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#44 How to master facilitation and achieve great group outcomes with Dr. Morgan Jones.

Proudly brought to you in association with S A Partners, a world-leading business transformation consultancy.


Dr Morgan Jones is a Business Transformation expert who has focused his career on studying and helping organisations achieve sustainable results.

I am so pleased to have Dr Morgan Jones on the show to discuss an essential skill in leading an excellence journey within an organisation. The skill of facilitation. Morgan is the author of Sponsor Success, 4+1 and the new book Mastering Facilitation, A Guide for Assisting Teams and Achieving Great Outcomes. Let's get into the episode. Morgan, thank you so much for joining us today.

Proudly brought to you in association with S A Partners, a world-leading business transformation consultancy.


Morgan started working in the Royal Personnel Navy and then in the Merchant Navy. He was involved with some old ships, worked in dry docks and tried to make things better and safer. He didn't get involved in lean and six sigma until he studied manufacturing at university. That's where he got to grips with actually applying it in the real world.

Elements of best practice in the Navy

Morgan speaks about creating people in your team who could step up in an emergency if a leader was injured. Morgan also believes in the inspiring but straightforward purpose of the Navy: to serve and protect. Could you relate everything that you do back to this purpose? So simple, yet powerful. Standardising things also became important because when under stress, people could still follow instructions and be safe.

He speaks about the massive cultural shift with increasing diversity in the Navy. A history with thousands of years to overcome was a challenge to achieve. Morgan believes that this comes down to challenging the mindset.

Mastering facilitation

When did Morgan realise the importance of facilitation and the power that this can create?

Morgan was part of a team session facilitated by an outsider, and it was chaos. His manager arrived partway through the session with a poster with four written points on it. Morgan watched him turn the mess into a three-hour session where everyone felt engaged, listened to, and could contribute and debate in healthy ways. Morgan was so fascinated, watching that facilitation in action. His boss kept everyone in the team focussed on the purpose. What's the purpose? Why are we here? What are we trying to focus on now? The boss didn't notice his way of naturally engaging others, keeping everyone focused but empowering them at the same time.

After watching his boss in facilitation, Morgan got involved, initially becoming the Kaizen

facilitator. He wasn't given a structure that helped him. He wanted to get all the great minds thinking, leverage their strengths to get to the right outcome and ensure everybody was feeling and buying into the solution. He then worked for a company and would facilitate all of the leadership team events, challenging their thinking. After several sessions, the CEO asked Morgan to teach the team the facilitation process. Morgan thought, of course, but when he started thinking about teaching facilitation, he realised he had no structure. So he broke his ideas right down into a fundamental process with clear steps and the skills needed. It took seven years of writing and editing, building upon the draft, etc., for the book to mature.

The book is suitable for people who are starting off and also for those more experienced.

The first section of the book: Facilitation fundamentals.

The start piece

The start piece is all about setting the context and defining the purpose. So sometimes, you may have a purpose already described. Sometimes you need to get everybody to buy into that. So you understand how much of a challenge it will be to work with current mindsets. Is this going to be new? Does anybody know anything about it? Could this be confrontational? Make sure that you have the data actually to run the session. You would end the start piece with the 'end in mind'.

The end in mind

What is the desired outcome for the session and get everybody to buy into it. What does finished or good look like at the end? Write that out big and bold, and make sure everyone is crystal clear. This gives you the purpose of the session. And then follow the process because it's pretty easy to get distracted and go running down rabbit holes.

Think of facilitation as a process

So start with the end in mind, and think of facilitation as a process. Then, break the session down into chunks. Don't be so disciplined. Instead, keep the focus on the essential tasks, and keep the audience engaged.

Understand your role

Don't try and do everything yourself: ask someone to help keep time and help scribe. The important thing is, when you're the facilitator, you're not the content expert. Your role is not to be the functional expert. If you need to be a content expert, you need to be a participant and ask somebody else to facilitate. So the facilitator needs to guide the team to get to the right outcome that everyone buys into.

The tools during the session

You have to work out what tools will help you get to the outcome, which is a prioritised solution. How much time and effort do you have to put in? Is it a day? Well, how much of a robust solution do you want? And this is where sometimes cutting it short can have a detrimental effect.

The follow-up

After the end of the workshop, make sure any actions noted, e.g. a brainstorm, a risk matrix or recommendations, actually get done. Otherwise, it's just a talking session. So it's really to make sure what does good look like the end? The end in mind is documenting and doing something with it. It would be best to determine who will take ownership of actions and when they will be done by. That's really what the end in mind looks like: people are actually doing something due to the workshop. It's not just an email!


Give yourself enough time; Morgan recommends 10-15 minutes to consolidate.

The first part of the book gives the basics of what facilitation is. Your role as a facilitator, and how to do each of those sections; prep, start, during and ending.

The second section of the book - Core facilitation skills

This part of the book covers the art of active listening and questioning. Morgan teaches people how to ask an open question rather than a closed one, e.g. making a suggestion in the form of a question. He also covers how to handle conflict. There will always be disagreements, and Morgan offers using simple tools like a parking lot. If people can't agree on something, put it in the parking lot and continue the conversation.

He then talks about more advanced skills; understanding group dynamics. So you get to understand your audience and how they learn. He covers general facilitation, but also then executive teams. Morgan talks about facilitating in different countries and virtual facilitation, including brainstorming and process improvement. When you can have physical people in the room, go to Gemba, or go and see in the physical space is much easier than if you just see something through the laptop screen.

Questionnaire for you

Go to our resources page to gain a self-assessment that Morgan has kindly provided, which you can download and use to review your current facilitation skills and identify areas to improve. Please like, subscribe and share this podcast to help others gain insights and create a better future.

You can use a self-assessment to say, Well, okay, where am I in a skilled sense? What can I work on individually? You can say, did you enjoy the course? Yes or no. And if you read comments about great food or food that could be better, they're not worried about your facilitation. If all they're concerned about is the food, you've done an excellent job.

Practical examples

Morgan gives a couple of practical ideas on his facilitation. One is day 2 of a financial conference at 4.45 pm with Tom Jones karaoke, and the other is an ice cream theme-based session that ended with people eating ice cream to cement the thinking facilitation piece. It's getting a group together to come to a collective outcome.

Morgan talks about building your attributes as a facilitator. He speaks about authenticity: being willing to make a fool of yourself to invite the audience to give you a chance. Or saying, I just don't get this, can somebody help me? Authenticity is quite a powerful skill and capability.

Using coloured pens can be everything, you know—multi-colours, and those that smell differently. People will think, hmmm, I'll try that one. So you can have engineers using pink. It's getting people out of their comfort zone and start to engage the personalities.

Facilitator as coach

You are a facilitator, but you also coach people to get to an endpoint. And you can actually be more overt and ask direct questions. And sometimes, it can be subtle. What do you think? There's also coaching because, you know, you think you haven't heard anything from them, so you'll have to draw it out.

What are the outcomes are of good facilitation?

So what does great look like for a facilitator?

  1. You're pretty drained because you put a lot of energy and passion into it.

  2. You feel energised.

  3. You think that you've helped.

  4. People are animated and active.

  5. There are too many actions that will need prioritising.

So what does great look like for the team?

  1. They often don't realise they've been subject to really rigorous and robust techniques and processes.

  2. They think, why didn't we decide this earlier?

  3. When they don't realise they've gone through a formal facilitation process.

  4. They come up with ideas and contribute to the session.

  5. They own the outcome.

What is your two-minute tip on facilitation and excellence?

The first tip is to start with the end in mind. And don't try to be perfect. The most important thing is, we're all humans. And you may ask a question and offer a guide, and it may not work.

Your role is not to lead them. It's yours to facilitate and guide them. They choose the direction because you've already clearly defined what the purpose is. Start with the end in mind; what is the goal? And what does good look like? Maybe people have taken away actions, or they've got some ideas that they can apply back to their own teams. Essentially, don't try to be perfect or be the expert in the subject matter. So let's elevate yourself as a facilitator. Some audiences are complicated, and that's okay. Don't beat yourself up!

What's been something you've learned recently in your area of expertise?

One of the things they introduced in BHP is feedback sessions. It is essentially, how well did you engage the audience? The feedback session then goes through a whole structure to assess performance. Morgan realised that changing his mindset from ego to helping me learn how to get better was essential. In that mindset, it became so much easier to receive feedback to get better.

Key Takeaways

1. Starting with the outcome in mind and why.

Starting with the purpose of the event when facilitating, helps you align the audience and yourself. It builds motivation and clarity from the beginning. As Morgan mentioned, make the outcome and purpose large and visible for yourself and the audience. This will help you keep the team focused on the outcome and purpose, allowing you to focus as needed throughout the session.

2. Planning the approach with your audience in mind.

This allows you to tailor the steps and approach you will take to ultimately achieve the outcome in mind. Looking at the time of day you are facilitating, generalising based on the audience and objective will help you create a better event. This will enable you to tailor your steps, language and the facilitation tools and techniques used to create a great outcome for all involved.


02:49min In the forces, you're forever developing your people to be able to step up into your role because you can be as an officer or noncommissioned officer, or, you know, have stripes in the rank wise. If somebody was injured, I could get injured. I need somebody who could step in and still continue the mission. So you're always it wasn't about you, leading from the front all the time, you were forever developing a number of people step up in your role at any moment in time. So it was so you can protect. The other part that was really fascinating about the Navy was, you had a very crystal clear purpose. Serve and protect; that is what we were there for. It wasn't being elaborate, you know, a 20-word expression from some consulting firm. It's you just; you were there to serve and protect. And that was it. So you can relate everything you did to is it helping me serve and protect. And it's quite a simple, empowering purpose.

11:45min Not sort of being regimented every five minutes what you have to do. These are the key things we need to cover. Keep the audience ownership and don't try and do everything yourself. So get somebody to help you with as a timekeeper, help scribe. Then the important thing is, when you're the facilitator, you're not the content expert.

13:35min So that's the piece where most people say, Oh, yeah, but the facilitation...oh, you've written up a flipchart. No, no, it's not finished until you follow up and go; who is going take ownership of typing that up? What are the actions, when are they going to be done by? Get very specific: what's the action? Who is it assigned to? And in what time frame is it going to be done by? So that's about the follow-up. That's really what the end in mind looks like, that people are actually doing something as a result of the workshop.



Brad is proud to support many Australian businesses. You can find him on LinkedIn here. If you’d like to speak to him about how he can help your business, call him on 0402 448 445, or email Our website is


Morgan Jones: LinkedIn

Book, Amazon: Mastering Facilitation.

All the profits from the book go to Redkite, a charity in Australia that supports babies and toddlers with cancer. Wow Morgan, that's very purposeful. You're truly helping us create a better future ourselves for the knowledge and sharing and helping many children through the excellent work that Redkite does. Thank you so much for that, Morgan. And we look forward to getting you back on with future books to come. I know there'll be many more to come. Bye for now.

Written by Emily Jeavons

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