Intervention is as much an art as it is a science. Like improvising in music, there’s no one right way to do it but there are some helpful guidelines. Our working definition of Intervention is…
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?
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.
Integral Facilitator’s Primer & Self-Assessment. Complete this assessment to determine your level of competency for each of these archetypes, then consider the questions that follow to help you craft a development plan to enhance your skills.
This model is taught in an applied format during our Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration Workshop, a five-day experiential event offered regularly at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and sometimes at other locations throughout the country based on interest and by invitation.