On Being Neutral—Take Only Photographs, Leave Only Bubbles


As a YMCA-certified SCUBA diver, we were taught to “take only photographs and leave only bubbles.”  Likewise, an effective facilitator should take only participant input and leave only a thorough trail of documentation and rationale.  You will find this premise emphasized in the 27th verse of the Wisdom of the Tao written 2,500 years ago.  While varying translations and transliterations exist, we’ve borrowed one version of the 27th verse below:

A knower of the truth

travels without leaving a trace,

speaks without causing harm,

gives without keeping an account.

The door the shuts, though having no lock,

cannot be opened.

The knot he ties, though using no cord,

cannot be undone.

The Traveler

Be wise and help all being impartially,

abandoning none.

Waste no opportunities.

This is called following the light.

What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?

What is a bad man but a good man’s job?

If the teacher is not respected

and the student is not cared for,

confusion will arise, however clever one is.

This is the great secret.

The role of facilitator is captured by both the knower and the teacher, of context.  The shut door represents preventing scope creep.  The tied knot represents the consensus that has been built, perhaps not one’s “favorite” but at a high enough standard that participants will support it professionally and not lose any sleep over it personally.  Helping all suggests the innovative potential that exists by embracing heterogeneity.  Wasting no opportunities implies thorough listening and documentation.

Above all, to be wise is to be impartial—this is the great secret.

Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.

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’re 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.

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About Facilitative Leader & Instructor
Biographic Sketch — Terrence Metz Since the end of 1999, Terrence Metz has been a founding principal partner and vice president at Morgan Madison & Company. For over twenty years, through professional and academic endeavors, Terrence has focused on improving group decision-making. His experience has proven that two important components to effective group decision-making are: 1. Higher quality information assures higher quality decisions, 2. Properly managed conflict, generates more “options” to consider—
and groups with more options are proven to make higher quality decisions. Terrence is passionate about using and teaching the FAST Facilitative Leadership Training technique so that people and teams make more informed decisions. Terrence is the lead instructor and primary curriculum developer for MG Rush Performance Learning. He earned his Six Sigma Green Belt® from Motorola University and wrote most of the existing FAST curriculum. Terrence made the FAST technique more robust by adding and enhancing decision-making tools such as PowerBalls and the FAST quantitative SWOT technique that is used worldwide by Fortune 1000 companies. He introduced the concept of holism to the field of structured facilitation as a method for keeping discussions on target and aligning deliverables throughout an organization. Since 1999, Terrence has taught over two hundred classes. With a Baccalaureate in Science from Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and a MBA from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on product/ process development and innovation. Terrence has a P&L background in capital goods markets with highly engineered-products and services (eg, Honeywell). He is an expert group facilitator, instructor, and developer of workflow processes and Voice of the Market inputs that accelerate commercial success. His engagements have included strategic development, business planning, problem-solving, continuous improvement, organizational design, process design and improvement, customer cognitivity workshops, and market-based product development and launch. His book "Change or Die: The Business Process Improvement Manual" from CRC Press was published internationally in 2012. Terrence completed additional graduate work in inter-cultural decision-making processes at Marquette University, is a former board member of the Product Development Managers’ Association, and a long-time member of the IAF (International Association of Facilitators), MFNA (Midwest Facilitators Network Association), TMAC (Technology Management Association of Chicago) and WFS (World Future Society). Most importantly, Terrence is an effective listener and equally adept at teaching FAST classes as well as galvanizing consensus around complex issues for organizations and groups.

3 Responses to On Being Neutral—Take Only Photographs, Leave Only Bubbles

  1. Pingback: How to Categorize (or Cluster) Ideas and Inputs « Facilitative Leadership & Facilitator Training

  2. Pingback: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life « Facilitative Leadership & Facilitator Training

  3. Pingback: Facilitators are More Popular than Dictators: Google Ngram Viewer « Facilitative Leadership & Facilitator Training

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