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The Secrets of Facilitation: The S.M.A.R.T. Guide to Getting Results With Groups 1st Edition

33 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0787975784
ISBN-10: 0787975788
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Editorial Reviews


“One of the single most powerful processes is the ability to successfully lead a group to an impactful, actionable outcome. In The Secrets of Facilitation, beginning and experienced facilitators alike, will find tools to take their results to the next level.” --Jim Canfield, chief learning officer, TEC International

"This book shares ‘The Secrets’ that have been the basis of my facilitation practice for over a decade."--Kerri McBride, past chair, International Association of Facilitators

"In my career, I've seen many, many facilitators.  Michael Wilkinson is the best.  ‘The Secrets’ explain why."--Len Roberts, CEO, RadioShack

 “We have trained over 100 leaders and business analysts in ‘The Secrets.’  Great facilitation works.” -Peter Scott, executive general manager, MLC – National Australia Bank

 “At last there is a practical, hands-on guide for anyone who works with groups or teams. This book delivers!”--Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, CEO, Herrmann International, Hermann Brain Dominance Indicator 

“Michael Wilkinson is hands down the most talented and effective facilitator with whom I have ever worked or seen.  He combines his proven facilitation techniques and approaches with a keen strategic and business sense to consistently produce performance-based results.”--Brian A. Gallagher, president and CEO, United Way of America

“As the superintendent of a school district in the middle of an intensive organizational reform, I know the importance of facilitative leadership. Anyone who is considering organizational change will welcome this precise, concise, and lucid guide.” --Beverly Hall, superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools

From the Inside Flap

The Secrets of Facilitation delivers a clear vision of facilitation excellence and reveals the specific techniques effective facilitators use to produce consistent, repeatable results with groups. Author Michael Wilkinson has trained thousands of managers, analysts, and consultants around the world to apply the power of SMART (Structured Meeting And Relating Techniques) facilitation to achieve amazing results with teams and task forces. He shows how anyone can use these proven group techniques in managing, presenting, teaching, planning, selling, and other professional as well as personal situations.

Using this resource as your guide you will learn how to

  • Ask questions that ignite a bonfire of responses
  • Dynamically address the three reasons people disagree
  • Resolve dysfunctional behavior in four stages
  • Build consensus in meetings with five strategies

In addition, The Secrets of Facilitation is chock-full of real-world learning from myriad case studies and sample dialogues. Written as a practical resource, the book's numerous tips and checklists can be put into immediate use. Keep The Secrets of Facilitation handy to help you

  • Get people excited and participating right from the beginning
  • Use specific follow-up questions to challenge or probe responses
  • Float an idea without disempowering the group
  • Keep the energy high over a multi-day session
  • Develop a custom process to meet a specific need
  • Gain commitment to action and not just involvement in the discussion

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (October 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787975788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787975784
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #782,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Here is the background information we give to the media!

Michael Wilkinson, author of The Secrets of Facilitation ' The SMART Guide to Getting Results with Groups, is one of the nation's leaders in the facilitation industry. He is a Board member of the National Institute for Facilitation ( and founder of the National Facilitator Database ( He has been awarded both the Certified Professional Facilitator and the Certified Master Facilitator designations for experience and demonstrated expertise in facilitation. In December, 2003 he was named Facilitator of the Year by the Southeast Association of Facilitators ( for contributions to the field.

Michael is founder and Managing Director for Leadership Strategies ' The Facilitation Company ( His firm is the east coast leader in facilitator training and specializes in providing organizations with professional facilitators to lead executive retreats and task forces through strategic planning, process improvement, information needs analysis, and issue resolution.

Michael is a much sought after facilitator, trainer and speaker, both in the U.S. and around the globe. He has completed international assignments in Bangkok, Brisbane, Glasgow, Hamburg, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne, Milan, Singapore, Sydney and New Zealand.

His client experience covers a wide range of public and private sector organizations, including The Coca-Cola Company, Sears, Unisys, KPMG Peat Marwick, Storehouse Furniture, the City of Atlanta, Families First, the American Cancer Society and the United Way of America.
Prior to Leadership Strategies, Mr. Wilkinson spent eight years in the information technology practice of Ernst & Young's Management Consulting Group. He has been a certified data processor and was selected by the Governor of Georgia to serve for three terms on his twelve-member Information Technology Policy Council.

Michael's life is a storybook example of the positive results of affirmation action. Born in Washington, DC, he spent his early years living in a government housing project. As one of six children, he and his brothers and sisters worked odd jobs from an early age to help supplement the family's very modest income. While a newspaper carrier, he received a scholarship through the help of the Washington Post to attend St. Mark's School, an exclusive New England preparatory school. The academic environment was much more challenging for him, as indicated by his early grades. However, within three years, he was rated in the top quartile of his class. As a senior, he was named a National Merit Scholar and awarded a grant by the UPS Foundation to attend Dartmouth College.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By SF Facilitator on January 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful, practical, well-written book, with 60 facilitation secrets that are worth far, far more than the price of the pages. In fact, I learned more from this book than I did from a nationally recognized Advanced Facilitation course for $1700.

The chapter on consensus-building, which introduces 4 common techniques for building consensus (Delineation, Strengths and weaknesses, Merge and Weighted Scoring) I found particularly useful. The 6 high-level agendas for common facilitated sessions (among them process improvement and issue resolution) are a must for every facilitator.

I would recommend this book most highly for facilitators who want to build on their existing skills rather than as an introduction to the field, as some of the secrets (those related to dealing with dysfunctional behavior, for example) assume some foundational facilitation skills. However, anyone interested in the field would benefit greatly from the secrets in this book. A truly great addition to the facilitator's library!
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Mr. AD Weavill on March 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Secrets of Facilitation delivered success for me at a recent series of conferences. My primary role on the day was to open the conference and engage delegates in thinking about the future and formulating questions, and observations to put to various speakers throughout the day. Thereafter my role was to facilitate the question and answer sessions and generally keep the conference moving along. Getting the opening right was crucial to the success of the day.

The first 2 conferences were deemed to be successful but I knew that although the level of participation was reasonable it could be better, with more questions and more people asking them from the floor. Also I felt, due to the uncertainties of change I hadn't managed to create the rapport and warmth in the room I would have liked. By the end of the day it was still a little frosty!

Prior to the third Conference I had ordered and received the "Secrets of Facilitation". The book arrived on the Monday,two days before the last conference. I read it Monday evening and Tuesday in readiness for the third conference on Wednesday. My motivation - were there any secrets I could apply to improve my opening pitch, generate more involvement and more questions. By Tuesday afternoon I had read the book and my attention was focussed on chapters 2 and 4 The Secrets to Questioning and the The Secrets to Starting - and to some extent on chapter 3 the Secrets to Preparing. I also had in mind PeDeQs for my direction giving and Secret 27 (the Secret to Q&A Sessions). Late Tuesday afternoon I rewrote and replanned my opening to better focus it around the IEEI outline and set up the participation for Q&A by following the steps outlined in secret 27.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Gerry Stern on February 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A very comprehensive resource for guiding group facilitation. Each chapter begins with a list of questions that will be answered. The book is organized around 60 secrets, which are presented in the back of the book as a quick guide. These secrets are clustered by chapter under major headings. The major secrets (and chapters) are The Secrets Of (To): questioning; preparing; starting; focusing; recording; information gathering; closing; managing dysfunction; consensus building; energy; and agenda setting. The closing chapter covers applying the secrets to special situations: very small or very large groups, designing a conference, conference calls, and facilitating remote participants. This book has an abundance of solid content, and its organization is excellent.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. Smith on January 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A great book for those engaged in facilitation. It is well written and easy to understand. It is one of the better books I've found on the topic. The reason for 4 start instead of 5 is the price of the book. Books that would compliment this are "Leading Through Collaboration" and Leading Groups to Solutions: A Practical Guide for Facilitators and Team Members
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Pramod Prasanth on February 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I rightly say a must "have" because this is a fantastic book - not just to read (and forget ;-) ), but to keep by your side and imbibe the secrets into your everyday life!

I have been looking around for books on running meetings smoothly and everything that goes with - most of the ones I have seen were really trash. This one is rather different.

To be frank, not being from the US, the author is unknown to me - but what he writes is good stuff - and very practical.

What I have learned is that to be an effective manager - apart from having reasonably good "content" skills, what is equally, if not more important is people skills - and in today's management arena - one of the most important interaction is in the form of meetings - and if you can master that interaction - one can go a long way - and this is one of the first book that I found to really help me with that.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C Results on February 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
What is facilitation really? It is talking to someone in a manner that encourages them to talk. It could be facilitating a large meeting, contributing while you are attending a meeting that someone else is running, having a one-on-one conversation with your boss, or talking to your teenage daughter about her curfew.

In all these situations, you want to talk to someone in a manner that encourages them to open up and communicate with you. And, this book can help. (Granted, if you are looking for help with the teenage daughter you are going to have to do more extrapolating than if you are facilitating a meeting, still it's there.)

This book provides basic communication skills that encourage others to contribute. It is written clearly and in a flexible manner. You can choose to read a whole chapter thoroughly or to read the checklist at the end of a chapter. The skills are powerful and practical and best yet, actionable.
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