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    Entries in leader as facilitator (15)

    Sunday
    Sep222019

    Continue to cause damage - or decide you’ll make a difference

    I’ve been posting this week on how being a leader who has contemporary facilitation skills is a huge advantage in today's workplace.

    The time we waste in dull/boring/ineffective meetings should be enough of an incentive to make change!

    Massive productivity gains are made when leaders know how to lead engaging, inspiring and productive meetings that get work done AND protect people’s self esteem so they stay engaged.

    You can change culture by changing how you run meetings, workshops, consultations and conversations.

    But damage is done to people in meetings when they're treated poorly, ignored, interrupted, excluded, forgotten, shut down.

    It’s not on them to ‘speak up’; it’s on you to extend your leadership capability to include people, elicit information and contributions, helping to make work easier.

    Facilitation is a life skill to be developed, not a simple skill to read a few articles about.

    Do you commit to putting facilitation on your professional development agenda?

    The difference you'll make will be immeasurable; the damage to people otherwise could be extreme. 

    Sunday
    Aug112019

    Up in the clouds... or down in the details

    Up in the clouds... or down in the details. Author Jim Haudan suggests people across an organisation 'fly' at different levels. You'll experience it every day.

    We have different altitudes of perspective and so we see different things, think differently.

    We know this from being in an aircraft:

    ✈️ On the ground: you can see the airport, trees and tarmac as you're taxiing to the runway;

    ✈️ Up in the air: up to a few thousand feet up there, you can see cars, roads, rivers and patchwork quilts of fields and farms; and

    ✈️ Cruising Altitude: way up there, at 35,000 feet and above it’s cruising altitude and you're getting the big picture.

    You can see a broader perspective stretching way w-a-y over the horizon. Today's leaders need to be able to fly at all levels - and most of all, to be able to recognise it or hear it when others are speaking.

    This is one of the capabilities of the 'Leader as Facilitator' I posted on yesterday. Your preference may keep you 'locked' at a level that's not helpful.

    Q: What say you? Are you an 'up in the clouds' person, 'down in the details' or do you fly somewhere in the middle? 

    Sunday
    Aug112019

    Premature solution giving. 

    When we’re thinking or talking in a meeting and someone jumps in with ’the solution’... Ta da! Big fanfare! Once they’ve spoken it’s as if no other solutions are welcome or matter.

    The problem isn’t the person jumping in with the solution. They’ve had an idea and they’ve said it. Good on them!

    The issue is with the meeting leader. 'Premature solution giving' is an example of what happens when meetings don't have an effective process.

    I’m not talking about the agenda of the meeting, but the process or ‘way’ the meeting is happening.

    Designing a process is a contemporary facilitation capability that today’s ‘leader as facilitator’ needs, so they can:

    🌕 Create better and safer environments

    🌕 Lead more productive meetings

    🌕 Guide more effective team interactions

    🌕 Respond more swiftly when some sh*t goes down in a meeting. (That is, no sweeping it under the carpet or ‘parking’ it in a carpark flip chart).

    Learning the facilitation capability builds leadership confidence, boosts productivity and lifts psychological safety.

    Urgh! What else kills that feeling of safety in a meeting?

    Thursday
    Jan122017

    Why bother doing better...

    When you’ve cursed or waved your fist at a fellow road user -- pedestrian, cyclist, driver, truckie -- for doing something crazy on the road, just remember that we can’t allbe above average drivers. Some of us are highly proficient and skilled, confident and capable. Others of us are less so … and we’ve all done something at some time that wasn’t the best decision while on the road.

    The same applies to drivers at work: leaders running meetings and workshops. We might, possibly, perhaps, maybe think we’re pretty great when it comes to leading meetings, getting outcomes with a team and keeping people engaged throughout the process! 

    Many a leader I’ve observed, coached or developed in facilitation skills -- the skills leaders use to bring their team together, remove obstacles and get good work done -- believe they’re pretty hot, highly capable and in short, "nailin’ it".

    But we can’t all be above average facilitators. 

    It could be that we haven't recently gained perspective on how we’re going or perhaps we may not have adjusted our style to incorporate some of the newer approaches to working with people that help bring them together and get work done. 

    Or we might be comparing ourselves to those we work with and okay, so fair enough, in comparison with that sample, we may well be hot! But outside of your organisation’s culture of meetings and workshops, you may be resorting to habitual patterns of behaviour that could be impacting how you’re performing... and the results you're getting in meetings and workshops.

     

    A New View

    Time and again in my workshops on facilitation skills I see how delighted people are to learn new skills, capabilities and techniques in how to handle what happens in meetings, team sessions and workshops. They are thrilled in fact! Their confidence lifts. They have new ways of working with people that are contemporary, yet caring; new ways that are creative yet productive.

    We don’t know what we don’t know when it comes to many aspects of leadership, collaboration, motivation, performance… you can put facilitation on that list too.

    The role of the workplace leader continues to evolve.

    Increasingly leaders are needing workplace group leadership skills across three main areas: 

    1. to create the right environment or culture for collaboration
    2. to elicit information from the team and
    3. to build cohesion - to help bring a team together and to help them stick. (And... taking them out for drinks doesn’t count!)

    So it makes sense for leaders to continue to look at how to build these types of capabilities, to build their social intelligence and to get better leverage for the time they spend working with their direct reports. 

     

    Why bother doing better? 

    If you’re on your own journey of going from good to great as a leader -- no matter your role, field, industry or organisation -- think about why you would step-up in your capabilities and performance.

    In each of my workshops on facilitation skills or 'Leader as Facilitator' program, I ask participants why they want to do better or why they want to improve their facilitation capability with their team in their organisation.

    Gathering up all of those replies to ‘why’ over recent years, the responses seem to focus on four main areas (and you'll see some direct quotes from the sessions): 

     

    The ME

    (me, myself, I - this is about them, the leader)

    Their responses include improving their facilitation capability to: 

    • Build confidence 
    • Learn! Always be learning
    • Confirm if I am on the right track with what I’m doing now
    • Be more persuasive. One participant recently said: "Perhaps I’m a little bit direct; how can I be more persuasive, impactful, engaging – all at once?". Aaaah yes, a magical trio there, but it can be done. 
    •  Understand what to do when I don’t know what to do
    •  Break old habits and routines
    •  Improve my communication skills
    •  Become a better leader (Yes! Nice one that.)

     

     

    The WE

    (them, they, us - this is about the participants, their direct reports, team members, stakeholders, the people they work with)

    They said they wanted to improve their capabilities to facilitate as a leader to: 

    • Influence stakeholders and learn more ways to influence people
    • Handle tricky situations and strong personalities in the room (urgh, don’t you just break out in a sweat at the thought of the next one of those you have to lead!)
    • Manage up; to be able to lead leaders
    • Get people on board a change program or a new or changed project
    •  Engage people to increase their commitment to follow through on actions 
    •  Keep people motivated
    •  Manage differing outcomes and expectations

     

    The WORK

    (it, that, the work - this is about the work to be done)

    Participants said they wanted to improve their abilities to facilitate in meetings and workshops to: 

    • Get to a decision - as one leader said, "It's fine to all talk and contribute but where is it eventually going? Do we need to get somewhere and get agreement? If so, then I have to make that happen without being a steamroller".
    • Give a name to things we may do instinctively as leaders; "I'd like to be more conscious of deliberately doing something because then I’ll know what to do to get what outcomes."
    • Conduct more effective meetings (oh so common this one - such a h-u-g-e time waster when it doesn't go well)
    • Achieve outcomes in a group or team environment. "The more people there are, the messier it can get, but we still need to do stuff", said a leader recently. 
    • Keep a group of people on track and get the work done. (It's an ongoing and fine balancing act, hey?) 

     

    The WAY

    (how we do the work - this is about how we work together, the culture of the meeting or workshop, how we perform as a group)

    Participants said how they work would be boosted with better facilitation skills to: 

    • Add to the toolkit of strategies and tactics we know about when working in a group situation
    • Move away from click and point PowerPoint presentations; "It’s not a presentation - it’s a workshop, dude", was feedback from a leader’s direct report at a design thinking workshop recently. Ouch! But it was feedback that jolted that leader and helped them shift their thinking and then go ahead and build their facilitation capability
    • Techniques to get beyond group ‘niceties’. "You know, we’re all being nice and getting along and perhaps being compliant in our decision making so we don’t rock the boat, rather than feeling like you can have robust discussion and diverse participation."
    • Get different views from around the room
    • Harvest ideas and get deeper information from all of the team or unit or from smaller groups or areas of the business who might not normally participate in these sessions
    • Run better meetings; "we spend so much time in them and we simply don’t do them well enough”. 

     

    There are so many ways an enhanced capability to facilitate in your team will benefit you and the team, the work that gets done and the way you all do the work. 

    And while it's just one capability - facilitation - it has so many facets, perspectives, skills, techniques, ways of thinking and depth to it. It's a practice.

    What’s most needed where you are at the moment? 

    Watch what happens over the next few days and weeks -- where do you think a better, stronger capability to facilitate (to make things easier for the team) would be beneficial?

    Thursday
    Jan122017

    Leader as Coach: T-o-o  s-l-o-w

    The Leader as Coach approach has been a leadership staple in many industries and organisations for years.

    This is where a leader schedules one-on-one conversations and meetings with their team members. These conversations may be about helping that team member progress and develop, help them uncover ideas and actions to tackle challenges or barriers getting in that person's way or to perhaps have a tricky or difficult conversation about behaviour or performance.

    'Train the Coach', 'Coach the Coach' or 'Leader as Coach' programs have been a popular part of the learning and development offer for years.

    I recall delivering a coaching training program for leaders for a large banking and financial institution about ten+ years ago. They wanted to ensure their leaders adopted a coaching culture and in turn, help them be more effective at those crucial one-on-one conversations. 

    So, yes, coaching is a highly valued and valid leadership tool.

    But there's a but: it can be so. freakin'. s-l-o-w.

    Many leaders find the drain, drag and pace of one-to-ones across their team less efficient than they'd like ... and less efficient for the time they have available. 

    As one leader in the bank's coaching program I ran said (in objection to doing coaching):

    "It takes so long to get that person to realise what needs to be done, to go through the GROW model or whatever tool we're working on. I just don't think I have the time or the patience for this all the time".

    While that type of comment may run counter to what leadership or leaders should be like (read: more patient or more effective at coaching or more 'something'), the realities of pressured schedules, busy teams and project deadlines mean many leaders avoid the one-on-one or push it out and delay it or try and reschedule it time and again.

    As a result, communication, leadership, colalboration, performance and engagement all suffer.

    Rather than telling leaders to coach more or insisting they must coach more, I believe we need to acknowledge that leaders have time to leverage and the better they can do that, the greater impact they'll have - certainly more than what a raft of one-to-ones can achieve.

    To all the coaches or pro-coaches out there... relax, this is not to say one-on-one coaching conversations aren't needed; they are. For things like performance and development and tricky situations, sure; book a room, one-on-one and go coach. They will always be needed.

    But for some organisations who adopt and prioritise coaching, it can seem as if every conversation a leader has to have with their team members has the danger of turning into a book-a-meeting-room-for-a-one-on-one kind of meeting.

    When a business decrees that coaching or one-on-one conversations are the priority to lift performance or address issues, it can begin to chew up a lot of time in the diary.

    As a leader in a tech organisation said to me recently,

    "I've got a team of 12. When you add in the time of having heaps of one-on-ones with them, along with the team and group meetings, and the other responsibilities I have influencing and managing stuff, it all gets too much. I find myself thinking how else could I be leveraging this time".

    Not more meetings

    Please don't assume we're talking about running more meetings here. Meetings are already under pressure for wasting time, running off topic and being dominated by the loudest voices.

    But what I do think can be done is having more group conversations and sessions - small or larger groups.

    These small or larger group sessions can be focused on the same sort of development, barriers, progress... whatever other topics need to be managed for that team - but done in a group setting rather than always believing it needs to be done via a bunch of one-on-ones.

    This is where the leader as coach, shifts into a leader as facilitator.

    For some leaders there is a fear there; 'I don't want to be running a group session' or'Then the whole thing will get out of control; I'll never reign them in!' or 'How do I shut them up?' or 'I don't want things going off-track or getting to negative or turning into a whinge-fest'.

    Still other leaders are nervous in front of a group or worry about the questions they'll be asked or if they'd ever be bombarded or ambushed by a team of clique of people.

    But these are simply some of the fears of facilitation, the fears of working with and leading a group... and these fears can be allayed when you know what to do with a group or team in a group setting.

    Leverage for impact

    Indeed it's time for leaders to better leverage their time as well as the time of their team members. Rather than going s-l-o-w with lots of one-on-ones, leaders need to bring those individuals together to have more effective and impactful group sessions: both small group: twos, threes or fours... and larger groups seven, 10, 12, 25, 40 people.

    Time gets leveraged for all. Rather that 12 x 1 hour meetings, get everyone (or groups of everyone!) in the room and have a 15, 30 or 45 minute engaging session and conversation - well-facilitated by the leader.

    Lift the game

    Lazy leaders limp into meetings, slump into chairs and bark commands or tap their pens on the table. It's old school, last century and not facilitative. At all. Lazy leaders interrupt, bluff and bluster their way through BS jargon and wonder whey they have a disengaged and disempowered team.

    The leader as facilitator is a different way of behaving and leading. It requires a lift in your thinking and capability.

    The shift from 'Leader as Coach' to 'Leader as Facilitator' is underway and I see it as one of the most exciting shifts in leadership today.

    When a leader facilitates, group harmony and cohesion is strengthened and the sheer energy or vibe of the team, tribe or group coming together lift people to higher levels of performance. 

    Facilitators make progress easy... or easier. They run a process, respond to what happens and draw on very cool tools to make progress. 

    As a participant in my Leader as Facilitator program said:

    "Now I'm able to get stuff done; we talk as a team, I can help remove barriers across the team, we can make decisions as a team and I'm better able to handle the general sh*t that goes down daily in our team."

    (Note, this leader wasn't naming his people as sh*t; it was more about the finicky, challenging issues and hiccups that happen throughout a typical day when leading a diverse team).

    There are authentic, empathic and realistic ways to get stuff done in teams and keep the team connected to the work to be done, all via the power of facilitation. This is about being more of a Leader as Facilitator.