The term ‘Politikos’ means ‘the science of people. You deal more ably with participants as you gain more experience. However, there is a certain degree of comfort in recognizing that there are some common patterns of behavior that are likely to occur.Keep one thing in mind however; participants cause problems only for a certain time. Often a participant causing a problem becomes productive in a different situation. Do not label people permanently.
You identify participants displaying problems because they generally disrupt the session. Sometimes, however, they don’t participate. When we say that a participant is displaying problems, we mean that their communication is ineffective because of some characteristic that gets in the way of communication, for example:
To deal with the people on the ends of the curve (ie, the outliers), assume that people have good intentions and focus your energy on discovering what is causing the difficulty. In other words, identify the problem—do not highlight the person(with the problem).
Motivation of People
People are motivated by:
- Need to control (power motivation)
o They rebel against a loss of control.
o Turf issues arise.
- Need to excel (achievement motivation)
o People don’t want to look bad in a group.
o All participants are speaking publicly—public speaking scares many people.
- Need to bond (affiliation motivation)
o Attacks and win-lose situations affect participants’ ability or willingness to bond.
Determine what is motivating a participant you are dealing with. Once you understand that, use the following sequence of guidelines in dealing with them.
- First determine and correct the cause of the problem.
- Mitigate the symptom if the cause cannot be corrected by:
o Ground rules
o Body position
o Eye contact
o Talking with the participant during a break
- Enlist help from the business partner or executive sponsor.
- Last resort—have the problem participant removed.
There are three exceptions to the rules above—the business or technical partner and the executive sponsor. None of these people can be removed. You cannot go over their heads to get additional help. For these participants you:
Partners • Set expectations before the session. Ensure that the partners know what they want—if not help them. Never argue with them in the workshop—they are your clients. Do not do their job.
Executive • The executive sponsor is most likely dominating. It is their job. If the session is not for policy, ask the executive to leave. If the session is policy, treat the others as if they are the problem (they are). Never allow the executive to dominate since they are but a participant in the meeting and all participants have an equal voice. Talk to the executive but always remain the process leader.
Following are guiding principles for dealing with people (all based on “Treat others as you wish to be treated”):
- Never embarrass people, especially in public.
- People are creative if asked.
- People are intrinsically reasonable.
- People do not like to be blamed.
- People have different goals in life.
- People prefer the positive to the negative.
- People share similar fears.
Here are the tactics listed in order of priority and frequency of use for managing issues and personality challenges:
- Ground rules
- Eye contact
- Body Position
- Take a break
Note of Caution
Whenever you allow a win-lose situation to occur, you will cause problems. Latecomers, early leavers, dropouts, etc, are often manifestations of their anger at losing. Correct the win-lose situation to make all participants productive.
Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.
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’re 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.
Professional Facilitative Leadership and Facilitator Training for Structured Meetings and Workshops