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Our students have clamored for a quick-reference checklist of the most important facilitation Do’s and Don’ts. Therefore, we bring you this brief, yet powerful, set of reminders below (alpha-sorted by the highlighted term or phrase).

Please note that the highlighted facilitation do’s and don’ts are linked to best practices articles that provide additional examples and evidence-based rationale.

facilitation do's and don't

Facilitation Do’s

Facilitation Don’ts

Active listening:

Make contact, absorb, reflect, and confirm; confirming WHY somebody said something or WHY the facilitator is doing something.

Don’t allow arguments and discussions to go around you, as facilitator. Make them go through you and provide frequent and thorough reflection so that everyone is driven to understand the same rationale or evidence.

Annotated agenda:

Visualizing and documenting what needs to be done and said in advance, especially instructions for the methodology and tools you plan to use.

Don’t assume that everyone shares understanding about the terms being used because filters and biases cause misunderstanding. It’s better to assume that it’s unlikely you have consensual understanding, even when participants claim to agree.


Teach your participants the components of high-quality decision-making and illustrate using a decision-matrix:

  1. Verify purpose of your objective
  2. Detail your options
  3. Delineate criteria
  4. Prioritize the criteria
  5. Apply prioritized criteria against the most qualified options
  6. Test the decision quality to see how well it supports the original purpose
Stop cheerleading with positive remarks such as “great idea” or “I like that.” Dr. Thomas Gordon (Harvard) proved that judgments or affirmation to the positive can actually be more injurious to group participation than negative comments.

Definition Tool:

Put the MG RUSH Definition Tool in your hip pocket and use it regularly, recalling the five activities a robust definition demands, namely:

  1. What is it NOT
  2. Describe it
  3. Detail the attributes, characteristics, requirements, or specifications
  4. Illustrate it
  5. Get two examples from the business
Don’t forget the MG RUSH 3-step method for resolving conflict:

  1. Active listening to prevent ‘violent agreement’
  2. Appeal to objectives, from project through enterprise (see Holarchy)
  3. Thoroughly document, then take off-line, typically to the executive sponsor


Know what DONE looks like; nothing can save a leader when they don’t know where they are going. Hence, codify your deliverable and share it, before the meeting begins. While others call it “right-to-left thinking” some say “start with the end in mind.”

Don’t rely on “one size fits all” and overuse the same tool (e.g., PowerBalls). Decision-making ranges from the simple to the complicated through the complex, and extends from the qualitative through the quantitative—so use the most appropriate tool in your specific situation.


Value the importance of focus and perspective. The hardest thing to do with a group of smart people is to get them to focus on the same thing at the same time. Consequently, remove distractions so that focus is all that remains.

Avoid using the first person singular, specifically the terms “I” and “me.” Additionally, avoid too many thank-you’s and self-references such as “I think”, “I want”, and “I believe.”


Connect the dots; provide a holarchial explanation that quantifies the importance and impact of your meeting, typically measured in terms of investment at risk (e.g., $$$) and/ or FTP (full-time person).

Don’t permit groupthink and reliance on habits and patterns of the past. “We’ve always done it this way” will not persist forever. Hence, incite participants to understand that change can be proactive or reactive.


7:59AM preparation and interviews. Because, no facilitation class in the world will make you successful when you show up unprepared.

Don’t forget or skip the MG RUSH professional 7-activity Introduction and 4-activity Review and Wrap. Consider rehearsing the introduction so that the meeting begins smoothly, thus giving participants confidence. Participants remember the last five minutes so close with clear action steps.


Rhetorical precision becomes increasingly important, the more complicated the topic or scope of discussion. Hence, monitor your rhetoric.

Don’t permit discussion and comments when you are in a listing mode. Brainstorming demands that during ideation, there should be no discussion. The facilitator is normally the first person to violate this principle.


Stress roles in the meeting emphasizing that all participants are equals, regardless of title or tenure in the hallway. Then treat everyone the same, and don’t be deferential to “executives.”

Don’t lead a meeting without first sharing the purpose, scope, deliverables, and simple agenda, preferably in writing and preferably shared with participants before the meeting or workshop begins.


Structure your discussion to avoid asking for the deliverable; rather ask for parts of the deliverable that aggregate to the final deliverable. Remember the mathematical expression: Y = f(X) +(x) + (x) and ask about the little “x’s” , not the “Y” or even the large “X’s”.

Don’t string on virtual participants at the end. Put them in a virtual seating arrangement up front, and call on them first, not last. Next, enforce a protocol even among the live people so that virtual participants know who is speaking.

WHY First:

WHY before WHAT before HOW; always build consensus around the purpose of something before beginning your analysis and solution development.

Don’t discount the value of visual feedback. Remember that more is better and it is easier to edit stuff ‘out’ of your final documentation than it is to fully remember what was said. Therefore, capture verbatims and edit later.


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

Want a free 10-minute break timer? Signup for our once-monthly newsletter HERE and receive a timer along with four other of our favorite facilitation tools, free.


Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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