Secret Sauce Part 3: Clear Thinking, Active Listening, & Prepared Structure


The secret to leading more effective meetings and workshops reminds us to put a CAP on wasted time and energy by embracing three behaviors:

Prepared Structure

Prepared Structure

  1. Clear thinking (ie, yields consciousness)
  2. Active listening (ie, yields competence)
  3. Prepared structure (ie, yields confidence)

The effective meeting leader learns to cap waste—to maintain control over direction, environment, and contributions of meeting participants. To be highly effective, requires a servile attitude. Here we cover the third item, the missing ingredient in most meetings, referred by us as “Prepared Structure”.

Prepared Structure

A leader should be disciplined and not unstructured. Prepared structure when working with groups, teams, and meetings refers to discipline, or the order of things. Meeting and workshop structure is like a road map for a trip. You can always take the scenic route or a detour, but you need a clear directive to know where to return.

Ironically, the more structured the meeting, the more flexible you can be. Without structure, or a road map, you can never tell exactly where you are, or more importantly, how much remains to be covered. With structure, you can divert from your plan and take the scenic route knowing that if the team runs into a dead end or gets bored with the scenery, you can always return to your map and planned guidance.

Left to their nature, groups tend to start “solving” before they complete proper and rigorous analysis. The leader needs to play the role of a process police person, and should never be too nice. Teams do not want a nice leader; rather they want a leader who will get them where they are going, on time, and within budget. “Nice” can take place after the meeting is over, in a different role.

Naturally the situation demands professionalism, respect, and common courtesy—but leading is not like having a group of friends, rather it is a group of associates, bound by a common cause.

The nature of building consensus mandates that we seek understanding first about WHY we are doing something. If we cannot reasonably agree on WHY something is important, it is highly unlikely that you will later arrive at consensus. We define the term consensus as something “you can live with.” It does not mean “favorite” nor does it necessarily imply total agreement. It does mean that everyone agrees to support it, and that no one will lose any sleep over it.

Agreement would be like everyone playing the same note on the same instrument. That would be boring after a while. We are seeking harmony, or better yet, the harmonization of different notes being played on different instruments—something akin to music, whether a symphony or hip-hop.

The leader dictates tempo, volume, and who plays when. The leader does not however pick up an instrument and start playing on behalf of the meeting participants. It is the participants’ responsibility to play their instruments. It is the leader’s responsibility to provide cohesion.

Once you get a group to agree on why something is important, next you guide them through the appropriate analysis. There are numerous approaches and tools to consider using. There is usually more than one right answer (or option).

Each option brings a discrete risk-reward that you need to consider, in advance—ie, prepared structure. WHAT type of analysis is best suited for ‘this’ group, given constraints, assumptions, urgency, etc?

The last thing a groups needs is for their leader to turn to them and ask them HOW they want to continue. They need a leader with a strong spine who will tell them HOW TO proceed; what is the question being asked, how it will be answered, and how does the answer support next steps and the deliverable.

Most forms of effective leadership sequence the WHY of understanding before the WHAT it means or WHAT can we do to support it. For each fact or piece of evidence that supports understanding (WHY) there can be more than one implication. Therefore, learn to separate the WHY and the WHAT and structure them separately.

The final part of structure is the HOW we are going to act upon the WHAT we are doing—accomplished. Again, for each WHAT there can be more than one HOW, and you need to lead a group through an understanding of its options. Generally speaking, the WHAT is abstract such as “pay bills” while the HOW is concrete such as “write cheques.”

In summary, the trivium of team discipline is:

  1. WHY is something important?
  2. WHAT are we going to do to support it?
  3. HOW are we going to get it done?

The brainstorming method likewise follows the triumvirate form of discipline. Its three steps are frequently called:

  1. Diverge (Input)
  2. Analyze (Analysis)
  3. Converge (Output)

The executive decision-making process follows a similar threefold discipline, although expressed in completely different terms:

  1. Facts (What?)
  2. Implications (So What?)
  3. Recommendations (Now What?)

Be a disciplined leader and know your structure before the meeting begins. Once you develop awareness about where you are leading a group, rigorously apply the discipline of structure to decide how you are going to lead them.

Secret Sauce
Summary

You will be incredibly successful when you CAP waste and prepare yourself and your participants thoroughly with:

  1. Clear thinking (ie, yields consciousness about WHY it is important)
  2. Active listening (ie, yields competence about WHAT could be done)
  3. Prepared structure (ie, yields confidence about HOW is will happen)

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 SolutionImprove 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.

Secret Sauce Part 2: Clear Thinking, Active Listening, & Prepared Structure


The secret to leading more effective meetings and workshops reminds us to put a CAP on wasted time and energy by embracing three behaviors:

  • Clear thinking (ie, yields consciousness)
  • Active listening (ie, yields competence)
  • Prepared structure (ie, yields confidence)

The effective meeting leader learns to cap waste—to maintain control over direction, environment, and contributions of meeting participants. To be highly effective, requires a servile attitude. Here we cover the second item, the core skill of effective facilitators, commonly referred to as “Active Listening”.

Active listening

Groups make higher quality decisions than the smartest person in the group. Why? Because groups, when properly led, are able to create options that did not exist before the individuals walked into the meeting. Input from one participant may cause another to think of something they had not considered before the meeting. For a group of nine people, we are looking for the tenth answer. With strong leadership and a little luck, that answer may also include or instill the spark of innovation.

Discipline and structure support thorough analysis, but so will the active listening method and use of stimulating visual prompts. Ultimately we are not facilitating “words” in a meeting, so much as the meaning behind the words. Obviously, meetings occur without the use of the English language at all. Non-English meetings will still be effective because words are only the tools used by participants to signify their intent, meaning, and relationships behind the words. Subsequently, pictures and models are frequently more effective tools than narrative descriptions.

Be prepared to challenge participants. Active listening is a four-step process that is NOT like having a conversation. In a conversation we make contact and absorb what the other person is saying. With active listening we need to feed back the reasons for what we have heard, confirm whether we got it right, and challenge for substantive omissions.

The differences are in the following table.

Active Listening

Active Listening

Having a conversation takes less time. Active listening however prevents misunderstanding and can help push the envelope towards options that were previously not considered, thus improving the quality of the decisions made.

We will take a deeper view of the importance of prepared structure, methodology, and tools in our next post.

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 SolutionImprove 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.

Clear Thinking, Active Listening, & Prepared Structure are the Secret Sauce


The secret to leading more effective meetings and workshops reminds us to put a CAP on wasted time and energy by embracing three behaviors:

Clear Thinking

Clear Thinking

  1. Clear thinking (ie, yields consciousness)
  2. Active listening (ie, yields competence)
  3. Prepared structure (ie, yields confidence)

The effective meeting leader learns to cap waste—to maintain control over direction, environment, and contributions of meeting participants. To be highly effective, requires a servile attitude. Here we cover the first item, commonly referred to as leadership. Leaders answer the primary question, “Where are we going?”

Clear Thinking

Nobody is smarter than everybody. The modern leader does not have all the answers, but takes command of the questions. Through appropriate questions, meeting participants are asked to focus and generate supportable answers (or responses).

Leaders know where they are going. For most meetings, clear thinking and sense of direction is built in advance. Optimal questions are thought out and properly sequenced. If you were designing a new home for example, you would consider the foundation and structure before discussing the color of the grout.

When you are leading a meeting, it is critical that you know what the group is intending to build, decide, or leave with. What is different when they walked into the meeting? The modern leader is a change agent, someone who takes a group from where they are when the meeting begins to where they need to be when the meeting ends. You need to start with the end in mind. What does DONE look like?

Unclear speaking and writing indicates unclear thinking. Your awareness about where you are leading the group needs to be expressed in writing, for your benefit and the benefit of others. If you are unable to capture the ‘deliverable’ of your meeting or workshop in writing, you are not ready to start your session.

Meetings need to be documented—if it is not documented, then it did not happen. Therefore, an effective leader has to develop detailed awareness, in writing, that describes the end state and successful conclusion of their meeting.

If the purpose of your meeting is simply to “exchange information” then you will likely find more time and cost effective methods than meeting face-to-face. A typical meeting costs USD$20 per hour, a costly venue to simply share information.

Ask yourself, would you typically rather attend a two-hour meeting or go to a movie? Most people would rather go to a movie for at least three reasons:

  1. Movies include a beginning, middle, and an end. When did you last attend a meeting without one of those components?
  2. Movies embrace conflict. They do not scurry away from conflict; rather they use conflict to make the experience more compelling.
  3. Movies do not require involvement. It is probably easier and less embarrassing to fall asleep at a movie than a business meeting.

As a successful meeting leader, you must provide a clear purpose (beginning), a meaningful approach (middle), and a consensual wrap and dismiss (end). Unfortunately, throwing together an agenda and relying on your goodwill and charm may let you skate by as a person, but do not qualify you as exhibiting modern leadership traits.

In fact, describing the end of a successful meeting is not enough; you should be able to describe the objective of each step in your agenda. Using the home design example, you would know that at the end of the first step, you might have an articulate purpose for building your house, in 50 words or less (eg, primary or secondary or vacation home, etc; ‘to support kids or grandkids or live-in parents, etc; to be lived in for the next 25 years or five years or five months . . .’).

Leadership consciousness and awareness begins by knowing what the end looks like and in the example above, the objective would be a consensually built, 50 word statement that indicates the purpose of the new dwelling.

Once you can articulate WHY your meeting is important, then you are ready to proceed with the next step. WHAT must you do to be more facilitative? We will take a deeper view of the core facilitator tool, called active listening, in our next post.

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 SolutionImprove 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.

Differences Between Meetings & Workshops & How To Succeed Through Structure


If it seems that workshops are actually well run meetings, that is true to a certain degree. Facilitated workshops and well-run meetings are very similar. The main differences are:

Structuring Meetings and Workshops

Structuring Meetings and Workshops

Workshops

  • A building method—a way to solve a problem, develop a plan, reach a decision, agree on analytics, design a flow, etc.
  • Having formally defined roles
  • Remaining focused on one issue at a time

Meetings

  • Primarily intended to inform by exchanging information
  • Tending to have informally defined roles
  • Typically covering many issues

The FAST Structured Technique Works Because

  • Consensus derived information becomes input to the technique.
  • FAST aids analysis by supporting methodologies, such as structured analysis and information modeling.
  • Groups make higher quality decisions than the smartest person 
in the group.
  • Groups of tasks combine and finish concurrently.
  • Groups of tasks define products and directions.
  • Ownership is clear.
  • Structured workshops provide well-defined deliverables.
  • The approach is manageable.
  • The group reaches mutual understanding of the business needs and priorities.
  • The participants have well-defined roles.
  • The session leader stimulates participants with a tool kit of visual aids, documentation forms, and group dynamics skills.
  • The workshop structure and group dynamics provide complete and accurate information.

Success

The following are the critical elements necessary for the success of structured workshops and meetings:

  • A well-trained session leader with facilitation skills and technique skills—without which, execution of the workshops and preparation tasks becomes less than adequate, ad hoc, and inconsistent
  • Availability and commitment of proper resources—both people and facilities; with people providing the input and facilities supporting the environment—having less than optimum produces less than optimal results
  • Commitment from all management—ensuring availability of the proper resources, personnel, time, and support
  • Proper application of the concepts and structure of the technique—avoiding inconsistent and unpredictable results

Secret Sauce 
Summary

The secret to leading more effective meetings reminds us to put a CAP on wasted time and energy by embracing three behaviors:

  1. Clear thinking (ie, yields consciousness)
  2. Active listening (ie, yields competence)
  3. Prepared structure (ie, yields confidence)

The effective meeting leader learns to cap waste—to maintain control over direction, environment, and contributions of meeting participants. To be highly effective, requires a servile attitude. The next three issues will cover HOW TO amplify the three behaviors in detail.

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 SolutionImprove 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.

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.

 

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