to perform the task at hand.  Depending on the readiness of the group, you as process leader will lead in different ways.

Readiness consists of two qualities, job or task readiness and psychological readiness (motivation, confidence).


To assess the group’s readiness, ask yourself these two questions:

  1. “Do they have the necessary skills or information?” (task readiness).  Groups in Stages 1 and 2 lack task readiness.
  2. “Do they have the appropriate emotional qualities or resources (relationship readiness)?”  Groups in Stages 2 and 3 lack relationship readiness.

Groups in Stage 4 are ready to do the task and build relationships.

Leadership Styles

As leader, you monitor these two dimensions (task and relationship) constantly on both a group and an individual level.

As you do, you express your assessment of the situation in two types of leader behavior.  These are:

  • Task/ directive behavior (ie, process policeman)
  • Relationship behavior (ie, empathetic listening)
For detailed support, see your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership training  session offered around the world (see for a current schedule).

How to Build a Group Vision



Helps groups decide where to go or be at some point in the future.


Have you ever had a problem getting a group of friends or family to agree on where to go to eat?  Now try to get a group of bright professionals to agree on where they are headed!  It is much easier to ask and build consensus around “Where have you been ?” or, “What type of legacy have you left behind ?”

This step defines the specific vision of the organization—where it wants to go.  A vision is a desired position specified in sufficient detail so that an organization recognizes it when they reach it.  Effort is directed towards attaining the vision.  Vision drives objectives.

Expected Output

Clearly and properly defined vision statement results.


Use the tactile method with sub-teams as follows:

Hand out recent copies of an appropriate industry or organizational or trade magazine or periodical familiar to the participants.  Turn them to a specific page (could be the front cover) or column that is frequently read.  The Wall Street Journal could be a default publication that you use, but decide which section will display the headline based on the nature of the group you are working with.

Have each group develop a newspaper headline that they would like to read on the date of their vision—eg, “What would the headline read on January 15, 20xx?”  Have them embellish the headline with the story behind the headline.

Bring the teams together to compare and contrast.  Work the Bookends looking for similarities and differences.  First work the headline.  The story items supporting the headlines can also be used to support detailing the vision.

NOTE:  Pretend they are on a beach in the future and pick up this periodical, what you are really asking them is “What is the legacy you have left behind as a result of the effort we began today?”


This step is complete when you have a statement (not necessarily grammatically pure), that the group believes captures the target or vision of where they want to go.  Check with them to see if they can recognize the target defined by their vision and can tell when they arrive.


See the following websites for headlines from around the world to support your handouts: or .

For detailed support, see your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership training  session offered around the world (see for a current schedule).

How to Use “Pros and Cons” with a Group of People



This tool supports decision-making for a group of people.  It can be viewed as a surrogate to Benjamin Franklin’s “Pros & Cons” method, whose approach is better suited for an individual than a group of people.  Especially with controversial issues, it is helpful to consider multiple points of view.Two Sides of Every Issues


To discuss a controversial issue, carefully (and with advanced forethought about the need for a homogeneous, heterogeneous, or hybrid blend) separate your participants into three teams: Affirmative, Dismissive, and Observer.  Give the affirmative and dismissive teams each 15 minutes to develop their arguments, respectively supporting and refuting the issue.  The observer team drafts the criteria by which it may evaluate the issue.  Have each team present their arguments to the observer team—like in a debate or court of law.  Next . . .

  • The affirmative and dismissive teams prepare for a two-minute rebuttal to defend their positions.
  • The audience group then describes the criteria they suggest using to decide the issue, based on the arguments presented by both affirmative and dismissive groups.
  • The groups are given another five minutes to revise their arguments based on audience criteria and the debate sequence described above is repeated.
  • After the second round, the teams reform as one to discuss the issue.  If the discussion reaches an impasse, switch team members, carefully placing the louder voices on the teams opposite of their apparent voice so the are forced to the other side.

Do not polarize the participants.  Ensure that the teams are made up of people who hold a variety of views.  You select the teams—do not allow the participants to choose.  In most debate contests, the side you must defend is not known until minutes before the debate, so that the debaters are forced to show-up prepared to argue either side.


The benefits of the exercise are that it:

  • Stretches the issues, criteria, and perspectives.
  • Allows the group to build a stronger view of all sides of the issue.
  • Typically provides more robust and coherent arguments, issues, and criteria.

Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs)


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