masterful facilitation

I spent last week at the annual International Association of Facilitators conference in Scottsdale. This is one of the conferences I go to for myself (though I did offer a session on Facilitating Learning for Project Teams).

One of the highlights for me was watching Jim Rough give a little demonstration of the method he developed, Dynamic Facilitation. Jim works in a lot of high conflict situations and manages to energize people towards creative solutions even when they start far, far apart.

So Jim gets 70 people into a room and then tells us we’re going to talk about the war in Iraq. Just a little potential for volatility.

One guy stood up and stated his point of view.

A big, tall guy leapt to his feet and loudly stated: “I disagree!”

Yikes, I though, this could get exciting.

But Jim did something masterful.

He moved into the big tall guy’s field of vision and said quietly “Hold on, talk to me.” As the guy moved, Jim moved with him, always in his field of vision, quietly saying, “Talk to me.

The big tall guy’s voice settled… and he said his piece to Jim. It shifted from being a direct attack or response to the other guy. There wasn’t any escalation.

And then we moved on to another person, bringing another point of view into the room. And it continued that way. People stated opposing views, but with an aim of finding some action we could all support rather than winning a debate or shouting down the other side.

It’s fun to see a master at work.

Now I’m off to the Agile Development Conference. More fun.