6 Potent Responses to Facilitating Collaborative Behavior During Conflict


External Conflict

Conflict in your group is natural and not necessarily bad when properly managed. You must channel conflict into productivity. Managed well, conflict leads to expanded information exchange, surfaced rationales, more options, and better group decisions that enable change. Managed poorly, conflict destroys. Properly managed, conflict leads to positive transformation. If left festering in the hallways, conflict leads to chaos.

Conflict provides one of the best reasons for justifying the time and expense of a face-to-face meeting because it cannot be properly resolved with mail, attachments, and messaging. Society places negative values on conflict at home and at school. We are not taught collaborative problem solving skills. We will look at the likely external sources of conflict, barriers you will encounter, and responses that are proven effective.

External Conflict

External Conflict

Recognizing Conflict

Recognize that conflict exists particularly when you sense resistance from the group. If your intuition tells you that something is not right, you would be wise to listen to the symptoms:

  • Challenges and attacks
  • Silence and withdrawal
  • Emergence of people with problems
  • Tardiness and punctuality problems
  • Sabotage attempts at the project, process, or facilitator

Sources of Conflict

Primary sources of conflict in a typical workshop include the following, but keep in mind that the two biggest predictors are tenure (ie, how long somebody has been around) and when their jobs, titles, or reporting situation is at risk or being changed:

  • Competition—feeling out of control or the need to control
  • Fears—participant fears as well as facilitator fears
  • Habits—used to disagreeing or arguing, cultural
  • Listening filters—age, background
  • Misinformation—rumors, especially with change
  • Participants’ problems—out of control, unable to excel or bond
  • Poorly defined objectives—misunderstanding of expectations
  • Semantics—understanding of words and intent
  • Situations—reengineering, reorganizations, automating jobs
  • Thinking styles—vertical/ horizontal
  • Ways participants view others—biases, prejudices

Barriers

The following barriers inhibit your ability to manage conflict:

  • Ability or willingness to listen—yours and theirs
  • Fears—yours and theirs
  • Group norms—culture such as “we don’t discuss that here”
  • Image—inability to save face
  • Lack of skill—a weak facilitator
  • Learned responses—our past is hard to unlearn
  • Time—consensus is seldom achieved quickly
  • Vulnerability—real or perceived threats                                                                

Your Responses

How do you respond to manage conflict? To effectively facilitate a conflict situation, you must keep conflict constructive and . . .

  1. Understand anger—dealing with yours and theirs.
  2. Know how to communicate acceptance—to promote open communications.
  3. Understand consensus—it is not compromise.
  4. Prepare properly—know if it is coming.
  5. Build a tool kit (see FAST Facilitative Leadership Tools for immediate help and develop a hip pocket set of tools in preparation for the unexpected)—build teams and diffuse problems.
  6. Challenge—when people raise objectives, discover the cause of the objection. With active listening and proper leadership, the objection can be converted into criterion. What causes the objection and what is the unit of measurement of the cause?

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.

Primary Types of Meetings and the Boundaries to Closely Manage


From one point of view, there are three primary types of business meetings: information sharing, instructional or directional task-related meetings, and facilitated or developed task-related meetings.

Information Sharing

Information Sharing

Information sharing meetings involve mostly one-way communication with information presented from the speaker to the group.  This type of meeting includes the symposium, instructional groups, staff meetings, and other presentations that attempt to communicate essential information to a group.  Interaction from participants to the meeting leader is normally limited to questions and comments.

Task-Related

Task-related meetings use the knowledge and experience of group members to accomplish a work task, such as problem-solving, decision-making, fact-finding, planning, etc.  These meetings are highly interactive, and involve two-way communication between all participants.  Task-related meetings also tend to fall apart more quickly with poor meeting management.  The two variations include:

  1. Directed—the leader runs the meeting and controls the agenda.  These are the most common types of meetings.
  2. Facilitated—an impartial facilitator runs the meeting and controls the agenda and technique.  These are the least common, but are growing in use, as they are the most effective for decision-making and building consensus.

The Model Meeting

To effectively manage a meeting, a meeting leader must pay attention to the dynamics of the group.  Having a model to work from helps the leader understand the group’s behavior to keep meeting dynamics in balance.  This enables the leader to sort problems from non-problems and respond appropriately.

Why a Model?

Looking back on the list of the 14 most frequently mentioned problems in meetings (see “Some of the Challenges and Costs Associated with Hosting Meetings”), we can attribute all of them to one primary cause; a lack of structure.  If this sounds like an oversimplification, it is, but only partially.  You may be asking yourself, “If structure has been the only problem with meetings, why are meetings in corporate America a waste of money?”  That is the effect of meeting dementia.  Take a closer look at the components of the model meeting.

Meeting Boundaries

Meeting boundaries provide the limits or scope, which separate the meeting and its components from the external environment.  Clear and unbroken boundaries are essential to good meeting management.  It is the meeting leader’s responsibility to keep the boundaries from being violated (broken) resulting in a breakdown in structure.  There are two types of meeting boundaries:

  • Time boundaries
  • Physical boundaries

Time Boundaries

Time boundaries govern the start time and stop time of the overall meeting, as well as the length of the meeting.  Meetings starting late seem to be an accepted norm.  All meetings should start at their scheduled time and not exceed the stop time.

Barring a major catastrophe, every meeting must start precisely on time.  Meetings that start late are in trouble right from the start.  This sends a message to the participant that degrades the perceived importance of the meeting.  The meeting is taken less seriously, and sets the stage for additional boundary violations.

If the meeting begins late because the leader is not ready, he or she loses credibility that is hard to recover.  Meetings that start late because the leader is waiting for latecomers are just as bad.  This communicates positive reinforcement to the latecomers, while negatively reinforcing those that came on time.

Running overtime must be avoided at all costs.  In cases where the discussion is crucial, continue only after obtaining consensus from the group.  Otherwise, summarize and reschedule another meeting to conclude the discussion.

How many meetings should have ended long ago?  Meeting length should never exceed 45 to 50 minutes unless it is a facilitated workshop.  By setting up your meetings for 45 or 50-minute increments, you are providing a courtesy to the participants, affording them time to refresh between meetings.

Meetings more than one hour long take too much energy and have an opportunity to drag.  Workshops, properly facilitated, can last for a number of days, but the reason for the extended length generates a deliverable.  Standard meetings taking longer than one hour should be broken into multiple sessions of an hour or less.

Physical Boundaries

Physical boundaries are those, which physically separate the meeting space from the rest of the outside world.  It is an accepted fact that the physical environment has an impact on the psychological environment.  Studies show that a formal atmosphere inhibits the mood for both groups and individuals.  The best meeting results occur when people feel comfortable and informality is balanced with focus on the work-task.  Psychologists refer to this as a state of “relaxed concentration”.  It is the meeting leader’s responsibility to see that proper physical boundaries are established and maintained.

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.

Related articles

 

What Takes the Energy from Meetings with Good People and Intent?


Amazingly, talented people who care can come together and yet fail demonstrably in a ‘meeting.’ Meetings fail is because the participants do not know HOW TO succeed.

To improve your meetings, you should also understand the causes of failure.

Chaos 
Without Structure

To contend with difficulties, it is necessary to take a closer look at how information is processed during a normal business meeting. Like all other forms of energy, unless meetings are harnessed, channeled, and managed within a structured environment, chaos will result. The creative energy generated in a group needs structure before it can be converted to something productive. The creative energy available to any group comes as ideas and information. When information and ideas are processed in a business meeting, it is usually done so without adequate structure.

Information Problems

Meeting Challenges

The following information processing problems occur because of unstructured meetings:

  • Disruptive interruptus—limits continuity of the group’s ideas.
  • Inconclusive progressions—moving on to another topic and not adequately concluding or summarizing the previous topic.
  • Information queuing—mentally storing comments while waiting for an opportunity to speak. When the time comes, the timing is inappropriate and the discussion is derailed.
  • Mixing abstractions—two people talking at different levels of detail, different wavelengths, or different levels of resolution.
  • Solution jumping—prematurely discussing solutions before the problem has been adequately defined.
  • Topic jumping—inappropriately changing the subject. (In the average unstructured meeting, a group changes subjects every minute and a half.)

Complicating Factors

Complicating even further are the tactics that are used by the meeting leader to deal with information processing problems. Three common and unsuccessful approaches:

  1. Heavy-handed control—over reaction that results in the inhibition of creativity and analysis.
  2. Symposium style—speaking one at a time in sequence. Eliminates the advantage of spontaneous interaction.
  3. Withdrawal—results in no direction at all.

Decision Problems

Decisions are made generally by:

  • Default (that’s the way they wanted it anyway)
  • Dominance (the squeaky wheel syndrome)
  • Groupthink (no one disagrees or questions the decision because all assume someone—usually a strong leader—has the right answer. This is one of the explanations for the “Bay of Pigs” incident—no one argued with the decision).
  • Sheer exhaustion (we give up—do what you want)

Decision Styles

In response to the problems of decision-making, some leaders have adopted tactics such as:

  • Authoritarian (good control and quick, but is often wrong and creates low morale)
  • Consensus (encourages participation/ unanimity, but is slow without someone to facilitate it through discipline and structure)
  • Majority rules (very democratic and participative, but allows tyranny of the majority and is slow)
  • Minority rules (permits persuasion, but is political/ resented)

Loss of Creative 
Energy

Meeting leaders typically use more than 60 percent of the communication time available in a meeting, leaving at most 40 percent of the talk time for participants, or 24 minutes in a one-hour meeting. Unequal distribution means much of the creative energy located within the group is not being tapped, decreasing the productivity of the meeting.

Underdevelopment

Remember, while the number of meetings is growing, the mismanagement of meetings is costing a substantial amount of money each year. Wasted time is wasted resource. Meeting leadership is an underdeveloped management skill, but it can be learned.

Meeting Types

There are as many types of meetings as there are meeting leaders. Most meetings, however, fall into three general categories:

  • Information sharing meetings
  • Task-related meetings—directed or instructional
  • Task-related meetings—facilitated or developed

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.

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How to Design a Meeting Agenda that Helps Create the Output (Deliverable) You Need


Purpose

To design a new meeting or  workshop agenda that will effectively lead a group to its deliverable, use these steps. Following them will increase your meeting success. Before we begin, let us remember the definition of a solid structured meeting (eg, FAST) agenda:

Agenda Design Steps

Agenda Defined

An agenda is a series of steps that structure a group discussion during a meeting or workshop.  The FAST technique’s pre-built or cookbook agendas provide solid versions of known and proven information gathering, sharing, and decision-making methods. The modifications you apply to basic agendas will enable:

  1. A facilitator (ie, the session leader) to lead the discussion, with . . .
  2. Subject matter experts (who are experts about content but NOT experts about context or  meeting technique), who build understanding . . .
  3. That extracts required information (ie, the meeting output or deliverable including for example, decision-making or prioritization), thus
  4. Enabling other stakeholders (ie, project team) to use the information and decisions to support and further advance project objectives and organizational goals.

Methodological steps to create a new meeting or workshop agenda are:

  1. Identify the purpose, scope, and deliverables of the meeting—what are you building and what level of detail is required?
  2. Codify the deliverables—what is the specific content for the output of the workshop, what is the optimal sequence for gathering it, and who will use it after the meeting is complete?
  3. Identify known information—what is already known about the project, problem, or scope?
  4. Draft your likely steps—compose a series of steps from experience or analytical methods that would be used by other experts to make this decision, solve this problem, or develop the required information and consensual view.
  5. Review steps for logical flow—walk through the steps to confirm they will produce the desired results.
  6. Identify likely meeting participants—determine the most likely participants and identify their level of understanding about the business issues and the method you have drafted for them to develop the information during the the agenda steps.
  7. Identify any agenda steps that the participants cannot complete—modify or eliminate the steps that your specific participants may not understand, will not value, or are inappropriate for their level of experience.
  8. Identify what information is needed to fill the gaps from step number seven above, and determine how to get this additional information (eg, off-line)—what information or analysis is required to substitute for the missing information identified in step number seven above, that your meeting participants cannot complete?
  9. Detail the final agenda steps to capture required information for the open issues—build the appropriate activities to produce the information without making the participants perform unnecessary activities (eg, do NOT do team building if they already function together properly).
  10. Review—confirm steps number one and two above and then carefully review the detailed activities to confirm that they satisfy the purpose and provide the needed information without over challenging or intimidating your participants.
  11. Perform a walk-through, including documentation format or templates, with other business experts, executive sponsor, and project team members.
  12. Refine—make any changes identified in the walk-through and begin to build out your annotated agenda as suggested by the FAST technique.

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).

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3 Precise Questions that Will 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 those abandoned mine shafts in Somalia and create food storage areas.” Extemporaneous leaders also have a tendency to transition during meetings with broad questions like, “Are we OK with this list?” or “Can we move on?”.   Consider using more structure and precision by modifying your transitions with these three questions modified to your own situation:

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

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