Facilitating ‘Genetic’ Differences: Similar Values but Different Priorities


Most meeting participants embrace a similar set of values. The difference lies in their priority, or ranking of their values. Participants’ rankings however are not static. Their ranking shifts based on their perspective at the moment.

Hiring Characteristics as an Example

When selecting, interviewing, and hiring associates, most human relations experts would agree that five of the most important characteristics that are sought in new hires include (listed alphabetically):

  • Capacity (mental)
  • Integrity (moral)
  • Knowledge and Experience (physical)
  • Motivation (emotional)
  • Understanding (intellectual)

Traditional Prioritization

Facilitating Different Priorities

Facilitating Different Priorities

Frequently, Knowledge and Experience is used as the first filter to disqualify potential hiring candidates. Next Understanding, typically reflected by educational degrees, may be used to filter more desirable from less desirable candidates. Next, Capacity is tested, frequently using actual test instruments about personality, cognitivity, and comprehension. Integrity is then considered, including perhaps, background checks to verify information and uncover undisclosed facts. Finally, Motivation is considered, but generally accepted, since it is assumed that those seeking employment are motivated by monetary gain, at minimum. Arranged in sequence of priority, the characteristics would be rearranged as follows:

  1. Knowledge and Experience (physical)
  2. Understanding (intellectual)
  3. Capacity (mental)
  4. Integrity (moral)
  5. Motivation (emotional)

Potential Prioritization

For our purposes however, and contrary to the prioritization above, we would embrace the following prioritization when hiring a new associate:

  1. Integrity; because without integrity, all other actions are suspect at best, and dangerous at worst.
  2. Motivation; because without motivation, all other actions (or inactions) may be shallow.
  3. Capacity; because without mental capacity, actions may be blind.
  4. Understanding; because without understanding actions are impotent.
  5. Knowledge and Experience; lastly because without the attributes above, actions are misdirected or useless.

Note with the re-prioritization above, the complete reversal from Experience as number one to least important as number five. Participants with a bias toward the Traditional Prioritization will conflict, and make building consensus challenging when confronted by participants using the Potential Prioritization, or some other variation.

As a facilitator, what can you do about it? We’ll discuss the proper sequence for building consensus around conflicting prioritization in next week’s blog, The Three Steps to Conflict Resolution: Appeal to Purpose, Active Listening, and Enterprise Objectives.

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.

How to Manage Meeting Participants With Problems Without Embarrassing Them


People with Problems

The following is a table of the characteristics or people problems and some suggestions on how to deal with them.

NAME CHARACTERISTICS WHAT TO DO
The Latecomer Always comes late to meetings, makes a show of arrival, and insists on catching up and stopping the group midstream. Enforce punctuality ground rule; do not disturb meeting or allow person to catch up; talk to during break if necessary.
The Early Leaver Drains group’s energy and morale by leaving meeting before its end. Handle as a latecomer; do not stop the meeting for one person.
The Broken Record Brings up the same point repeatedly; constantly tries to focus discussion of this issue; can prevent group from moving ahead to new items even if ready. The broken record needs to be heard.   Document their input but do not make it an open item until later in the workshop.
The Head Shaker Actively expresses disapproval through body language and nonverbal cues such as rolling eyes, shaking head, crossing and uncrossing arms, sighing, etc. Covertly influences group to reject an idea. Simply approach the head shaker.   Do not allow these nonverbal cues to continue unnoticed. Use open hands to ask them to orally agree or disagree, depending on their actions.
The Dropout Constantly engaged with their “crackberry” or laptop; expresses disapproval or dislike by ignoring the proceedings; may read, do unrelated paperwork to avoid getting engaged in the session. Caution, a doodler is not dropping out—they may be a horizontal thinker. Use laser focus so that they know that you see them. During a break, talk to them. Do NOT publicly call out their name and ask for participation.Encourage your culture to embrace “topless meetings” that prohibit laptops and smart devices.

Consider purchasing an electronic “jammer” for USD$50-$100.

The Whisperer Constantly whispering during meetings, holding offside conversations; upstages facilitator or session leader, as well as other group members. Standing close to the 
whisperer(s) will stop their conversation. Enforce one conversation at a time with the entire group.
The Loudmouth Talks too often and too loudly; dominates the discussion; seemingly impossible to shut up; may be someone who has a higher rank than other group members. Record input if on topic. If not, direct conversation away; stand in front of person for a short time; talk to during break.
The Attacker Launches verbal, personal attacks on other group members and/ or facilitator; constantly ridicules a specific participant’s or constituency view. Stand between two people fighting; stop attacks; use additional ground rules 
to control.
The Interpreter Always speaks for someone else, usually without invitation to do so; restates ideas or meanings and frequently distorts it in the process. First get original speaker to confirm without embarrassing or putting on the spot and then pass the “talking stick.”
The Sleeper Challenged to stay awake, especially during late afternoon sessions. Ideally, open a window.   Practically, walk around them if possible or apply “hand lotion” near them.
The Know-it-all Uses credentials, age, seniority, etc, to argue a point; focuses group attention on opinion and status as opposed to the real issue. Often a supervisor or manager; write it down to satisfy and challenge them about relevancy and proof.
The Backseat Driver Keeps telling the session leader or facilitator what to do—or not do; attempts to control the meeting by downgrading facilitator’s efforts. Listen to some comments—they may be good; never turn over control; talk to during breaks; enforce roles.
The Busybody Always ducking in and out of meetings, does not ask subordinates to hold calls, tries to give impression of being too busy (and therefore important) to devote full attention to the meeting and the group. Deal with like the latecomer or early leaver; try to establish rules to control during preparation. Allow frequent bio-breaks for people to react to their electronic leashes.
The Interrupter Jumps into the discussion and cuts off someone else’s comments; acts impatient, too excited, or concerned that own ideas will not be acknowledged. Stop them immediately to protect the source; always get back to them but do not allow them to interrupt; they will learn.
The Uninvited Show up without an invitation Explain and enforce the role of Observer, noting they may speak during breaks.
The Doubting Thomas Voiced skepticism, shrouded with genuine concern. Use the “What—So What—Now What” approach. They may be on to something significant.
The Quiet Person While it is true that we are not going to convert quiet people into aggressive extroverts who dominate a meeting, there are steps that facilitators can take to transform the velocity of contributions from quiet people.
  1. Interview your participants
  2. Breakout sessions
  3. Non-verbal solicitation
  4. Reinforce during break
  5. Round-robins & Post-It note approaches

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.

Understanding the Method to Manage Meeting Participants with Problems


Politikos

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.

Identifying Problems

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).

Praise in Public

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.

Managing Problems

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.

Exceptions

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.

People Principles

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.

Managing Issues

Here are the tactics listed in order of priority and frequency of use for managing issues and personality challenges:

  • Interviews
  • Ground rules
  • Eye contact
  • Body Position
  • Take a break
  • Exercises

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

FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt Amplify Fear but People Change Anyway


Paradigms

Paradigms are established accepted norms, patterns of behavior or shared set of assumptions. They are models that establish boundaries or rules for success. Paradigms may present structural barriers to creativity based on psychological, cultural, and environmental factors. Examples include:

  • Flow charts, diagrams, and other conventions for presenting information (eg, swim lane diagrams)

    More Similarities Than Differences

    More Similarities Than Differences

  • Stereotypes about men and women and their roles in business, family, and society
  • Where people sit in meetings—once they find a seat it becomes their seat for the rest of the meeting

Not All Bad

There are many more paradigms in life. Paradigms are not bad unless they become barriers to progress. People either understand paradigms or risk being left behind. What is impossible with one paradigm is easy with another—because “I didn’t know any better.” When paradigms change, everyone starts over.

Changing Paradigms

To cause groups to challenge and possibly modify their paradigms, do the following:

  • Ask the “Paradigm Shift” question—“What is impossible today, but if made possible . . . What would you do?”
  • Force the group to look at a familiar object or idea in a new way.
  • Use the “Five-year Old” routine—ask—“But why?” frequently, or until the group thoroughly discusses an issue, its assumptions and implications.
  • Develop a clear problem statementor use a problem such as the example provided below).

“An automobile traveling on a deserted road blows a tire. The occupants discover that there is no jack in the trunk. They define the problem as “finding a jack” and decide to walk to a station for a jack. Another automobile on the same road also blows a tire. The occupants also discover that there is no jack. They define the problem as “raising the automobile.” They see an old barn, push the auto there, raise it on a pulley, change the tire, and drive off while the occupants of the first car are still trudging towards the service station.”

            Getzels, J.W., Problem-finding and the inventiveness of solutions, 
Journal of Creative Behavior, 1975, 9(1), pp 12-18.

Shifting perspectives will frequently help “shake” paradigms. Consider using Edward de Bono’s Thinking Hats or imposing some other perspective or comparison such as:

  • A monastery compared to the “mafia”
  • Steve Jobs compared to Bill Gates
  • Ant colony compared to a penal colony
  • A weather system compared to a gambling system
  • Mother Teresa of Calcutta compared to Genghis Khan
  • Etcetera

People DO Change

Recent research (2007, Dyer) has proven that people do change. There is a quantum shift of values after twenty to thirty years of life.

Change occurs across both men and women, although their before and after values remain different. The shifts shown below occur after a relatively significant change in maturity, such as we find today with “empty nesters” or people that find themselves no longer hosting others, in particular, their children.

Note the implications for a facilitated session with people coming from all four categories shown below.

Men and Women Do Change

Men and Women Do Change

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.

The Way People Think Affects How You Intervene to Build Consensus


Differences

People think differently. As session leader, you empower participants and their ability to understand and communicate with each other. You also enable them to think creatively about their business. The following two subjects deal with the thinking patterns of people—horizontal/ vertical thinking and paradigms.

Horizontal/ Vertical

Participants in a workshop argue over a seemingly simple issue. Two people hear the same thing and react as if they each were in different meetings. Why? Because people interpret information differently. There are many theories about how people process information.

One theory states that the two spheres of the brain, the right and the left, govern our thinking with right brain or left brain thinking.

Another theory that explains the differences more clearly is Communicoding. This theory states that there are two modes of thinking for processing information, vertical and horizontal. These two modes of thinking may have a difficult time communicating with each other because the way that each perceives the world is different. What are they?

People Learn Differently

People Learn Differently

Vertical Thinker

A vertical thinker is often described as very logical, organized, and detail-oriented. Vertical thinkers:

  • Easily discern immediate dynamics of a problem.
  • Identify specific details and relate issues to reality.
  • Know what can be accomplished within a given time.
  • See barriers and obstacles to be removed.
  • Take the likely paths to reach results.
  • Work well in structured environments.

The vertical thinker’s main characteristic is that they find differences. Vertical thinkers can decompose something and design something new from the pieces. They work from exclusion.

Horizontal Thinker

A horizontal thinker is often described as far-sighted, innovative, and conceptual. Horizontal thinkers:

  • Easily discern the underlying dynamics of a problem.
  • Identify context details—relating issues to a larger perspective.
  • Know what impact can be achieved within a given context.
  • See possibilities and benefits to strive for.
  • Take the unlikely paths to reach results.
  • Work well in unstructured environments.

Horizontal thinkers’ main characteristic is that they find similarities. They are able to find the common thread—to make new associations among unrelated items. They work from inclusion.

To Identify

As a facilitator, you cannot change the way people think—andnever label participants. You do help the participants in a workshop learn to hear each other and to better understand their communication challenges. Clues that thinking differences are causing problems are:

  • One person arguing about the problems while another is focused on the benefits.
  • One person trying to get to the details while the other is trying to focus on the ideas.
  • People using the same words yet meaning something different or arguing as if they are saying something different.
  • Using different words that seem to be saying the same thing.

To Fix

When you hear communication problems consider the following:

  • Capture what each person is saying—write it on the flip charts without putting their names by the ideas.
  • Draw pictures using visual aids, flip charts, and models. By using visual support or other exercises, participants learn about their business.
  • Get the group to see both similarities and differences.
  • Move the focus of the group away from people and onto the 
issue(s) at hand.
  • Summarize both similarities and differences and get the group to decide what to do with them or move along to the next step.

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.

Do NOT Lead Another Meeting Without (at least) These Four Documents


There are four documents each meeting leader must ensure:

  1. Pre-Read
  2. Annotated Agenda
  3. Slide Deck
  4. Output Notes

Pre-Read

Your participants need to show up at your meeting prepared and ready to contribute. Do not assume they will. Lead them. Provide them a compelling pre-read. It should include at least the components shown below. If your pre-read is a large document, then provide a personalized cover letter asking each subject matter expert to focus on topics and pages that you have highlighted for their benefit (to spare them the obligation and time of reading the entire packaged):

Participants' Package  (Pre-read)

Participants’ Package
(Pre-read)

Meeting Purpose, Scope, Deliverables, and Simple Agenda

EVERY meeting, even a one-hour session, needs to have an articulate purpose, boundaries (ie, scope), and either well codified outputs or a generally described outcome documents. The deliverables (or output/ outcome) describe what done looks like when the session ends. A description of the deliverables describes where the group is headed during the meeting. The agenda, hopefully structured (NOT simply a ‘discussion’; a term closely related to ‘percussion’ and ‘concussion’), shows the group how it is going to get to the deliverable, or the end of the session.

Questions to be Addressed

If you want your participants to show up prepared, help them. Agree in advance (optimally through private interviews) what questions ought be raised during your session and have them prepare response before the meeting begins. Confirm with them the validity of the questions and obtain their feedback about questions you may wish to add that your participants deem important, and perhaps missing from your original list of questions. Consider the most important reason for meetings—building consensual answers to questions important to the group.

Mission, Value, and Vision

When arguments arise, active listening should be used first to avoid people, who unknowingly, may be in violent agreement with each other. When active listening fails, sometimes due to the stubbornness of participants, an appeal must be made to WHY the meeting is being held. No one wants more meetings; they only want results that accelerate projects and activities that occur after the meeting. To reconcile arguments, be prepared to appeal to the objectives of the project, program, business unit, or enterprise that your meeting supports.

Glossary of Terms

You cannot afford to allow arguments about the meaning of terms you use and build into your preparatory efforts. For example, to some you will discover that Goals are fuzzy statements and Objectives are SMART. To others, the opposite is true. To some, Mission is why they show up and Vision is where they are going. To others, it is the opposite. Standardize your operational definitions, share them, and enforce consistent use and interpretation.

Space for Participants’ Note-taking

As a kind gesture, provide some extra space for them to take notes. It will be appreciated.

Your Personal, Annotated Agenda

Your detailed methods should be built as if you were there visualizing every step in advance. Include break out teams, team names and members, CEOs (ie, Chief Easel Operators), but most importantly, detail how you will analyze their input (ie, second activity of Brainstorming). Our typical annotated agenda runs 20 pages long, even for a three-hour session.

Slide Deck

Provide the participants copies of the slides you use, and do not forget to include operational definitions. You don’t need our help here since this is what you do best; ie, create decks.

Output Notes

Meeting notes are a snap once you have a solid pre-read, annotated agenda, and slide deck.   Simply drop in the content developed during the meeting alongside the content provided by your pre-read, annotated agenda, and slide; and you are ready to call it good. Congratulations.

NOTE

Which of these four documents can you afford to skip? None of them of course, unless you avoid death by PowerPoint and spare them the deck by referring to content you already provided in the pre-read.

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.

10 Tips for Better Interactive Listening: It’s Not How You Act but How You React


For meeting participants to own the solution, they must also own the problem. To be more effective as facilitator, drop the first person singular terms “I” and “me”, stop offering solutions to ‘their’ problem, and quit judging and evaluating their contributions personally. Rather, challenge them to make their thinking clearer, such as:

1. Ask open questions to start information flow:

Interactive Listening

Interactive Listening

  • “Tell us more about . . .”
  • “Give us a better description about . . .”

2. Body Language:

  • Eye Contact
  • Involved Posture:
    • lean forward
    • don’t fold arms
    • avoid cold shoulder
  • Use pleasant, encouraging facial expression.
  • Use skeptical expressions only to gain clarification, but beware: they can impede information flow.
  • Smile

3. Use neutral encouragement:

  • “Hmmmm”
  • “Interesting”
  • “Really?”
  • “No kidding?”
  • “Wow”
  • “OK

4. Challenge with add-on comments, comparisons, analogies:

  • “How is that different than the (XYZ deal)?”
  • “Sounds like trying to hold off the flood by putting your finger in the dike . . .”

5. Clarification Questions:

  • “Explain more about . . .”
  • “Restate that as if you were speaking to your grandmother.”
  • “Do you mean (insert reflective comment)?”
  • “What is different between (this) and (that)?”
  • “How will that impact . . .?”
  • “Huh?”

6. Conclude comments and conversation with a summary:

  • At the end of the conversation, summarize the important points and ask for confirmation that you understood the other party, not that you necessarily agreed with everything said.
  • “We apparently have agreed on the following course of action . . .”
  • “Your position on the matter was . . .”

7. Don’t debate the issue:

  • Listen intently while the other person talks. Focus on understanding the other person’s point of view so that you can provide thorough reflection.

8. Restate and ask for confirmation:

  • “Let’s ensure that we understand that correctly. You said that…”

9. Silence or Minimal Speaking:

  • Silence lasting three to five seconds will encourage the other person to say more.
  • Defer to other participants
  • Practice saying “no, go ahead.”
  • Avoid interrupting:
    • Interrupt only to ask clarification questions or to increase momentum through a quick comment. Don’t change the subject without announcing your intention to do so.

10. Take Notes:

  • Note taking usually honors the speaker and encourages information flow.
  • Take notes, not dictation; stay in the conversation; maintain eye contact.
  • Note taking may impede information flow however, and some speakers may not
 want a written record of their comments on sensitive issues.

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.

 

Individual Motivation to Embrace Organizational Goals (aka, Persuasion)


Meeting and workshop participants by definition ought be participatory. To get and stay involved, subject matter experts (ie, SMEs or participants) need motivation to both show up (or attend) and to actively contribute over the course of a meeting. The role of facilitator or session leader mandates the need to link value from their participation to the greater good, and in return HOW the individual will benefit.

Avoid a Gun to the Head as Motivation

Avoid a Gun to the Head as Motivation

The three classic forms of persuasion include:

  1. Internalization (indicative of the will or the WHY of a meeting),
  2. Identification (indicative of the wisdom or the WHAT of a meeting), and
  3. Forced Compliance (indicative of the activity or the HOW of a meeting)

Internalization

From the perspective of a meeting participant, the most powerful, long-lasting, and effective form of motivation occurs when the participant associates their meeting contributions with personal gain. To internalize suggests an individual that can associate their input with meeting output, and meeting output that ultimately generates a return on their investment of time and energy.

When the facilitator can demonstrate that the meeting output (ie, deliverable) will demonstrably affect the quality of life of a participant, how much money they will make, who they will work for, who will work for them, or equally powerful factors, they have internalized the need to make a contribution.

Participants that can link the group goal back to their own lives, such as developing line of sight toward some extrinsic gain such as increased income or more balanced workload, they view their existing competencies and potential contributions as a validation of their time and energy. To the extent that their contributions amplify impact on the deliverable and increase the quality of the output, their participation in meetings and workshops increases dramatically.

The facilitator ought make clear the value of their contributions and strive to quantify the financial risk if the meeting fails. Typically risk may be expressed in financial units (eg, dollars) or labor values (ie, FTE or full-time equivalent). If the facilitator cannot link individual contributions to some measurable value, meeting participation will likely be dominated by the participants that can internalize the value of their contributions, at the expense of other participants who remain less clear about how they will be impacted by the meeting deliverable. One could view internalization as the ability to apply SMART principles by quantifying value, creating valid objectives for subject matter experts.

Identification

A less effective and less sustaining form of motivation or persuasion develops from fuzzier or qualitative form of motivation. In modern society, the analogy is advertising. To the extent that participants can identify with the goals and objectives of a meeting, the more likely they are to contribute, and to make their contribution robust and frequent.

Charismatic session leaders can frequently persuade with their personality styles because participants can identify with their passion and exuberance. Identification represents an extrinsic form of motivation, rather than the intrinsic form obtained through internalization.

Successful persuasion may occur when the larger group (eg, the entire organization) is linked back to the smaller team (ie, meeting participants) and when the team is viewed as successful by the organization, they are also likely to viewed as successful as individuals. Participants feel or believe that the organization will positively view their personal competencies based on performance of the team.

Forced Compliance

A valid analogy to understand forced compliance develops when one views a “gun to their head.” In other words, do it or you will be harmed. Forced Compliance best describes the motivation of most people attending “staff” meetings. They really don’t want to go, but risk penalty or even termination if they fail to appear.

While a powerful motivator to attend, forced compliance does little to increase participation. In fact, most people with a gun to their head will say or contribute little. Strive to avoid this form of motivation, because if it is required to get people to attend, most likely the meeting is not necessary in the first place.

Leaders that rely on forced compliance are not thinking clearly. They need to revisit internalization and establish line of sight for the participants, so that each participant can approximate the true value of their attendance and contributions.

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.

Decision-Making: Stay Focused on Strategic, Operational, OR Tactical Issues


Scope creep wreaks havoc on projects. Meetings also spin out of control because the leader allows the co-mingling of strategic, operational, AND tactical issues. Each deserves a different forum, approach, and preparation. Do NOT allow your meetings to jump back and forth between different issue types.

Since many people spend a large portion of the workday attending meetings, strive to understand the clear purpose of the meeting and what it needs to deliver. All meetings affect decision-making, or they should not be held. While many meetings appear innocuous, such as staff meetings, people take their learnings and make new decisions based on new information. All meetings impact decision-making, or the power of choice.

Decision Making Leadership

Decision Making Leadership

Strategy (Planning) Issues

The input of a strategy session makes clear WHY something is important and the output becomes WHAT we are going to do about it. Most planning sessions are “strategic” to the needs of the group attending because the output is WHO does WHAT.

Most academic approaches strongly encourage a SWOT analysis to lead to consensual understanding about WHAT a group of people needs to do to reach their goals (fuzzy) and objectives (SMART). A thorough SWOT analysis takes hours, not minutes.

Do NOT allow for a discussion of strategic issues during operational updates and similar types of meetings that are organized primarily to share information. Take the strategy issues that arise, document them clearly, and set them aside for discussion during a true planning session, when enough time is allowed to digest complex topics.

Likewise, do NOT allow the group to dive into too many details if you are completing strategy or analysis work. Keep the discussion in the abstract (eg, accelerate vehicle). If the discussion becomes too concrete (eg, foot on the pedal), you risk incomplete planning or analysis. Do not allow discussions about HOW activities will be performed when the purpose of the meeting is establish WHAT needs to be done (eg, acceleration).

Operational (Analysis) Issues

Problem solving might be separated into problems requiring immediate attention and long-range problems that require a complex and perhaps cultural change. Most “immediate” problems focus on satisfying stakeholders at the expense of the supplier or supply chain. Long-term problems lack a sense of urgency resulting in lengthy discussions that remain on topic, but lead to shallow or unclear deliverables. Structure provides help for analysis meetings.

Most operational support meetings lack structure. Problem solving provides a decent example. Participants frequently commit the bias of “solving”. They jump from the problem to the solution and skip the critical step of analysis. For example, if we jump from the symptom of a problem to its cures, there is likelihood we will miss something. If however, we structure the meeting to understand all of the possible causes of the symptom and focus discussion on the cause and not the symptom, we will not likely miss something significant. In requirements gathering for example, “poor requirements” are not typically gathered as wrong requirements; rather, they are “poor” because of the things we missed.

Tactical (Design) Issues

When pushed into the concrete details of staffing, purchasing, or other work methods, carefully separate the decision criteria from the options. Groups are capable of making higher quality decisions than the smartest person in the group because:

  1. Representing diverse stakeholder interests generates more robust criteria
  2. By using diverse subject matter experts, we increase the likelihood that their understanding of causal relationships (ie, cause and effect) will be captured,
  3. Groups create more options than aggregating individuals and more options is directly linked to higher quality decisions.

Leadership Role

Do not forget to understand your role, style, and relationship when using groups to support decision-making. If you intend to advocate for a specific decision, have someone facilitate the session. If you are untrained professionally, and the issue is complicated, complex, or politically charged, someone else should facilitate the session. If you begin as facilitator, but someone else emerges as commanding group respect (typically because they exude neutrality), consider turning the session over to them.

Be prudent, no one wants more meetings. They only want results.

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.

Problems Encountered in Meetings by Other Facilitators and Some Suggestions


“They’re all Priority One!”

A group would not prioritize a list of activities because they felt that all were very important and that prioritizing them would allow some to drop off and not get done. The support organization had only a limited number of resources and limited time. How do you get a group to set priorities?

Alert for Problems Encountered in Meetings

Alert for Problems Encountered in Meetings

Suggestions:

  1. Separately develop the criteria that proves the importance of the activities.
  2. Admit that all the actions are top priority or they would not have been discussed.
  3. Ask them to prioritize the criteria, one relative to each, other using the Bookend tool.
  4. Build a Decision-Matrix to align the criteria with the activities and develop a sense of relative importance, without omitting anything.

“Don’t Measure Me”   

An organization is culturally biased against SMART measures and hard objectives during a business process improvement initiative. History has caused them to resist, cheat, or fall victim to objective measures. The facilitator must get the group to define SMART measures and objectives. How?

Suggestions:

  1. Follow a method that allows the group to define their measures—by first defining the rewards, benefits, risks, challenges, and then associated measures.
  2. Have them draw upon benchmarking other competitors and industries to ensure that key measures have been identified.
  3. Have the group identify their concerns with SMART objectives and develop strategies or actions to address their concerns. Consider the Content Management tool.

One-Day Wonder

A diverse group has one day to define an improved critical scheduling process. The improved process needs clear roles and responsibilities. How do we get them going?

Suggestions:

  1. Define a limited deliverable very clearly with the project manager. Focus on what can be done within the time frame.
  2. Have the participants complete prior to the workshop, such as benchmarking, assessment tools, etc.
  3. Conduct a quick team building exercise at the start to pull the team together as quickly as possible.
  4. Timebox steps as necessary with precise rhetoric that questions “Did we get the most important stuff?” and NOT “Did we get everything?”.

Two Groups

We have two groups, each from a different office, who are jointly responsible for a project. One was actively involved up front (the project manager is from that area) while the other was not involved in the initial meetings. The second group feels no ownership even though they have a key role. How do you get them together?

Suggestions:

  1. Meet with the second group first in developing the workshop and to help them understand what has developed, their role, and clarify the issues that concern them.
  2. Meet with executive management to reinforce their support for the project.
  3. Launch a formal kick-off meeting and provide some team-building exercises.

Executive Solution

A workshop is convened to look at business process improvement opportunities. The workshop develops goals, objectives, principles, and strategies of the initiative. The executive participated in the workshop. After the workshop, the executive decides to change the output to suit himself.

Suggestions

  1. Publish the original results for distribution to all stakeholders as soon as possible.
  2. Have the project manager intervene on behalf of the project team members.
  3. Carefully document the risks and rewards associated with the mandated change.
  4. Next time, emphasize ground rules about consensus building and educate the executive, prior to the workshop, on empowerment, ownership, and accountability.

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 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.

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