The Problem with our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough’


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    Entries in outcomes (10)


    Mints, water, agenda. Where are the outcomes?

    There's coffee on arrival, mints in little bowls, jugs of fresh water and an agenda on the tables - a gathering of the team for a strategy or team session. Perhaps it's a day or two, or you're fortunate enough to escape off-site in an effort to get fresh perspective and avoid workplace distractions.

    The strategy or team session is a big investment of people, time, preparation, accommodation, travel, catering, audio visual support, time away from your role .... and on and on.

    But simply getting people in the one venue and heading into the agenda doesn't get the best out of the group or that investment.

    There are 7 problems I see with strategy and team sessions and they can all be avoided with pre-planning, creative input and the right resources. When I'm facilitating high-value strategy and team sessions for clients and providing input into agenda design before the event, there are key things I work to avoid. The difference in the feel and running of the session is certainly noticeable ... but the impact on outcomes achieved can be extreme.

    The problems are in my new whitepaper - The 7 Problems with Strategy and Teams Sessions... and what to do about them.

    Read it and act on it before you get the team together. 


    Every meeting and conversation is a balancing act  

    Highwire Walker

    Watching someone handle a meeting and conversation well, is just like the skill of a highwire walker. Balancing, woah over balance, back to centre, wait, steady, step forward, balance, wait...

    The almost easy part is moving along the wire to achieve your outcomes. You can run across if you like. But you might lose people along the way. Or, everyone can be having a great time and participating, you'll achieve some outcomes but they won't be on topic or relevant.

    So the balance is between achieving the meeting or session outcomes; involving and engaging the people who are there (in the room or dialling in remotely); and keeping things on topic. It's a balance and you need to let some slight overbalancing happen here and there, but get back to centre, steady and then keep stepping forward.

    In a meeting, workshop, conversation today, notice how the balance is going. Is anyone really participating? Are you getting anywhere? Are you on topic? How are all three coming together to the applause of the crowd?


    Focused talk... or off on a tangent

    The quick pic image at the left for you this week is a good reminder: notice when conversations, meetings and discussions are focused and on-topic or wandering off on a tangent. Conversations do spark people’s thinking. It’s no wonder we think of other things or want to raise what we see are important or related topics when we're right in the middle of another.

    So be aware of how you encourage divergent and convergent thinking when you’re leading or participating in a meeting or discussion. 

    Divergent – open it up, open up the conversation and the discussion.
    Convergent – narrow it down, close it up, wind it up.
    If the talk goes off-topic, rather than rolling your eyes with ‘here they go again’, say that it sounds like it might be on another topic. Then you have a choice: proceed along the existing path or take the new path. I like to note what that topic, question or comment is. You can come back to it if you choose not to take that path right now. It can help to ask: 'Do we need to go along this path?' 'Does it tie in to our topic today?'  'Is this related?' 'Is this the time/place to talk about it?' Notice these are closed questions. If you do go along this new path, then it's helpful to open it up (divergent) with open questions like 'How does this....', "What parts of that...' or 'Where do these points...'
    In true divergent and convergent thinking, divergent is about many possible solutions. Convergent is about one.

    In business, I often see leaders, managers and meeting facilitators hit speedbumps when a topic is about to be wound up and converged ... and (often unknowingly) they ask another open question. Wham! It's open again. More divergent thinking and talking. Of course if it needs discussing and deciding you do that. But make sure the questions you ask suit either opening things up or closing them down.  

    Are we all done on this topic now? Is there anything else to add to this before we move to the next point? Do we need any more time on this topic?
    Notice how you as the leader, manager, consultant or facilitator contribute to diverging or converging.


    Getting to decision and action

    You know when you're in a meeting or conversation and things don't seem to be getting anywhere, at the speed you'd like? You know the round and round thing? 'Didn't we just cover that?' 'OK, she said that before, let's move on!' 'When, if ever, will we decide on something?' 

    I wanted to give you a valuable tool for meetings and conversations that helps you keep things moving, towards decisionmaking. I call it 'The Facilitator 4-Step'. It's simple, it's clear and you just need to signal with the group what stage of the meeting or conversation topic you're at. These four steps will help you everytime, if your meeting goes for five minutes or even for a full day. I've used it in team workshops, strategic planning days, community meetings, even one-on-one conversations. It was a part of some recent facilitation training I delivered for project management teams to help them move from talking about it, to acting on it!

    Facilitator 4-Step
    1. Facts and Evidence : what do we know? Deal with the facts first, whether you're reviewing what this is all about or you need to clarify the details. Hold back on opinions for now.
    2. Discussion and Opinion : what do we think? Now you can let the discussion and opinions flow...! Identify common themes, capture thoughts and views. Hold off on solutions for now.
    3. Ideas and Opportunity : what could we do? If you need to generate ideas and solutions, now is the time. Make sure you don't cycle back to opinion and discussion, unneccesarily. 
    4. Actions and Commitments : what will we do? When there are decisions to be made, now is the time. The facts are out there, you've discussed thoroughly, come up with ideas, now act!

    The Facilitator 4-Step is available here as a visual I created using Brushes on the ipad; you can save or print it. You can use the questions in blue to explain to the group where you're at. 

    You can get to decision and stop the round and round. But make sure you capture views and opinions along the way too. No steamrolling ok? And if you're meeting to decide, decide to follow a process that will actually get you all somewhere...  phew!


    When you bring a team together this year...  

    Facilitating as a Leader

    2012 is off and running - so in the important first few meetings, workshops or catch-up conversations you have this year, remember to make use of some of the super-skills of the facilitator to help you handle group dynamics and decision making.

    Late in 2011, I designed and facilitated a one-day program on Facilitation Skills to help a client's team boost their management and people skills – particularly when handling projects and meetings.
    Some of the most useful outcomes were related to getting group buy-in or input to decisions, generating ideas and ... most of all, getting out of discussion mode and into decision mode.

    How much of a facilitating manager or leader are you? There are some great skills to learn. If you haven’t checked out the International Association of Facilitators free starter guide to facilitation – and how to have more productive meetings – this great PDF can be found here
    What to start doing
    1. Check the expectations of everyone in the group or meeting as you start; why do they think they’re there?
    2. Have an agenda – even a rough one that outlines how you’ll begin, how you’ll run the middle bit and how you’ll wrap things up.
    3. Listen. Facilitators let people talk … and then they use a variety of techniques to help people summarise, wrap up or focus in on their point.
    4. Go where there might be a bit of tension, rather than avoiding or running from it. Get it out there and it can be dealt with rather than hidden. Progress will be easier.
    5. Use visuals (words + images) – either on a notepad, a flip chart or a whiteboard – to help the group or team ‘see’ where they’re at and where they're trying to get to.
    Most of all, if you're getting the team together, be clear about why. Is it for information only, discussion, debate, decision making, strategising or brainstorming? They're all very different reasons and need different approaches to achieve great outcomes.

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