Teach "Meeting Facilitation Skills" in Only 90 Minutes?

Sandy Schuman

My colleague, Izzy Gesell, accepted such a challenge at the request of a client. He posted his proposed workshop outline to grp-facl, the group facilitation listserv I moderate, and asked for suggestions. Since I had just finished editing the book, Creating a Culture of Collaboration, I had some of its lessons in mind. And coincidentally, I had recently faced a similar situation. Here' s how I responded.


A couple of weeks ago I had a similar engagement, but with only 40 minutes for the session! My first thought was to say, "Not enough time; can't do it." Then I thought about Hillel's response to "Teach me the Law while I'm standing on one foot,"* and I figured since I had a full 40 minutes, it behooved me to give it a try!

Rather than attempt a comprehensive overview I decided to focus on three ideas that I think are fundamentally important to groups, facilitation, and collaboration.

Meaning. I talked about the importance of meaning in organizational life (and life in general) and the value of having a clear purpose, negotiated and renegotiated as it may be, for any meeting and the larger collaborative effort of which it is a part. This has implications for how we convene meetings, people's internal commitment to attend and participate, how we communicate, etc.

Choices. I suggested that making choices is fundamental to organizational life (and life in general), and emphasized the value of having a clear choice-making process, negotiated and renegotiated as it may be, for any particular decision. Indeed, the choice of choice-making processes is a critical choice! This is related to the various decision-making tools and techniques that might be used by a group.

Relationships. I talked about the importance of relationships in organizational life (and life in general) and the value of the relationships among the members of the group, negotiated and renegotiated as they may be, and the relationships between each of the members and others outside the group. It is important to recognize how our relationships affect our choices, and vice versa, and how the meanings we gain depend on our relationships, and vice versa.

Meaning is all we want.
Choices are all we make.
Relationships are all we have.


*For more information on Hillel's response to "standing on one foot.
For more information about Creating a Culture ofCollaboration.

Sandy Schuman
Executive Decision Services LLC