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    Entries in engagement (29)


    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. 


    Shitty cliched photos* you've got to stop using

    You know you're doing it - and if you're not, you know someone who is - and that is ... saving copyrighted Google images or Stock photos and dropping them into presentations and blog posts and it's making your readers and audiences go 'urgh'. 

    Ridiculous photos have got to go. They are not helping your communication. They're cliched and tired and lazy and tacky. They're not helping you 'cut through' or get 'buy in' or 'build engagement' or 'be memorable'. 

    Here they are; in their cliched glory: 

    1. Any photo containing both a megaphone AND a person in work clothing using said megaphone. 

    Megaphones are used in emergencies and for rowers. Unless you're in danger or on a river rowing your guts out, do not use.  The megaphone is a tragic and tired metaphor for 'communication skills'. Saying the same thing l-o-u-d-e-r  does not mean communication has taken place. Turn off megaphone and put it away. Immediately. Or I will shout at you... via a megaphone!


    2. Fish bowl things. 

    Fish are fish. People are people. Stop making people out to be fishes. And is that jumping fish photo to show 'innovation' or 'breaking away from the crowd'? No. Not working. It's really saying 'your water is dirty, I'm outta here'. See that is not innovative. Plus it is used SO much, overused, it is not innovative. It is not unique. It's as common as carp. 


    3. Pretty Diversity

    The photo of that happy and diverse team... stop trying so hard; they’re too pretty by the way.  And this might be what we look like at the start of the day when we’re all fresh and minty breathed and neatly styled in the hair department. But show that same team at the end of the day why don't you! We'll be looking (and smelling) fluorescent-bulb-grey-office-cubicle-instant-coffee-dirty. Yeah, show a real team. A team of humans. And a dog too. If you have a workplace dog, show the dog. 


     4. Work Clothes Don't Jump...

    People in tight and uncomfortable work clothes do not jump (especially in affordable work clothes that don't have much of a tolerance in the seams these days. You have pasta for lunch and everything is at maximum s-t-r-e-t-c-h). And based on how low employee engagement scores are across the globe, you’re gonna have to try way harder to create environments and opportunities where staff even want to lift just ONE FOOT off the ground, let alone leap across a valley or off a cliff or agree to being superimposed across a digital Matrix-looking spreadsheet with a briefcase in their hands. Who does briefcase anymore? Chairman of Board? I can haz satchel or courier bag? 


    5. Ladder climbing in a suit

    This is not cool or sophisticated. It's also related to the 'jumper'. See #4. Not a suit again?! Come on.. lots of workplaces they just don’t wear SUITS anymore. Don't you know that global sales of suits are plummeting (down the rungs of a corporate ladder perhaps?). Clothing is relaxing now. People are relaxing. And ladders? Nice metaphor, but use it to represent progress, communication, engagement, stepping up and lifting, rather than the cliched ‘climbing the corporate ladder’ BS. It's all about collaboration now. At least have an image of someone else trying to climb up the ladder and being kicked off and slapped about by the awesome millennial up and comer. That's "collaboration", that's what's REALLY happening isn't it? Isn't it?


    6. On starting lines and athletics tracks... in work clothes 

    It's not a race people! Plus, what are you thinking; you can't run in those shoes! It's an OHS risk! What would Nike have to say about that? What would Usain Bolt say about your preparation and equipment? Get back to work and stop the 'race' metaphor thing. Anyway, it's a marathon, not a sprint, and we all know that marathoners start their races standing up looking all cool and "I've got this", knowing their running shorts will be covered in body salt 'n sweat in about 3 hours time and they'll have the worst case of... well they'll just be all sweaty and achey, but they will have done the marathon. Applause to the marathoners. But never in work clothes. 


    7. Non-humans doing things 

    Non-humans? What I mean is little symbols of people. Urgh, look up 'leadership' on Google and the images are cold clip art sh*t that don't even feature humans. Rather they are silver robots and replicants. Maybe THAT is the future of leadership.  

    And what's with that image where the leader is STANDING on their team or climbing over them like an outback Australian sheep dog scrambling over a flock of sheep. Woof! Stop it! Be a human centred leader and communicator and put some real photos and hand made images of humans. Don’t make us out to be silver ball-headed zombies. Stop it!


    8. Jigsaw piece anythings

    Yeah, this metaphor is done. Done. Jigsaw puzzles are beautiful pieces of art and stunning activities for mindfulness. I love jigsaws. But. NOT. AT. WORK. I get the metaphor, I really do. But try harder. There are many other metaphors that are more contemporary, more relevant. A puzzle? Interesting. Jigsaw? No. Move on. Find another piece. 


    9. Fountain pens, spectacles and lined notepads 

    I love fountain pens. I wear spectacles. But stop putting them on a lined legal notepad to show... oh whatever you're trying to show. Legal-something. Anyway, where in the stationery cupboard at work can I find me a freakin’ fountain pen these days? Not to mention the ink. The INK!!!!! And can the Procurement Team order me a little wooden desk with an ink well so I can stand my ink pot in there. While you're at it, screw the fountain pen, order me a quill please!  


    10. Freeway signs with BIG business words on them

    Oh please no, not the freeway sign with 'Innovation' or 'Change' on it. 

    Wrong way. Go back. DON'T YOU REALISE WHAT YOU ARE DOING???? You are reminding your team that they just spent 90 stressful minutes trying to get in to your office, along a blocked and peak-hour-jammed freeway with insufficient lanes and pot holes and bad signage and people who don’t know how to merge and silly cut in people with cars with brake lights that don’t work and stinkin' fumes and heat and bad radio. Aarrrrghhh! Enough. In the words of Faith Hill, 'just breatheeeee’. Breathe, just breathe. Take next exit. Or in German, that's 'Ausfahrt' (... I always giggled at this in Europe as a child. And as an adult sometimes too).  Get off this tired metaphor and corny green sign. ASAP.


    *This is not to say all stock photos are shitty. Not at all. Settle down. Not saying that. Some of them, many of them are freakin' awesome, beautiful, impactful and creative. Applause to those. Use those.  


    What to do about the excruciating sound of silence

    We often want people to contribute, give and be engaged - in conversations, in meetings/workshops or planning days, in the work at hand, in the project, in the business and the industry. 

    It can be tough; how do you get people to contribute, to add their views and to give their input? Don’t they know we want it; after all, we asked them!

    In this day of co-creation and collaboration we want to and need to ensure our customers and clients get the types of solutions they need...  but sheesh it can be hard work sometimes getting people to give, contribute, ‘cough-up’ and show they are engaged. 

    We experience it when we  need to extract information from customers, clients or users, or get the requirements for a project or the details for a consulting job… but we just don’t seem to get what we’re after. 

    Sometimes we have asked a question… or four… and then we're met with ….




    Are they thinking?

    Are they going to respond? Do they have anything to say? 

    Somebody. Say something. Bueller, Bueller Bueller?  Anyone, Anyone?

    If we’re leading the session or meeting we might be tempted to jump in and answer or move on or even ask another question. Or we can just feel like disappearing and going for a coffee, just to get outta there!

    We can wonder: Why aren’t they ‘engaged’! ? Why aren’t they contributing great ideas? Was it something I said? 

    Worse is when we know there are great ideas to be gathered; we may have heard whispers OUTSIDE the session; why aren’t they bringing them INSIDE, to the meeting or session?   

    So here’s the word…  it’s not about engagement, it’s about elicitation. 

    Simply saying 'people aren’t engaged on the topic' or ‘they’re not engaging in the discussion' is too much about them.

    Elicitation is the new engagement.  

    Elicit means to draw forth. It means to make or create or invite, to stir up and stimulate.  
    It can mean stronger things than this, but to elicit something is to evoke. To sparkand stir

    We need to elicit. Not wait for them to engage. Elicit. 

    Instead of blaming them for not being engaged or measuring their engagement scores, how about we measure how well we elicit information?

    • So how are you stirring things up?
    • What are we evoking, inviting and sparking? 
    • What questions are you asking?
    • How are you doing that?
    • Do you have a good mix of open and closed questions?
    • Do you think this is a closed question?
    • What is an example of an open question? (See what I did there?)
    • And are you working those questions out ahead of time… or just winging it? (PS, hint, work them out ahead of time or you’re sure to be unconsciously asking closed questions. It happens a lot. A lot. And closed questions can push people away and bring on the crickets.) 

    Our workplaces need bright, enlightening discussions, epic progress, competitive products and bold decisions.  

    Contemporary leaders know how to elicit, spark and stir.  

    Fire it up people!


    Engage BS* detector: "We want to consult with you on this..."

    As you respond to the volatile world of change out there, and work hard to engage and consult with people around you or with clients, customers and stakeholders, please please please, think first about how involved you want people to be.

    How involved do you want people to be in the change, transformation or piece of work you’re leading?

    You may want them fully empowered. Or perhaps this is about some consultation. Or something else. At each step or stage or leading change, keep asking yourself questions like: 

    • Is this a briefing or transfer of information? (inform)
    • Is it a consultative thing - I want to ask some questions and find out what they think? (consult)
    • Do I need to involve them in the design or development of a process, product or service? (involve)
    • Is it about collaboration: ‘let's work on this thing together’. (collaborate) 
    • Do I want them to pick up the ball and run with it, to empower them so that they act and decide? (empower)

    Whichever of these you'd like to make happen – and you may want to achieve several on one piece of work - you need to be clear, otherwise it can get awkward, disengaging and cause some further hiccups. 

    When people say 'we want to consult with you on this...', I make sure my BS detector is switched on. Because they may have already made up their minds!

    So here's a continuum or scale that can guide you. Get your goggles on: how low do you wanna go?

    A Depth Gauge: How low do you want to go?

     Informing people about change is very much on the surface. You tell them, they listen. You move on.

    But you can go further. When you consult with people, you’re getting under the surface, you’re asking them what they think, you want their views and those views may well impact the shape and size of things to come.

    To go deeper is to involve people. How do they see things? What would they do? What do they think needs to happen? Get their ideas, their thoughts, their ways of thinking and seeing and bring them into the change.

    Oh, yes you can go further. To collaborate with people, you go deeper. ‘Co’ means to work together. Now you’re talking, listening, meeting, co-creating, co-designing and co-delivering this thing together. Regularly. Often. Most of the time.

    And even further you can go where people are empowered to design, create, deliver or implement a change or initiative. Give them power, decision making, financial, resource, timing: it’s theirs for the making.

    I regularly use these five levels and ‘depths’ of involvement and participation (adapted from the International Association for Public Participation, or IAP2) to guide me in:

    • how to prepare for engaging with a team,
    • how to set up and design an environment a team is going to meet or work in,
    • what processes they'll work through when I’m facilitating a meeting or workshop, and
    • how to handle the stuff that happens during that team’s meetings, work, conversations and projects.

    What you do as a leader makes a b-i-g difference in how well a group or team goes towards achieving an outcome. And how you set the scene is super important.

    If they aren't engaging...

    It's not ‘their fault' or 'up to them'. It's on you. If you've called a meeting, are facilitating a workshop, leading a piece of work or responsible for getting the outcome, it really helps to get clear about what you’re going to do when and how you'll engage them to make something good happen. 

    Those crusty old days of workshops, meetings or conversations to 'discuss, decree and demolish' are gone. That's disengaging and ineffective. It’s super low engagement.

    Start with this ‘depth gauge’ of participation and swim down to the levels that suit the outcome you're after and the people you’re leading. If it’s just about informing – stay on the surface. If it’s about collaboration, you’re going to have to go deeper, do more, design more and set things up so that people do indeed collaborate.

    Just as a trained scuba diver plans their dive, maps out the use of their oxygen supplies and prepares their equipment, leaders too need to plan the depth of involvement and engagement with their teams, colleagues and stakeholders during times of change.

    Take a big breath... and off you go. 

    *BS: Bullsh*t (or Bullshit for the non edited version)


    Is there a meme in your message?

    So you've got this message and information you need to share, spread, roll out or deliver to people.

    You want them to take it up, listen to it, understand it, know it, trust it and love it so bad that they'll 'do it' and then share it with others so more people listen, understand, know, trust, ....

    But wait.. what! They're not? They must be. Aren't they?

    Not only are they not sharing it as you'd like, they're not acting the way you'd like. They haven't taken it (fully) on board, and they haven't changed their behaviour.

    In fact it's worse than you think; they have done something with it! They're making fun of it. (Yes they are; just not in front of you.)

    They've found the funny in it. They're sharing that. They've found the laughing bit, the rude bit, the cheeky bit and the risky bit. They've found the part that is shareable ... and unfortunately it's not your PR-speak "key message".

    Every message needs a meme 
    A meme is a central idea, a shareable, viral, culture-based and symbolic message - every message needs ... a meme. Without it, your message is just, bluh.

    That's not to say your change or leadership message needs Grumpy cat or some Rickrolling or even Shark number 2 - but it does need:

    • a clear idea on why they should care
    • an element that just has to be shared with others; and
    • visual punch that hits them between the eyes.

    With the rise of Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat and other smartphone and visual social sharing tools, you've got to create a clearer visual picture of your message so that it can be passed on.

    'Meme' comes from the Greek word 'mimeme' to mimic or imitate. (Yes, well they might be imitating your message but not how you'd like them to be!)

    Get meme therapy
    Go get some contemporary meme therapy here at Meme Generator and you can see what people are buying in to, understanding, altering, editing and sharing. (I make no apologies for the naughty or 'inappropriate' memes that might be at that link. They're memes after all!)

    Then you can go deeper into the thinking on the physics of it all from Nova Spivack, or check out the research behind memes from biologist Richard Dawkins and his work on evolution and how things spread... (and mutate) including his views on how the internet has hijacked the meme.

    Pause. Before you punch out a list of BS bullet points on that slide deck for your presentation, spend some more thinking time to craft, create and generate something that will stick, transfer, build and ... live on.

    Give them something they want to mimic... for good.