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How to Intervene When Facilitating

Copyright Carter McNamara, Authenticity Consulting, LLC

Note that the reader might best be served to first read the topic Group Dynamics to understand the basic nature of most groups and their typical stages of development.

What is Intervening?

An intervention is a technique, usually used by a facilitator, to stop a destructive process or enhance a constructive process in a group. Some of the most common situations that require interventions are when ground rules are being broken, the group seems stalled or stuck, there is prolonged conflict among members, or some members are not participating. (This document does not provide guidelines for conducting each type of intervention; rather, it provides an overview of the types of interventions.)

Variety of Intervention Techniques

The nature of the intervention depends on the nature of the current process in the group. There are a wide variety of intervention techniques, for example:

  • Asking for clarity
  • Asking questions
  • Confronting
  • Making suggestions
  • Providing other perspectives
  • Reminding the group about their ground rules
  • Structuring activities
  • Summarizing

Core Principles for Authentic, Effective Interventions

The job of a facilitator usually is not to lead or direct a group, but rather is to provide support and guidance for the group to work toward its purpose – the nature of facilitation is often quite indirect, depending on the purpose of the group.

So unless the situation is around a major, destructive conflict, be careful not to take away the group’s responsibility for the situation.

So, for example, if a ground rule is repeatedly broken, members just aren’t participating, the group continually seems to stray from their purpose, or the group seems really stuck or stalled, then give the group an opportunity to recognize their situation, take responsibility for it, and decide what to do about it. For example, you could:

1. Briefly describe what you are seeing or hearing (in the here and now) that leads you to conclude that there is a problem. Do not just report what you feel or sense – try to be more specific about what you are seeing or hearing.

2. Ask the group what they want to do about the situation, within a time frame.

3. Be silent for a while, while group members react and discuss the situation. You might give them suggestions, but let group members decide, if possible.

4. Focus the discussion on the situation at hand.

5. Ask them for a decision.

Also consider
The following are group-based methods.
Action Learning
Board Committees
Communities of Practice
Conflict Management
Focus Groups
Group Coaching
Group Conflict Management
Group Dynamics (about nature of groups, stages of group development, etc)
Group Learning
Group-Based Problem Solving and Decision Making
Large-Scale Interventions
Meeting Management
Open Space Technology
Self-Directed and Self-Managed Work Teams
Team Building
Training and Development
Virtual Teams

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