Any interruption by the facilitator to further the goals of a group and the health of its process, using as light a touch as possible.
The Coach Competencies
- Lay the groundwork for intervention—Permission
- Identify behaviors requiring intervention—Perception
- Weigh decision to intervene—Predicament
- Use an effective intervention method—Process
The Four “P’s” of Intervention
PERMISSION: Lay the Groundwork for Intervention
Pre-emptive planning. How you set the stage for your group work influences the ease and effectiveness of your interventions. Effective interventions begin with the contracting phase before your first meeting. Part of your charge as a facilitator should include agreement around the purpose of your work with them. Some groups will ask that you simply facilitate them in achieving a substantive outcome or task. Others may ask you to go further by helping them to also improve how they work together. Get as clear as you can with your sponsor and/or group members prior to the event with regard to the type, depth, and breadth of interventions that may be required.
Build your container. Groups that plan to work together over time are well served by setting up a list of group norms as they start their work together. Because group norms are often unspoken, they are interpreted differently. Developing these norms together forces groups to get them out into the open where they can be developed to describe and contain the behaviors expected from the group when operating in a functional manner. Operating norm interventions are fairly easy to do since you’re simply reminding participants about behaviors they’ve committed to and asking for recommitment to them. A good set of operating norms will actually define a good number of your total interventions and grant you implied consent to intervene.
Establish credibility. Be respectful, trustworthy and transparent and get to know the culture, language, and norms of your group as best you can.
Check intention. Make sure you are coming from a place of service, helpfulness and always for the benefit of the group. You are not intervening to look good or be right.
PERCEPTION: What do I Intervene on?
Once you’re working in a group, knowing what to intervene on is the first step in a proper intervention. Let’s look at this again from the four quadrants.
- (UL) SELF:
- What are you feeling or sensing?
- (UR) TASK (What: Substantive Needs)
- Content: Is Information conveyed heard & understood?
- Task: Is task clearly defined and understood?
- (LR) PROCESS (How: Procedural Needs)
- Is process working?
- Is participation appropriate?
- (LL) CULTURE (Who: Relational/Psychological Needs)
- Are trust, safety, security needs being met?
- Are participants engaged, cooperating and connecting?
PREDICAMENT: Should I Intervene or not?
To help you answer that question, you need to be able to answer these questions in the affirmative:
- Do I have permission? In other words, do you have standing in the group as the designated facilitator or respected member of the group? And do you have permission to intervene at the level required to process what you perceive? In other words, if you have the desire to intervene on a participant at a deeply personal level, has this person consented to doing this level of work in this group?
- Is the issue impeding group function? Only intervene if the issue you perceive is impacting the group’s ability to accomplish their current objective.
- Is there time to process it? There is little value in intervening on an issue if there isn’t time to address it. An intervention in this case can actually be counter-productive.
- Do I have the skills? Do you have the tools necessary to process the issue you’re about to bring up?
A more detailed set of questions is offered in the form of the Intervention Checklist.
PROCESS: How do I Intervene?
Now assuming we have permission to intervene, that we know what to intervene on, and it seems necessary to do so, just how do we go about doing it effectively? Here is a simple process based on the Ladder of Inference that we discussed on Day 1.
The Ladder of Intervention is based on the following steps in the Ladder of Inference: Observe, Infer, Decide.
First we climb the ladder ourselves…
- Observe: Observe Using 4Q Diagnostic Tool
- Infer: We always infer meaning behind our observations.
- Decide: to intervene or not.
If we decide to intervene, we go back down and bring the group up the ladder with us by making your inference transparent.
- Share your observation with the group to share your observation.
- Test your inference to see if it’s correct. By simply checking your inference, you don’t need to be right and you can never be wrong.
- Help group decide what to do next.
Here’s an example application of the process above with each step included in parentheses.
Let’s say you’re facilitating a group and you observe (1) that one of the members, let’s call him Joe, has just interrupted the group for the third time with negative criticism of ideas put forward during a brainstorming session. You infer (2) that Joe’s comments are damaging group process and the intent of the meeting. So you decide (3) to intervene.
Facilitator: Excuse me everyone, I’d like to check out an observation. You are currently engaged in a brainstorming session where you’ve all agreed that critical analysis is to be left to the latter half of the session. Joe, it seems to me that your last three comments were analytical and perhaps pre-mature during a brainstorming process, it seems this could be slowing down the flow of new ideas during this part of our creative process (4).
Does this seem accurate to you? (5)
Joe: Yes that’s true. I didn’t realize that my comments were critical but I guess I could see how they could be taken that way.
Facilitator: Is it OK if we check out how the rest of the group perceives your input? (5)
(The group members concur that Joe’s comments were off the mark)
Facilitator: Joe, would you be willing to hold your criticism until after the idea-gathering part of this session? (6)
Joe: Yes I will.
Facilitator: Great. Thanks for being willing to adjust Joe!