More info about interventions by the facilitator
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 08:34:57 -0600 (MDT)
I received several private messages of which several had the theme of:
Intervention sounds like group therapy. I am sending my reply to the whole
list and adding some hopefully reassuring details.

Intervention is not group therapy. The effective facilitator does not seek
to clarify the deep emotional reasons behind behaviors unless that is what
the group wants. Intervention is used to support the use of the groups
ground rules, to minimize behaviors that are ineffective, and to keep morale
high. Intervention has two sides, the supportive side and the corrective

Supportive intervention is simply positive reinforcement of the groups
ground rules or of individual positive contributions. For example, in a
meeting discussion over parking, Patty says: I need covered parking. My old
car leaks and when it rains it makes my interior all wet and moldy.

Since this statement is in line with the groups ground rule of: "state your
needs and give details", I as facilitator might choose to publically praise
her by saying: "thank you for clearly stating your needs and giving us the
details behind them."  Doing so I reinforce the groups ground rules, I give
Patty a positive stroke, and the rest of the group sees it. Ground rules are
very hard to stick with unless they are reinforced. You forget about them
quickly unless you are reminded regularily. Intervention keeps them in front
of people. Public intervention reminds the group to be accountable.

A private supportive intervention might look like this. Marcia has received
feedback from the group that when she uses sarcasm it hurts people, they
feel wounded, or confused about what she really means. Marcia is working on
not making sarcastic remarks and when she speaks at one point, she starts
off sarcastically, but then self corrects, pauses and then comes out with a
sincere statement. After the meeting I would come up to her privately and
mention that I really appreciated her work in the meeting today. This helps
her reinforce her self contract. In a well functioning group, others would
comment to her about it as well and that good feeling and support will go a
long ways in her self work. The more you can say "thank you" to each other,
the better people will feel about the group.

Conversely, corrective interventions are not necessarily confrontational, in
fact seldom so. For example, in the same parking discussion Shirley says: "I
think this plan stinks. Nobody is going to be able to get their cars in
there." My corrective intervention would go something like: "Shirley, could
you give us more information about your needs and give us some more

This correction, a public intervention, is seemless and non-threatening and
steers Shirley back to the ground rules.

Using interventions as a delibrate facilitation tool takes some thinking.
Its a very good thing to have on your meeting plan. You can actually list
behaviors and ground rules you want to reinforce to help you remember. By
the way, in general the ratio of positive to corrective interventions should
be at least 10 to 1, meaning lots of positive feedback should be happening
for every correction needed. Catch 'em being good is a great way to
reinforce the behaivors that make meetings effective and go a long way
towards creating a positive and good feeling meeting environment. Once you
do this a few times, complementing and praising people becomes a natural
part of your faciliation, and corrections will come easily and with good

Rob Sandelin
Effective meetings/effective facilitation workshops available in 2000.

  • (no other messages in thread)

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.