How to Intervene When Facilitating

Sections of this topic

    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 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.

    Related Library Topics

    Related Library Topics

    Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Dialoguing

    In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which have posts related to dialoguing. Scan down the blog’s page to see various posts. Also, see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar of the blog or click on “Next” near the bottom of a post in the blog.

    For the Category of Facilitation and Teams:

    To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

    Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.