Beware of Overconfident Subject Matter Experts, and be Prepared to Challenge


You and I have been victim of numerous false, urban legends, for example:

  • The Great Wall of China is NOT visible from outer space
  • You use a lot more than ten percent of your brain
  • Relatively speaking, it’s much safer to take candy from strangers than from family members. Statistically, family members are more likely than strangers to poison others.

Much has been researched and written about cognitive biases. Subject matter experts (ie, SMEs) are frequent victims of an “availability” bias that causes them to be over-confident, and perhaps wrong. Be prepared to challenge them with a “hip-pocket” tool, something you carry with you at all times.

Background

Information is more likely to be used in a decision when it is delivered face-to-face. Participants are frequently impressed by the charisma of the deliverer rather than the value of the information.

Subject matter experts tend to overestimate their contributions that are produced jointly with others. Thus, they overestimate the importance of their contributions, and close themselves off from the possibility of other “right” answers.

For example, two people eating the same bowl of chili will react differently. One may claim the chili is “hot” (ie, spicy) while the other claims it is “not”. Both are right, so we might appeal to Scoville Units to “objectify” their claims.

Solution

Be prepared to demonstrate that SMEs may have “an” answer, but not the only answer. Be prepared to humble them. Demonstrate that their answer may be sub-optimal (or even wrong) and that voting is a poor method of decision-making. We like to use the approach below, that is one of but hundreds of similar exercises used to shake their paradigms.

Solve the question yourself. You will need to write us for the correct answer but we can assure you that the correct answer is not “23.” Keep in mind that these are English books, written from left to right, and stacked in proper sequence, from Volume One through Volume Four, vertically.

A Bookworm's Travels

A Bookworm’s Travels

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.

Six Benefits by Improving Your Facilitative Leadership and Meeting Skills


As you amplify and increase your facilitative leadership skills, you and your team participants will become more successful.  What is our measurement of success?  Let us consider six substantial areas of success including:

  1. Consensual Understanding and Higher Quality Decisions
  2. Flexibility and Breaking through Stalemates and Deadlocks
  3. Impactful Groups through Improved Working Relationships
  4. Integral Decision-Making
  5. Knowledge Transfer and Increased Organizational Effectiveness
  6. Saving Time and Increased Personal Effectiveness

Let us look at each briefly in a more detail:

Strengthen Your Skills

Strengthen Your Skills

  1. Consensual Understanding and Higher Quality Decisions:  Properly facilitated, participants understand both WHAT is decided and WHY.  Since groups are capable of generating more options than the aggregate of individuals, they arrive at higher quality decisions that are capable of reconciling seemingly contrary points of view.
  2. Flexibility and Breaking through Stalemates and Deadlocks:  Structured approaches afford a higher degree of flexibility, than approaches without structure.  With structure, and topical flow, meetings can take the “scenic route” because there is a back-up plan to provide a respite from the stream of consciousness approach taken by unstructured meetings.  By exploring newly created options and challenging working assumptions, teams can breakthrough their stalemates and deadlocks by rediscovering common ground or by creating options during the meeting that did not walk in to the room at the start of the meeting.
  3. Impactful Groups through Improved Working Relationships:  Conflict becomes properly managed rather than ignored.  Complex issues may be addressed face-to-face as they should, rather than through a series of e-mails and innuendo.  Proper facilitation will demonstrate the opportunity and method for discovering win-win solutions.  As stakeholders’ ideas are sought, meeting activity will become more collaborative and innovative
  4. Integral Decision-Making: Defined as better alignment with organizational goals and objectives.  Structured decision-making must appeal to organizational goals and objectives supported by the meeting; typically the project, program, business unit, and enterprise.  Alignment with the “holarchial” perspective ensures that proposed actions are appropriate and supports prioritization based on the impact of proposed changes across the entire enterprise.  Effective decision-making reflects the integral perspective.
  5. Knowledge Transfer and Increased Organizational Effectiveness:  Learning organizations understand the need and power behind the transfer of knowledge from those who know to those who do not know, but should.  Facilitated environments provide the opportunity for challenge, reflection, and documentation that underlies shared understanding and amplifies organizational effectiveness.  Facilitative leadership also makes it easier to develop new leaders.
  6. Saving Time and Increased Personal Effectiveness:  Session leaders (aka facilitators) will more done faster.  As staff is treated as colleagues, commitment and motivation increases.  By becoming expert on method and tools rather than content, they can continue to use tools that generate consistent and repeatable results.  Meetings only fail because either the participants do not have the talent, do not have the motivation, or do not know how.  The role of the facilitative leader shows them how.

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.

The Positive Psychology of Chenille Stems: How to Make Everything Seem Easier


If you seek innovation and breakthrough during your group meetings or workshops, do not clone yourself.  Constantly strive to blend and mix various ingredients and participants.  But be prepared to keep them all stimulated.  We call it the “Zen” of the experience—that is appealing to all the senses to stimulate and maintain vibrancy.

Stimulate the Senses

Stimulate the Senses

As you know, moods and judgments can be influenced by unrelated experiences of sight and sound.  For example, we typically feel happier on sunny days and perhaps more relaxed when listening to certain types of music.  Heat and humidity are known to provoke more fighting, violence, and even riots.

You are encouraged to use multiple colors to break up the monotony of a single color hue.  You are encouraged to use icons and illustrations to break up the monotony of recording notes purely in the narrative format.  Likewise, use matrices, tables, and templates to stimulate your participants.

Our popular break timers blend a musical background that could best be described as eclectic—everything, from Frank to Frank as in Frank Sinatra to Frank Zappa.  We even suggest the use of Purell®, citrus fruit, and fresh air to alert participants who may be dozing off.  Likewise we encourage the use of 30-30, or 30 second stand-up and stretch breaks every 30 minutes.

In a similar fashion, we have used chenille stems (aka pipe cleaners) and foam stickers for nearly twenty years now.  While not all participants use them, research by Joshua Ackerman, Christopher Nocera, and John Bargh shows that the weight, texture, and hardness of the things we touch are unconsciously factored into decisions that have nothing to do what is being touched.

Most people associate smoothness and roughness with ease and difficulty.  Note the expressions “smooth sailing” and “rough seas ahead.”  According to the researchers, people who completed a puzzle with pieces covered in sandpaper described their interaction as more difficult and awkward than those with smooth puzzles.  Chenille stems offer both silky smoothness and flexibility, characteristics we seek from our participants and meetings.  Let the chenille stems make everything seem better, they seem to work, and research confirms why.

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.

 

The Primary Skills of Highly Effective, Professional Facilitators


The facilitation wheel illustrates the skills required of a facilitator.  The wheel suggests context and method; you provide the other skills and attributes after confirming the group goal or deliverable with the participants and ensuring they find the agenda a reasonable approach (preferably completed during the interview or Preparation phase).

The Facilitation Wheel

The Facilitation Wheel

  • Active listening
    • Contacting and absorbing—noting both verbal and nonverbal behaviors
    • Feedback—responding to participant’s contribution
    • Clarifying—both expanding and focusing discussion
    • Confirming—determining validity of the content
    • Challenging—confirming the meaning and assumptions
  • Behavior changing
    • Assessing the current behavior—what are risks, why do they persist, what are the related environmental factors that may or may not be within the participant’s control
    • Agreeing on goals for new behavior—what the new behavior will look like
    • Developing a strategy for change—identifying support structures for helping the change to occur
    • Monitoring the success of the new behaviors
    • Feeding back information to help improve the process
  • Challenging
    • Recognizing emotions, logic, and intuition in participants—being aware of their experience
    • Describing and sharing beliefs—modeling feeling expression
    • Feeding back opinions—reacting honestly to expressions
    • Mediating—promoting self-confrontation
    • Repeating—tapping obscure beliefs
    • Associating—facilitating loosening of beliefs
    • Managing—conflict
  • Crisis intervention
    • Appraising the nature and severity of the crisis
    • Serving in a directly helpful way—helping to expand the participant’s vision of options or alternatives, to mobilize the participant’s own sense of strength and coping mechanisms
    • Reinforcing action points—whatever has been determined to be the resolution of the crisis
  • Leading
    • Indirect leading—getting started (eg, logistics)
    • Direct leading—permitting and encouraging discussion
    • Focusing—controlling confusion, diffusion, and vagueness
    • Questioning—conducting open and closed inquiries
  • Problem solving and decision-making
    • Stating the problem/ issue and turning it into a goal statement 
or concrete deliverable
    • Helping participants express doubts or fears about why something “won’t work”
    • Documenting options/ action plans
    • Gathering relevant information about resources, constraints, related goals or issues, etc.
    • Developing selection or evaluation criteria in light of codified goals and resources
    • Selecting a backup/ contingency if first choice proves untenable
    • Generalizing learning for similar situations that might come up later (as in Community of Practice or Lookback)
  • Reflecting
    • Reflecting beliefs—responding to beliefs
    • Reflecting experience—responding to total experience
    • Reflecting content—repeating main message for clarity
  • Rhetorical precision
    • Parsimony—ie, expressing the most with the least
    • Language command—understanding and properly applying the parts of speech, particularly with the English language
    • Capturing meaning in terms used and understood by the participants rather than familiar to the facilitator
  • Summarizing
    • Pulling themes together
    • Reinforcing the big picture
  • Supporting
    • Creating a climate of trust and acceptance
    • Assisting in a healing method that helps to counter any attacking forces

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, 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).

Daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Three Simple yet Precise Questions that Improve Group Clarity and Consensus Building


We have learned during facilitated meetings and workshops, that it’s not easy for participants to respond to broad questions like “How do you solve global hunger?”  While meaningful, the question’s scope is too broad (and perhaps vague) to stimulate specific, actionable (ie, SMART) responses like “We could convert eight abandoned mine shafts in Somalia to create temperature controlled food storage areas.”

Extemporaneous leaders also have a tendency to transition during meetings with broad questions like, “Are we OK with this list?”,  “Can we move on?”, or “Anything else?”.  Facilitate with prepared structure and precision by modifying your transitions with these three questions, modified to your own situation:

  1. Do we need to clarify anything? (scrub for clarity)Questions
  2. Do we need to delete anything? (scrub for relevancy or redundancy)
  3. Do we need to add anything to this list? (scrub for omissions)

The three detailed questions make it easier for meeting participants to analyze, agree, and move on.

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.

Related articles

You Can Effectively Facilitate a Group of People With These Three Principles


There are three principles of effective facilitation.  The first and foremost includes first No Harm, giving way to the Safety Moments and OE (ie, Operational Excellence moments shared in many companies). The second is Focus and the importance of removing distractions.  The third is managing and reminding about Perspective, whether individual or group, and means to leave the egos at the door.Three Principles

NO HARM

The principle of No Harm provides an essential basis for a group of people coming together to work and decide in a collaborative fashion. The facilitator must be both conscious of the principle and its enforcement in the role of process policeman. Nothing is more important to full participation than the feeling (from a participant point of view) that they will not be harmed by what they say.

Let us never forget that the reason for meetings is to generate deliverables but the reason for deliverables is to serve the people. The people always come first.

FOCUS

It is virtually impossible to get a group to focus by telling them to focus. We must be wise enough, as facilitators, to remove all the distractions. Thereby, the only items remaining are those that demand the group’s attention.

Distractions come in many varieties including physical (eg, temperature), emotional (eg, job security), intellectual (eg, future impact), intuitional (eg, impact on others), etc. Removing distractions is likely the biggest hurdle faced by facilitators. It cannot be accomplished by telling a group to focus. They must remove distractions so that the only thing remaining is to focus on the issue at hand. Frequently, scope creep occurs, where discussion advances beyond the scope of the deliverable, and frequently becomes a distraction, in most non-productive meetings.

PERSPECTIVE

When working for a company, organization, NGO, or other entity, participants must be reminded that they represent others through their role. Roles dictate different types of behavior and mannerisms.  For example, most people treat a parent different than a child or a cousin. Because, they are in a different role, facilitators must remind participants about their role and the fiduciary responsibility of representing others, whether current or future stakeholders.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, 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).

Daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify the skills of a facilitative leader.

 

Meeting Tip: Take a “Break” to Improve Your Group Performance and Your Own


In addition to taking standard ten minute bio-breaks every hour or so, you may need to take breaks for the benefits of your team, for your own benefit, or to encourage innovation through a change of scenery.  These extra breaks enable people to move around, get the blood flowing, grab some fresh air, and think of the situation in a different environment 
(eg, an outdoor courtyard or near a fountain).Take an Extra Break

Method

When either you, the session leader, are fatigued or confused or whenever the group gets stuck on a subject, such as an argument, lethargy, etc, take a break.  Before you send them on this special break, however, do the following:

  1. Give them a specific time to return (normally fifteen minutes so that they have ten minutes of a ‘normal’ break and an additional five minutes for steps two and three below).
  2. Visually post or give them a question to think about while on the break and ask them to consider the question for five minutes during their extended break.
  3. When participants return, capture their new ideas or responses.

Notes

This fairly simple exercise has resulted in many issues being resolved, arguments ending, decisions being made, and participants waking up.  It allows some time for evaporation if the team is saturated, thus allowing space for new ideas to develop.  For the session leader, it affords additional time to regroup while the team remains productive. Do not be afraid to take a break as no team has ever been disappointed when the session leader tells the group to take a break.

Ergonomic Break Alternative

The cognitive benefits of exercise have been demonstrated in older people, middle-aged people, and even fourth graders.  Clinical proof exists that you learn twenty percent faster after exercise than after sitting still.

Why?  Exercise improves the blood’s access to specific brain regions and stimulates learning cells to make brain-derived neurotrophic factors, or BDNF, which acts like a Miracle-Gro® for neurons.

What?  Consider an ergonomic break where you (or appointee) begin a simple series of stretching.  Have participants roll their heads, twist their torsos, bend their hips, rotate their arms, or even massage the shoulder trap muscles of the person next to them.

Everyone will benefit, feel better, and stay awake longer.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, 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).

Daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

 

How to Facilitate Building a Group’s Vision Using the Temporal Shift Tool


It’s hard enough to get a family of four to agree where to go out to eat much less getting a group of executives/ managers agree to where they want to take their organization.

To define the specific vision of the organization—where it wants to go, appeal to both the head and the heart, supporting the question, “Why change?”  A clear statement of the future state helps to gain genuine commitment.  Illustrate with your metaphor.

Defined:  A vision is a desired position specified in sufficient detail so that an organization recognizes it when they reach it.  A consensual vision provides direction and motivation for change.

Relationships

Vision

Vision

The vision drives the objectives and defines where the organization is going.  This enables the next step to define key measures and more detailed objectives.

Deliverable

A clearly defined statement between 25 and 75 words in length.

Options

Use one of three methods:

  1. Define a vision statement and then have the group use the Creativity Exercise (in FAST Tools) to draw their vision.  Have each group describe their picture to the others and then capture an integrated vision statement based on the discussion.
  2. Prepare a draft vision statement (frequently gathered from the senior manager of the group) and write it on a flip chart.  Define a vision statement then review this with the group and have them modify it to meet their needs.
  3. Using the Temporal Shift tool below, have the group develop a newspaper or magazine headline that they would like to see in a major newspaper on the date of the vision—eg, “What would the newspaper headline read on January 15, 20xx?”  Have them embellish the headline with the story behind the headline.  This headline and story support the vision.

TEMPORAL SHIFT TOOL

Purpose

Helps groups decide where to go or be at some point in the future.

Rationale

Have you ever had a problem getting a group of friends or family to agree on where to go to eat?  Now try to get a group of bright professionals to agree on where they are headed!  It is much easier to ask and build consensus around “Where have you been?” or, “What type of legacy have you left behind?”

This step defines the specific vision of the organization—where it wants to go.  A vision is a desired position specified in sufficient detail so that an organization recognizes it when they reach it.  Effort is directed towards attaining the vision.  Vision drives objectives and other key measures.

Method

Hand out recent copies of an appropriate industry or organizational or trade magazine or periodical familiar to the participants.  Turn them to a specific page (could be the front cover) or column that is frequently read.  The Wall Street Journal could be a default publication that you use, but decide which section will display the headline based on the nature of the group you are working with.

Have each group develop a newspaper headline that they would like to read on the date of their vision—eg, “What would the headline read on January 15, 20xx?”  Have them embellish the headline with the story behind the headline.

Bring the groups together to compare and contrast.  Work the Bookends looking for similarities and differences.  First work the headline.  The story items supporting the headlines can also be used to support the vision.

NOTE:  Pretend they are on a beach in the future and pick up this periodical, what you are really asking them is “What is the legacy you have left behind as a result of the effort at hand?”

Suggestion

See the following website for headlines from around the world:

http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/flash/default.asp    or

http://www.pressreader.com .

Timing

This step typically takes from one to three hours.

Closure

This step is complete when you have a statement (not necessarily grammatically pure) the group believes captures the target or vision of where they want to go.  Check with them to see if they can recognize the target defined by their vision and would know if they get there.

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.

17 Valuable Tips and Essential Issues for “Chairing” Successful Meetings


Many skills required to facilitate also apply to “chairingmeetings. Success begins with vision and meeting vision is defined as knowing the purpose, scope, and objectives in advance.  Other issues that support successful facilitating or chairing naturally include people skills such as:

Leadership

Leadership

 

  • Ability to trust in the good nature of the human spirit, even in high-risk situations
  • Accepting them for what they are and not what you wish they were
  • Capacity to approach people for their present value rather than past performance
  • Embracing a nature that does not require approval or recognition
  • Willingness to treat everyone, even casual acquaintances, with the same courtesies and kindness

Effective leaders also remain flexible.  Ironically, the best-prepared and fully structured plans afford the most freedom and flexibility because they provide a back up plan if ad hoc or spontaneous discussions prove fruitless.  As emphasized in other blobs, communicating clearly is important to any leader, facilitator or chair.  Beware of participant biases and tendencies including:

  • Missing the context in which a claim is offered to be valid
  • Overgeneralization to such an extent that meaning in the particular case is lost
  • Presumptions that everyone is thinking what the subject member is thinking
  • Primacy and recency affects—whereby the first and final arguments carry more weight
  • Use of terms that are unclear or ambiguous

Additionally, and specifically for meeting chairs as opposed to workshop facilitators, here are seventeen additional and valuable tips:

  1. Always know your deliverable, that is the same as the meeting objective and logically identical to starting with the end in mind.  In the world of Lean Sigma, this is called “right to left” thinking.
  2. Always strive to separate facts and evidence from beliefs and opinions.
  3. Arrive first and prepare your physical space for optimal seating arrangements.
  4. Clarify frequently so that everyone is offered an opportunity to question and challenge.  They will find it easier to challenge you as chair, than the original speaker who may own the content.
  5. Consider posting the deliverable visually on a large sheet of paper, and restate periodically to reinforce the purpose of the meeting.
  6. Explain your role and aspiration to embrace the people and communication skills mentioned above.
  7. Help manage conflict and do not simply ignore it. Some of the best ideas and strongest solutions result from getting conflict out in the open where everyone can understand.
  8. Limit the size of the meeting by keeping representation between five and nine participants, known to be the “sweet spot” for optimal decision-making.
  9. Manage administrivia such as bathroom locations and safety procedures during your introduction.
  10. Manage transitions carefully by reviewing a closed agenda step and clearly moving on to the next open agenda step.
  11. Prepare, presell, and at the start of the meeting review the meeting purpose, scope, objectives, agenda, and estimated duration. If you expect participants to own the output, they have a right to influence how the output is determined.
  12. Protect your participants but realize that it is not your job to reach down their throat and pull it out of them.  As employees or associates, they have a fiduciary responsibility to speak up when they can offer value.
  13. Remain impartial during arguments, or at least demonstrate the appearance of impartiality so that participants can arrive at their own conclusions.
  14. Restrict discussion to agenda items or you will subject yourself to scope creep within the meeting, and risk not getting done on time.
  15. Seek contributions from everyone but do not embarrass anyone by forcing them to speak.
  16. Start on time and police and breaks carefully as well. Do not penalize participants who are on time by starting late.
  17. Take breaks when necessary, likely more than traditional.  A five-minute break every 40 minutes is better than a fifteen break every two hours.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, 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).

Daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

 

“Be Here Now”—Meaning Behind One of Our Most Popular Meeting Ground Rules


Removing distractions so that a group can focus remains the most important goal of an effective facilitator.  Getting the right group of people to focus on issue ensures a successful outcome.  Yet we all know how hard it is to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time.  Researches claim that meeting participants divert their attention to other or personal topics every six to eight minutes.  If you have a meeting with twelve people, someone is “waking up” every 30 seconds.

Simply apply the ground rule “Be Here Now” won’t alone solve the problem, but it will help, especially if you take the time to explain everything it means to your participants.

  • Arrow—post a visual agenda and put an arrow or other device on it to indicate where the group is on the agenda.  Do not use the checkbox approach since it is never clear if the group is on the last checked box or the next unchecked box.  Shopping mall signs indicate where you are, not where you were.
  • Consciousness—ask participant to “be here now’ and strive to keep their consciousness focused on listening and contributing.  Ask them to stay fresh, and if necessary, take more frequent breaks.  Bio-breaks should be offered more frequently in the morning and with virtual meetings (eg, video presence).  Consider 30-second “stretch” breaks every thirty minutes; offering up quick deep knee bends or shoulder turns to keep participants awake and fresh.  Some cultures refer to this as a 30-30, and if it is part of your culture, use a timepiece or timer to signal each 30-minute segment.

    Electronic Leashes

    Electronic Leashes

  • Leashes—have participants disengage their electronic leashes and beware because the vibration mode does not mean silent, only lower tones.  If participants cannot wait to address an electronic request, have them take it out of the room, but do not allow laptops, smart phones, and multi-tasking.  Groups that claim to multi-task, perform mentally at the level of chimpanzees.  Do you really want to facilitate a roomful of monkeys?
  • Punctuality—participants should not arrive late, either at the meeting start or after breaks.  Start meetings on time so that you don’t punish the people who attend on time.  Use FAST timers to ensure on time attendance after breaks.
  • Updates—if participants are late or leave the room and then return, do not stop the meeting to give them a personal update.  Personal updates penalize the on time participants.  Rather, refresh the tardy participants during the next break or pair them off with somebody and send them to the hallway for a one-on-one update, if the update cannot wait until the next break.

To “Be Here Now” is infectious so lead the way.  Arrive early and first.  Watch your time closely and call breaks as needed.  More are better so that participants can attend to their electronic updates.  Most all agree that four 5-minute breaks during a morning session are better than one 20-minute break.  Monitor them tightly however and do not allow leakage.  Your group depends on you for their success.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, 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).

Daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

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