The Swear Jar Podcast: Facilitation in the (New) Real World

Another meeting? Uggh!

We’ve all sat through them…those meetings that suck the life right out of you. And, it’s particularly frustrating when you are there to address difficult issues like, say, how to stay competitive during a scary global pandemic.

But, just consider for a moment how much more complexity, uncertainty and emotional discomfort is seething just below the surface for absolutely everyone in those meetings. So, wouldn’t it be amazing if there is was a way achieve the best possible decisions quickly and with as little pain as possible?

A Silver Bullet. Well, kinda.


Of course, there is no “silver bullet” to solve this all too familiar situation. However, there is a silver-ish bullet worth exploring by any employee communications professional who needs to harness the skills and energies of a group to bring about drastic and/or rapid change. Specifically, we’re talking about group facilitation — the discipline of improving how groups function, solve problems and make better, faster decisions.

We sat down with Facilitation First’s President, Michael Goldman who trains executives across organizational functions on how to structure, conduct, and assess group meetings to help them through any stage of the group’s development (i.e. forming, storming, norming and performing). Here are some of the things we covered in our spirited discussion of 38 minutes or so:

Key Topics


  • How group facilitation is different than establishing meeting ‘ground rules’ (4:20)
  • The characteristics of groups/meetings that most benefit from group facilitation (10:04)
  • Symptoms that reveal people/groups/organizations need group facilitation (16:36)
  • Some key skills and qualities of great facilitators (19:02)
  • Getting started on building facilitation skills and support for group facilitation (23:54)
  • Measuring the impact of group facilitation (27:24)

Nuggets of Wisdom from Michael


Timing: Group Facilitation is particularly helpful during those times when groups are: thrown together to deal with a crisis, dealing with emotionally difficult issues, newly formed, or yielding ineffective/stale outcomes.

Skills: Look for the following skills and qualities from a group facilitator: active listening, establishing and maintaining neutrality, finding common ground, posing probing questions to get to the heart of difficult/contentious issues, ability to de-emotionalize issues, diffusing conflict, thinking quickly on their feet, and avoiding getting drawn into thorny issues.

Proof points: Determine that effectiveness of group facilitation for your organization by watching for: the quality and speed at which decisions are made in group meetings, the participation levels in group meetings, the degree of buy-in during group meetings, sense of clarity of next steps and follow-through from group meetings.

For examples of other concrete actions that you can take to encourage, implement and optimize group facilitation, listen to The Swear Jar Podcast episode, Facilitation the (New) Real World – available wherever you listen to your podcasts.

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