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You’ve heard plenty about what to do, but the Seven Deadly Sins of Facilitating also suggest what NOT to do.

The following are real, powerful, and sequenced alphabetically.

  • Assuming:

Simply because the facilitator hears what was said does not imply everyone heard what was said. The key to active listening
is through reflection. Whether it’s audio (i.e., spoken) or visual (i.e., written down), the facilitator’s role is to ensure common understanding, not assume that common understanding exists simply because something was spoken.

  • Modifiers:

    What to Do About the Seven Deadly Sins of Facilitating (in alphabetical order):

    Deadly Sins of Facilitating

Nouns and verbs are a facilitator’s friend. Modifiers such as adjectives and adverbs cause dissent. For example, we may all be eating the same bowl of chili, but it may be both hot (i.e., spicy) and not so hot to different people, both correct in their assessment. Most arguments are caused by how spicy the chili is, not by whether or not it is chili.

  • Neutrality (or lack thereof):

A session leader who offers content and judgment appears to the participants to have the “answer”. They will go quiet as they listen to what the leader believes to be true, comparing and contrasting the espoused point of view with their own truth. In the role of facilitator, do not offer up or evaluate content during the session.

  • Plurality:

Ask one question at a time. Do not try to facilitate more than one issue at once. Close it out before moving on to the next issue. Most groups will succeed if they are facilitated to a position where the issue is clear and properly managed, one issue at a time.

  • Precision:

Prefer substance to style. Avoid impersonal pronouns such as it, this, and those. Speak clearly and substitute words like “bunch” or “lots” for consultese like “plethora.” Strive to speak in a manner that would be understood by your grandmothers.

  • Processing:

Session leaders that analyze the content fill their minds with analysis that places a large stress on their ability to hear what others are saying. Analyzing participant input makes it very difficult to provide a comprehensive reflection of what was said.

  • Unprepared:

There is no secret or “silver bullet” to effective facilitation if the session leader shows up ill prepared. Aside from active listening, with a strong emphasis on reflection, there aren’t any skills to help a facilitator during a session who shows up unprepared.


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.)

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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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