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    Thursday
    Nov102016

    Facilitation for Consultants : 9 things to do

    Building on my recent post about Beyond Being a Consultant, there's a wonderful space for consultants, experts and thought leaders to step into organisations today, and that is in the role of a facilitator. 

    Not just being a clever smarty pants about your expertise, but also helping a team, group, executive, board or gathering of leaders to work through the stuff they need to work through and get to some meaningful outcomes. 

    I see it as a three element thing; when you're facilitating (as a consultant, expert or thought leader), you're helping this group be: 

    • PRODUCTIVE: you help them get stuff done. 
    • COLLABORATIVE: you help bring people together 
    • CREATIVE: you help them do good work.

     

    The 9 things to do

    I see there are nine things to do or questions to answer in being able to think, design and deliver an effective facilitated workshop or session for a client organisation. These things address what you need to engage with a client about facilitating a session, preparing to facilitate, designing the event and handling what happens during - and after - the session. 

    Looks like this ;-)

    Think about these things; ask yourself about them: 

    1. EXPERTISE

    What’s my expertise? What do I bring to working with a group or facilitating a team? What type of sessions could I facilitate? 

    2. NEEDS

    Who are they? What are their needs? How do I best identify their requirements? Where is the 'gap' I can help them close? 

    3. RESPONSE

    What is my response? How do I propose we close the gap? What is my response to their situation? How will I bring my specialist expertise to their situation? What do I do?

    4. OUTLINE

    What does the session look like? What processes will we use and follow? What type of workshop or session will this be?

    5. AGENDA

    Designing the session, in detail. What will happen, when? How will we make best use of the time available? What games, tools, activities and resources are available to us? What will we do when we all come together? 

    6. FACILITATE

    Conducting the session. What will I do on the day of the event? How do I set up the room or space, run the agenda? What things are needed on the day? How do I start things off? 

    7. ADAPT

    The best-laid plans may need to change. Now what? Handling what happens on the day and dealing with unexpected changes. How do I handle how people respond and work in the session? What if...? 

    8. TECHNIQUES

    Tools, Tips, Techniques & Tricks: these are the approaches, the methodologies, the processes that facilitators have up their sleeve. 

    9. BEYOND

    Wrap Ups, conclusions and ‘What Next?': How will I wrap up the day? How do we make sure we achieved something? What could we do next? How do I make sure there is ongoing opportunity for us to work together? What else could I do to support them with their work? 

     

    New to facilitation?

    If you’re new to facilitation as an expert or consultant, it’s a great time to make a clean start. You can begin to add facilitation into your offer to client businesses. If you’re not already getting this type of work, would you like to? If so, you’ll need some contemporary facilitation skills to design the program or session, run it and get the outcomes needed. In this way you’ll get the most out of their time and their investment of getting everyone in the room on the same day.

     

    Already facilitating? 

    If you’re already facilitating, you can always, always enhance your capability, step-up the type and level of work you can deliver and help your clients get even greater impact and outcomes when you work with them. How might you need to think differently? What other processes or approaches or styles would you like to test out in facilitating your expertise with a client? 

     

    It's very now!

    Facilitation is a way of working with teams and groups that's very 'now'; with increasing requirements for teams to be more collaborative, to co-design and co-create things and for a more diverse team to be sitting around a workplace meeting room, the need for facilitators is greater than it's ever been. 

    Helping people get important work done, and done swiftly and creatively are the reasons why I LOVE working as a facilitator and building the facilitation capability of leaders of all sorts. I think it's one of the greatest leadership capabilities - whether you're a leader of a team or a leader in your own business, and particularly if you're a consultant, expert or thought leader. You know stuff that you can help your clients with; adopting a facilitation approach gets them working on it, together. 

    Building Facilitation Skills

    I enjoy supporting consultants, experts and thought leaders to boost their facilitation capability. In most of my facilitation workshops, I run a policy of 'any question at any time' and so there is always that uncertainty about 'what's going to happen' which is present in the room. This is a good thing to get used to. The uncertainty. It's about being less in control and more comfortable, confident, capable. 

    And even more fun than the questions at any time, I make my workshops on facilitation skills a facilitated experience. Yes, that's very 'meta' isn't it; a workshop on facilitation that is actually facilitated. No PowerPoint, no definitions, no yawn-yawn training. That means we co-create the agenda based on what we want to learn or what our challenges are and then we go through and cover off the content. It's more experiential; you get to see (what I think) is contemporary, effective, business-ready facilitation. Things happen in the room with us during the day and so as the facilitator, I have to handle them. This is how you get to see what to do, how you could handle the stuff that happens. This provides you with a 'real life' environment to see and experience great facilitation skills in practice in the room during the program. 

    Read more about the two-day facilitation skills program I run here for consultants, experts and thought leaders. 


    Thursday
    Nov032016

    8 Strategies for Leading in a Crisis

    In the wake of the Australian Dreamworld disaster recently and the subsequent public views that things weren't perhaps handled as well as they should have been, it’s a timely reminder for leaders in all organizations, teams and businesses - of any sort and size - to be prepared when something unexpected and dreadful happens. 

    It’s not a pleasant topic*; for many leaders, this type of talk and preparation for a crisis that hasn’t happened takes them away from their daily work and can feel like a waste of time or a distraction from the priorities at hand. You may think, ‘yes I’ll handle that when it happens’ but your role in leading and facilitating in a crisis requires some prevention. 

    *Why am I writing about leading or facilitating in a crisis? My current work is as a speaker, author and facilitator. I’m a communications specialist. I’ve spent many years in my career studying and then lecturing in under-graduate and post-graduate Public Relations, Advertising and Communications and being the full-time leader in communications roles in health, education, government, sport. I held consultant roles for many other businesses over the first 20 years of running my own business. During this time I learned that responding to and facilitating in a crisis is a part of leadership. You take it on when you sign up to be a leader. You can’t hide or escape. So I was ‘in’ for leading and facilitating in a crisis when I took on a leadership role in an organisation. And then as a PR practitioner, I was doubly in. I had to be a facilitator of other leaders during times of crisis.

    I see there are some strong key pillars of timeless advice to be aware of and to put to work when a crisis hits, no matter what business you’re in, no matter your leadership role. 

     

    1. Be ready

    Always be ready. Crises aren't planned. You don't schedule them so you can't say ‘Let's have a meeting and do our media training in the two hours after the crisis'. You've got to be ready. Now. What if something happens today, or tonight or overnight? Or tomorrow afternoon? Would you be right to go? Would you really be ready? A crisis is an almighty shock for an organisation. It feels like it has come out of nowhere and then all of a sudden you are in it; it’s all around you; it’s everything you see and hear and it’s unexpected. But you still need to be ready. 

     

    2. What's your response?

    You need to know what you will do as a business. Just as you have an evacuation plan if there is a fire in your premises, what's your broad plan for if something tragic, disastrous and dreadful happens? For example, who’s on your Crisis Response Team - or whatever you call it. Who are they? And what will they do? Does the board meet immediately or have a phone hookup or does Leader A take the first media calls (or Leader B or C if A is on leave; and if they’re ill or away then is it Leader D and then Leader E if B and C are in Bali)? What’s your hierarchy or handling what’s about to unfold? Work it out. Now. 

    All leaders need to have been grilled with media and customer key message training. Recently. This is not so you can come up with smart arse legal-ese answers but so you can calmly and professionally handle the valid questions that will be asked of you by customers, families, staff, media, sponsors, suppliers, stakeholders, investors…

    By the way, they are not annoying questions, they are valid questions being asked by people who want to know. 

    So yes, your actual messages to families, staff and media may need some crafting and tweaking from PR gurus and speechwriting former political sidekick geniuses but people will want to hear from you. They need to hear and see your organisation represented and speaking. Swiftly. That’s how communication is. Quick. Even if there isn't much to say right now, you've got to be seen and heard. Either onsite where the crisis occurred or at a head office or work location and in your work clothes. It's all about visibility.

    If it looks at all like you’re absent, even if you're working so bloody hard behind the scenes, you still appear invisible and guilty and uncaring. The longer it takes you to come out and say something - even if you are consulting your legal team on the exact wording - the worse things starts to look. 

    Remember the look of Premier Anna Bligh after the disastrous Queensland floods. Sleeves rolled up and moleskins on and working. Not working sweeping out flooded shops. But working with the information coming through from the weather bureau and getting information together and attending briefings and then delivering her media conferences - both prepared messages and taking questions from the media. She was visible. Seen. Heard. Continually. And this visibility gave her great credibility. 

     

    3. Contacts at the ready

    Who’s on your list? Do you have your stakeholders and key contacts at the ready?

    Media contacts. Board. Key leadership staff and employees. Stakeholders. Legal. Suppliers.

    Can you put your hands on that list of information immediately? Who are they and what are their emails and phone numbers. Is it up to date? 

    But can you really touch that information now? Do you need to ring someone else to get this? Too slow. 

    I remember observing a team who took about two hours to bring together all the contact information they needed. This was after the crisis had hit. It was awful. Crazy. Do it today. Get it ready. Keep it updated. 

     

    4. War room, Board room or Bunker

    Where will your crisis response team meet? Where is your bunker? Where will you operate from? Is it adequately resourced with phones and printers and wifi and food and beverages? This is for the team (internal staff plus external consultants) who will be managing your organisation’s response to the crisis full time over the next days, weeks and months. It's also for the media and families and stakeholders who will be nearby, and in your face. They have questions and will need answers. 

    Coordinate it and control it from somewhere. Is there a space where you can run rolling media conferences -- because as new information comes to hand you'll need to speak to people on an ongoing basis. If you don't keep speaking you'll get intercepted as you leave your glamourous house in the morning, all freshly washed and showered and breakfasted. Not a good look to relatives and families traumatised by the crisis currently oozing from your company. Even if you’ve been working all night, we can’t see that. Get your team in that room and then get visible. You need to do and say something.

     

    5. Mindful Mantras 

    The sh*t is most certainly hitting the fan. Beyond the horror of a crisis, things will feel increasingly awful for the leaders involved. So what will you use to guide how you keep responding and managing through the crisis?

    Some of the best historical PR advice was 'tell it all and tell it fast.’ My sense is that isn’t adopted so much today. It’s more like ‘tell them some stuff but hold that and edit that bit and don’t you dare say that’. But other great kernels of PR advice are 'bad news doesn't get better with age’. It still stinks when it finally comes out so you can go with it now or let it fester some more. You choose. 

    Plenty of responses I see companies use seem to be legally based on a 'don't admit fault’ response. But then if that IS the advice, some leaders then translate that so they present with a 'show no emotion whatsoever’ approach or 'don't express sadness and grief'. But you are human. Your organisation is a group of humans working together. And you deliver services for humans. And some of the humans have been impacted - badly. Remember this. Show this.  is a group of humans working together. And you deliver services for humans. Remember this. Show this. 

    I recall hearing about a CEO of an airline who was photographed as they hugged a distraught relative. That's human. Better than saying 'our organisation has the highest levels of safety systems and audits in place and we are focused on the safety and health of blah blah crap and cliche down on the corner of Not Listening Street and Robot Voice Road.'

    Dull. Cold. Inhuman. Rich. Ivory tower. Distanced. Removed. Out of touch. Heartless. Money hungry. Bonus = my lifetime income. Uncaring. 

    This is what it progressively conveys. True or not it’s a heightened emotional environment in times of a crisis. 

    Customer centricity is such a thing today and thinking you are distanced from real customers is folly. They are right there. Watching you and waiting for you to show what type of company you really are, what type of leader you really are.

     

    6. Remain Calm

    There was a classic PR textbook ‘Public Relations Practice’ when I was lecturing and practicing and in learning about communicating in a crisis, students would giggle at the matter-of-fact checklist we used to drill them on in preparation for a crisis. The checklist had ten points, of which numbers one, three, seven and ten read ‘Remain Calm’. Throughout all the advice you have to remember to keep it together and so ‘Remain Calm’ got repeated on high rotation. 

    Anxious and crisis-fueled people say things. Some of that might not be helpful to traumatised customers or families or staff. Leaders under pressure can go all boss-like and 'I'm right’ and say things like ‘Yeah but I did do that' and then it's a ‘You took it out of context’ statement and urrrgh now the crisis is about how you’re responding to it, not about the tragedy that occurred and how awful people are feeling about it and what you're doing about it. This is called leadership. You will feel like sh*t during this but you need to stay calm.  Leaders under pressure can go all boss-like and 'I'm right’ and say things like, ‘Yeah but I did do that' and then it's a ‘You took it out of context’ statement and now the crisis is about how you’re responding to it, not about the tragedy that occurred and how awful people are feeling about it. It's called leadership. You will feel like sh*t during this but you need to stay calm.  how you’re responding to it, not about the tragedy that occurred and how awful people are feeling about it. It's called leadership. You will feel like sh*t during this but you need to stay calm. 

    In the midst of a crisis, the PR team I worked in would say to each other 'this will get worse before it gets better'. And it does. It feels like a movie ‘Under Siege’; you feel under attack, on the defensive and like you’re being blamed for every thing that's happened over the entire life of the organisation. But keep it together. It will likely get worse before it gets better. More information will come out. Media will arrive on the doorstep. Any doorstep. Your doorstep. All doorsteps.

    I remember working in a hospital and in times of crisis (infection outbreaks, doctors strikes, accidental deaths and other awful system failures) that media and journalists would interview staff in the car park arriving for work. The media were simply looking for information. Staff were briefed to direct them to the PR team. I’d be circling the hospital and I’d say to the media, 'Come in. We have our media centre up and running with rolling news conferences from team experts and other information on hand for you. Let's get you a coffee and get you set up. The CEO will next speak at 11'. briefed to direct them to the PR team. I’d be circling the hospital and I’d say 'Come in. We have our media centre up and running with rolling news conferences from team experts and other information on hand for you. Let's get you a coffee and get you set up. The CEO will next speak at 11'.

    And they'd come in. And we’d be in better control of what was getting out there. 

    And it was madness. For days. Little sleep. A disrupted life. But you have to remember that people have suffered or died or been injured and families and relatives are having a frightful time right now and for the rest of their lives. Keep it in perspective. You have a job here to do. A leadership job. 

    Indeed as more information came to light it did get worse before it got better. More details would be uncovered and you could start to see what went wrong or where the system or people or situation had fallen or failed. And that’s just awful too. 

    But then the intensity would start to level out and we would begin to just carry on...in the new world we called 'post crisis world'. The business is never the same. People are never the same after the gut wrenching experience of tragedy and crisis in a company, particularly where people are badly injured or killed. There is a scar tissue and it never really feels like it heals. 

     

    7. Get real practice

    When schooling PR students in undergraduate and post graduate communications programs as a lecturer and tutor in the evening (after I’d just come from working in PR practice during the day) I was big on students applying learning to real life situations. No blah-blah lecture. Let’s get real here. Let’s look at something that’s happening now.  communications programs as a lecturer and tutor in the evening (after I’d just come from working in PR practice during the day) I was big on students applying learning to real life situations. No blah-blah lecture. Let’s get real here. Let’s look at something that’s happening now.  situations. No blah-blah lecture. Let’s get real here. Let’s look at something that’s happening now. 

    The unfolding of crises like the Thredbo landslide disaster and a Russian submarine sinking, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, plane crashes and bridge collapses and product tampering and food poisoning outbreaks and bushfires and floods and terrorism and earthquakes and countless other horrendous and heartbreaking tragedies that impact hundreds of people from the victims and their grief stricken families, the first responders and the staff who are part of the wider work family.  

    In several organisations I worked in, we would practice our public response to a crisis. Not just who would wear the hard hat and direct the ambulances, but who was waiting out at the helipad to greet the media. Who was running the first news conference. Who got the first statement written. Who was caring for customers. Who was handling relatives. Who organised the catering for relatives. Time and again we would practice the response of the wider team. We'd practice the phone chain and the email announcement to staff and the media liaison. All practiced and drilled and tested. Where were the points of failure? How long did that take to do? That’s not swift enough - let’s tighten that process up. How could we do it better? Is there a way to streamline that flow of information?  Who was handling Who the catering for relatives. Time and again we would practice the response of the wider team. We'd practice the phone chain and the email announcement to staff and the media liaison. All practiced and drilled and tested. Where were the points of failure? How long did that take to do? That’s not swift enough - let’s tighten that process up. How could we do it better? Is there a way to streamline that flow of information? 

    Our theory was that our brain doesn't know the difference between practice and reality. Let's drill ourselves in this so we are ready and practiced with real experiences. 

    Because point #1: It might happen tomorrow. 

     

    8. Look and listen 

    Crisis management is a domain of PR expertise. Any crisis that surprises us often stems from that other domain of PR expertise known as 'Issues Management,’ that is, an unattended situation or issue or ‘thing’ may build up and cause you a crisis one day. It’s good to be scanning what’s going on and keeping an Issues Register to track risk and what’s going on across an ’s operations.  

    In training students and in consulting with business, I've always aimed to alert people to thinking about the smoke before the fire or the hint that all may not have been well for some time prior to the crisis. For so many organisations there are hints of an impending crisis but the comments, concerns or complaints from customers or the feedback and reporting of issues from staff have little impact. They’re not heard. Some businesses don't want to press ‘pause' on their services - whether that be transportation or logistics, operations on patients, flights, machinery and equipment - because of the great inconvenience and impact it will have on daily operations and service. If it’s just to simply investigate another comment or concern and to check if something might need fixing, it’s all a tad annoying really. 

     

    But the true tragedy is that so often the crisis was a puff of smoke somewhere in the history of operations of the business. No matter how small or insignificant that puff of smoke was, it's how it manifests further into the future that creates the true sadness of a tragedy: that something serious may have indeed been prevented. 

    Monday
    Oct312016

    Beyond being a consultant

    When you’re a consultant, advisor or expert, you spend a lot of your business time delivering advice, working with a client and helping them with your expertise and know-how.

    Sometimes you have to work with more than one person. Perhaps it’s a business owner and some of their staff; maybe it’s a project manager and some of the project team; or it could be a senior leader in an organisation and some of their stakeholders or colleagues. 

    I reckon that every time you’re working with more than one other person, it’s time to put facilitation skills to work. 

    Facilitation means ‘to make easier’. When you’re facilitating, you’re helping to make great progress and to get things done. 

    While a one-on-one conversation often involves coaching or consulting, working with a group of people (say 2 or more) involves using some additional capability - and that capability is facilitation. 

     

    Facilitation : another tool in your toolkit

    Increasingly the capability of facilitation is coming to the fore for consultants, subject matter experts and thought leaders. You find yourself working with your client and some of their team … as a group. And you’re helping them work on something or create something together… as a group.  

    You may have been asked by a client to run a group session, a workshop, work with them at a team day, assist with planning or some other type of gathering.  

    It makes sense to use facilitation. When a client wants to get several people in the room at once and work with them, they want to achieve an outcome.

    That outcome may be to:

    • plan
    • design
    • decide
    • create
    • brainstorm
    • implement
    • solve

    … or other business task or project. 

    As the facilitator, you’ll be able to help them achieve their outcome AND use your incredible expertise, knowledge and advice at the same time. 

     

    Three key outcomes

    Going beyond consulting, I see that you're helping them do three main things. You help them be:

    • PRODUCTIVE: you help them get stuff done. 
    • COLLABORATIVE: you help bring people together 
    • CREATIVE: you help them do good work.

    Looks like this ;-)

    For you as a consultant, going beyond consulting and using facilitation skills, you'll focus on :

    • the work that needs to be done,
    • theway that work will be done,
    • the people who you're working with,
    • and the progress you'll help them make.

     

    It may feel a little 'clunky' at first

    For many consultants, shifting into facilitation mode doesn't come immediately, naturally or automatically. Yes you've likely got ace questioning skills and listening skills but you might be too quick to jump into prescription or solution, to provide 'the answer'.

    As a facilitator, you can draw the answer out; get people more involved. In the long run, they'll have bought in to the process more, having had more of a say.

    So if it feels a little odd or clunky at first, persist. You might find yourself switching from consultant to facilitator, to trainer, to speaker, back to consultant - all the while delivering your expertise, advice and experience in a valuable and helpful way.

    Plan a response, process or approach

    Don't launch into facilitator mode unprepped. Some of the best processes, models and tools for facilitation come from a little thought about what might suit this situation or group best. This doesn't mean control-freak over-engineering an agenda down to the last minute. What it does mean is some thought about where they are, what they need to do, how you can help them do that.

    Next: 9 things to prep

    Next post I'll unpack the nine things I think you need to do when you're adding facilitation to your consulting toolkit and what some of the things are to consider.

    Above all, know you have an extensive range of insight, experience and capability; make sure facilitation is part of how you deliver that expertise.

    With the world all co-creating, contributing and collaborating, it's smart as a consultant to be able to help people get sh*t done in a way that's beyond just consulting.

    Friday
    Oct282016

    How to get people to speak up, wrap up and shut up

    In these days of collaboration and co-design, working together and aligning the team… this is an ongoing challenge for people leading teams, groups and running meetings and workshops.

    How to get people to speak up, wrap up and shut up.

    Here’s what I mean...

    When I’m running training on facilitation skills - to help leaders become better facilitators of their people and teams - these three things often crop up as a challenge of being a leader of a team:

    • Speak Up: how do you get people to speak up, to contribute, to be engaged, to speak out and to share the ideas they have
    • Wrap Up: how do you get people to wrap up, to summarise succinctly what their thinking is, what their views and opinions are and to get to the point rather than rambling
    • Shut Up: how do you get people to shut up, to conclude - once they’ve delivered their contribution, we’d often like them to pause and let others speak, or better still, stop and listen to other contributions from around the room. How do you get them to stop talking!?

    Speak up. Wrap up. Shut up. 

    Hmmmm, it sounds a bit harsh really. 

    It’s harsh because we’re making it about ‘them’. We went them to speak up. We want them to wrap up. We want them to shut up.

    If we’re a leader, what can WE do about it?

    It’s not about them because:

    It’s hard to speak up if you don’t feel like you’ll be listened to or you have been interrupted often. It feels like no one will listen to you if you do speak up anyway.

    It’s hard to wrap up if you’re a person who needs to speak to think or says things like 'I’m thinking out loud here’ or you need to talk a bit to work out what you’re actually thinking about. 

    And then it's hard to shut up if people aren’t getting your message or they need you to keep explaining it or they didn’t listen to you the first time around and so you’re having another go trying to get your message to land. 

     

    So while it looks on the surface that if everyone would just speak up, wrap up and then shut up the world would be a wonderful place… there’s more going on here folks. 

     

    Speak Up

    How does a leader facilitating a meeting and leading a team help make the environment great so people feel comfortable speaking up? How are they giving people the opportunity, the time, the space and the ears of the room to deliver their contribution? Most of us have been interrupted by an eager contributor or cut off by someone with a supposedly better idea. I think a Leader as Facilitator helps hold the interrupter at bay and allows the person currently speaking to finish their thing; giving them the space to get their views out there.

    It's not just on THEM to speak up; it’s on you as the leader, as the facilitator of the team to make the environment right for people to want to speak up. 

     

    Wrap Up

    If someone is going on and on and on and not getting to the point, they may need some help articulating their thinking. If you’re a think as you speak person you have what I call a ‘talk track’ ; you need to talk to work out what you think. Maybe your idea is still evolving. In this case you need a Leader as Facilitator who will listen, prompt with clarifying questions or capture your key points so everyone else can see and hear what you mean. You don’t want to be pushed to hurry up and finish - especially if your thinking is still evolving. Maybe you haven’t got to your point yet. To be asked to ‘wrap up’ is pushy.

    It’s not on THEM to wrap up; it’s on you as the Leader as Facilitator to help people articulate what it is they think; to question, probe, clarify and elicit the information out of them. 

     

    Shut Up

    Then once someone is speaking or is contributing their ideas and view, how do we make sure they are heard and understood? Because once they are, they will take a break, they will stop. I think we keep talking or keep trying to raise the same point if we feel no one has listened or really let us know that, yes they have heard us. 

     

    Please don’t think you need to ‘shut someone down’. It sounds a bit violent and it’s pervasive in workplaces. Usually, they haven’t had the opportunity to speak. That is, a 'protected' opportunity to speak, protected from interruption or judgement. Nor have they been heard by the leader or facilitator of the meeting or the team.

    Back off, ease off and let go. Don’t rush to get people to speak up, wind up or shut up.

    Think and work as a facilitator. Adopt the capabilities of a Leader as Facilitator to create a great environment:

    1. Give people time to warm up and contribute 
    2. Give people opportunities that are creative to contribute
    3. Then when they speak, help them articulate their thinking : support them, question them or invite them to share more so you can help everyone understand what they’re saying.

    The environment will be better, you’ll get more done because you’re all able to hear one another. Today’s collaborative, creative and consultative workplaces require it. 

    Friday
    Oct212016

    Did you decide how you would make the decision? 

    Meetings get a bad rap as being time wasters, energy drainers and demotivators. So when a meeting rocks, it really rocks; it is effective, creative, collaborative, everyone is on song and sh*t gets done.

    For many of us, the success of a meeting or session with the team is based on the outcomes it generates, the decisions made in that time and the end results we're able to walk out of the room with.

    Further to my earlier post on why that meeting didn't make a decision, I wanted to delve further into point #3... which is about deciding how you'll make a decision.

    Yes, deciding how to decide. It is a thing and it's a thing we can often forget to do.

    As a facilitator and creator of the Leader as Facilitator program, I see this all too often: decisions don't get made because we don't quite know HOW we're going to make the decision.

    I see it like a spectrum of decision-making in organisations. There's a culture of 'this is how we make decisions around here'.

    When you join a new business or team, you may not know what this decision-making culture is until you've experienced it, or tried to make decisions in another way and ended up face planting (aaargh!) or face palming (duh!) or leaving the meeting in deep frustration.

    We think or hope the decision-making process is going to be all sweet and nice and collaborative and consensus-like, yet we get surprised or shocked when majority rules and steals all the joy, taking things in a different direction.

    Here's what to do before your meeting or session; decide how you'll decide.

    Dark Patterns of Decision Making

    First to the dark side, to the dark patterns of decision-making: these are DoneUn andNone. They're evil, dark and not pretty but all too common.

    Done

    Where a decision has already been made prior to a meeting or session and you're there because "consultation". People know they need to consult but they're adopting the decide/defend approach and aren't going to be moved.

    Un

    When a decision is made, all collaborative-like and everyone's good and a little while after the meeting (be it three minutes, two hours or a couple of weeks) the decision is undone, reversed, reneged or 'reviewed'. Urgh. In political circles, I believe it is called 'the backflip'.

    None

    No decision is made. Not a thing. Lots of time spent, lots of talk, lots of 'we've got to do this' and 'I have this great idea' and 'How about we...' but nothing actually reaches the conclusion of a decision. This could also be called the 'HUH' decision where you think maybe possibly potentially a decision was made but a little while later it's not clear what the decision or outcome was. I reckon this is still a 'none' for mine.

    Moving to Brighter Decision-Making

    Let's cross a line here along the spectrum and we see that what happens when we actually DO make a decision; now it's all about HOW that decision is made.

    One

    Here a singular person - perhaps a project or product owner or stakeholder - who is responsible for the decision, makes the decision. You might have to check-in with them, get them to sign off on it or get their verbal or written 'yes'. It happens all the time; it's the voice or go-ahead from a single sole solitary one individual human. (And with AI and robots pervading our world, they're making decisions for us too!)

    Some

    A gathering or group, perhaps a sub-committee or other team have been charged with the power to make the decision. Think of an organising committee. They might go off and gather information and then they decide on behalf of others or in consultation with others. Also, this is NOT about a clique or a breakaway or coup who splinter away from the main group. This subgroup has the responsibility and power to decide, as they are.

    Many

    When you have to put your hand up or vote on anything, this is what's going on. The organisation, project or leader is trying to see how many are across the line on this decision. It's a majority thing, just like an election. Democratic, you all get a say, you all get to stick a coloured dot on the wall, or tick the box or check an answer in a survey or poll.

    Most

    Here's what a lot of organisations are going for (but perhaps don't quite get there), to get a consensus of sorts. It's where you get to have your say, you get to put forward your view. When there are lots of views to consider it can take awhile. If you're working on a project and you're consulting with stakeholders and need to get most of them 'across the line' or to 'buy-in' to the decision, this is likely what you're going for.

    You spend time listening, presenting, helping them understand, you clarify things, and it can go on and on and on. There's nothing wrong with this. It takes time and many people/organisations/leaders are in a panic* about time and simply won't give big decisions the time that's needed to get most people on board.

    *I think while MOST is attempted by a lot of organisations, they give up after a while; it takes so long, is quite challenging and chews up the calendar. They might revert to something earlier on the spectrum.

    All

    Here you get everyone truly onboard. But with complex decisions it's a hard slog. So this is great for straight up simple things that require a decision, but more complex stuff, linger somewhere earlier on the spectrum.

     

    What's the culture of decision-making where you are?

    What happens most often?

    Which types of decisions get sorted quickly and by which approach?

    What other decisions fall elsewhere on this spectrum?

    Before you next meeting or the next agenda item, decide what you're going for and how you'll decide. Does everyone need to give a thumbs-up or are you going with something less?

    Whatever you do, keep away from the dark patterns of decision-making. They're last-century, old old school and scary.