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Facilitating Difficult Meetings: How to Achieve Consensus and Collaboration


Hone your facilitation skills, and avoid the pitfalls of group decision making when it comes to important issues like strategic planning. Know what to do when your group gets stuck in the “groan zone,” and implement strategies for fostering consensus.


Group decision making is not for the faint of heart. Participation can degenerate quickly into irrelevant tangents, power coalitions and false consensus. As a result, groups often give up on collaborative approaches and fall back on majority voting or deferring to authority. Learn the facilitation skills needed to avoid the pitfalls of group decision making.

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Benefits and Learning Outcomes

  • Decide when and when not to use participatory approaches to decision making
  • Plan a meeting agenda that fosters efficient use of time
  • Facilitate difficult discussions while avoiding false consensus
  • Use analysis tools for complex decision making
  • Plan for what to do when consensus fails

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Course Outline/Topics

Program Agenda

  • The pros and cons of participatory decision making
  • The phenomena of group discussion; when people start talking and stop listening
  • What is consensus and six alternatives to consensus as a decision-making approach
  • Using dialogue and avoiding debate as precursors to discussion
  • Facilitation skills for large and small group decision making
  • Review of listening skills needed for effective discussion
  • Recognizing "false consensus" and what to do when consensus fails to develop
  • How to get through the "groan zone" when progress bogs down
  • Specific skills for when emotions run high
  • Analysis tools for complex decisions
  • Special considerations for strategic planning
  • Variations on the classic problem-solving steps
  • Video case study analysis


1. Setting Meeting Ground Rules

  • Agenda
  • Meeting Outcomes & Process
  • Ideas for Team Warm-Ups
  • Leader/Facilitator Actions
  • Banned Meeting Vocabulary and Nonverbals
  • Group Process Technique
  • Fostering Consensus
  • A Formal Consensus Process

2. Facilitating Meetings

  • Ten Steps to Great Decisions
  • Building a Shared Framework of Understanding
  • Discussion Exercise
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups
  • Skillful Discussion
  • Disciplines of the Learning Organization
  • Practicing Dialogue Skills to Improve Teamwork and Decision Making
  • Listening Skills
  • Problem Solving
  • Facilitating Clear Thinking
  • Improving Critical Thinking
  • Some Approaches to Team Building
  • Team Member “Roles”
  • Team Charters

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This program can be applied toward the:

Wed., Sept. 23
Location: UWM School of Continuing Education (Click link for directions)
Instructor: Laura V. Page
$345: Register by Wed., Sept. 9
$395: Register on or after Thu., Sept. 10 Discount Available
Enrollment Limit: 30
Program No. 5050-8194
Register Now
For more information, contact:
Jan Allen, Director, Business & Management,, 414-227-3219, 888-947-9947


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