April 10, 2014 Leave a comment
One difference between high performance groups and normal or under-performing groups of people is the perspective embraced by the participants during meetings and workshops. Most participants attend sessions with concern over “What’s in it for me?” That is neither the right attitude nor the right question. What they should be asking is “What do you need or want from me (so that we can get done faster)?”
As facilitator or session leader, it is virtually impossible to shift their attitude at the start of a meeting. To cause a shift in participant thinking, attitude, and behavior requires clear and two-way communications before the meeting begins.
Most meetings (at least the good ones) typically result in Action Plans and agreed upon roles and responsibilities for making things happen. Because we expect to hold the participants accountable for their follow-up, get them involved before the meeting starts to understand and agree to the Purpose, Scope, Deliverables, and Simple Agenda for the meeting.
You have every right to expect participants to show up prepared. As session leader, it is your responsibility to define “prepared.” How can participants arrive prepared if they do not know the purpose of the meeting before it starts? How can participants stay focused and complete on time if they do not understand the scope of the meeting (as discrete from the scope of the project the meeting may be supporting)? How can participants help you get done faster if you and they do not know “what done looks like (ie, deliverable)”? How can participants agree to follow-up assignments if they are not permitted to provide their input, clarifications, and calibrations about HOW they are going to get done on time (ie, the Agenda)?
Ultimately the reason for most meetings and workshops is that we need consensual answers to relatively complex questions. If the questions are simple, typically we do not need a meeting nor are their consensual challenges. Knowing that effective meetings develop consensual answers to questions and problems, the session leader must prepare and know in advance of the meeting, the questions that need to be answered.
Once developed and understood, do not hide the questions to be asked in a meeting. Share them in advance. Since select subject matter experts (ie, participants) are more likely to provide input on select questions, highlight the questions on an individual basis and explain to each participants that you expect them to think in advance about their responses. Explain that when the questions(s) is asked that you have highlighted for them to consider, you expect them to take the lead and be among the first to offer up a perspective.
It’s not easy to run a successful meeting. That is why many meetings fail or frail. Your job is to make sure the meeting or workshop is off and running the moment you start. The only way to ensure that level of productivity is to prepare your participants in advance.
Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills
The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).
Do not forget to order Change or Die if you working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.