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    Entries in teams (4)


    This is the era of ease

    This is the era of ease.

    The world of work has changed. If you're a leader, you need to be more collaborative, able to help a group of individuals play to their strengths and get great work done.

    You need to be able to make the workplace safe for them to be themselves. And to be able to bring them together, to remove barriers, roadblocks and obstacles to their progress - not create them.

    This is a bigger role than just you and your title, your package, ego or status. You'll need to bring empathy, great listening skills, clever questioning capabilities and the ability to chill the %$#& out - to stop being so driven, anxious and intense.

    'Facilitation' means ease, to make easier. Today's world of work needs you to be a leader who makes things easier. That's making progress, meetings, problem-solving, conversations, influence, starting and finishing things - all easier.

    Help make it all easier. This is the era of ease.


    Handling the sh*t that goes down in teams

    Whether it's in a meeting, a conversation, a workshop or general day-to-day stuff, when you get people together, it's natural that some sh*t is gonna go down. 

    People being humans, that's all. Trying to get something done to the best of their ability, trying to work with others, work with constraints of time, budgets, environments and .... other people!

    You've likely seen it today... stuff going down like: 


    • someone interrupting someone else
    • another person who's all-talk and waffle
    • some blame going on 
    • not getting to a decision (in a meeting that was meant to come up with a decision!)
    • people who have views but aren't expressing them at the all-important meeting
    • some people not seeming to listen because you just explained it, again
    • ... and some dude going on and on and not making much sense. 

    These are all human behaviours and they can be handled, clarified, refocused and made sweet so you can get on and do the great work you've got to do.

    You don't need to 'slap down' people or to bark out "order" in a meeting or workshop session. Neither do you need to be the soft-as person who just lets it all go wildly off-track. (Urgh, don't you just wish the meeting leader would DO something to bring it back on track!)

    I see there are four things you need to do to handle the sh*t that goes down:

    1. Get your own sh*t together
    Yes, you be a leader. You need to get ready to lead a meeting or brief a team, or elicit information or be prepped for that thing you're about to do. Think mindset, get ready and be in the right 'space' to do this thing.

    2. You make the environment 
    Some people brighten up a room just by leaving it. Don't be that person. Don't. Be the person that people go 'Oh thank goodness you're here; now we'll get great stuff done'. You impact the vibe in a room by what you say, do, how you look, how you handle every little thing. Eye-rolls, sighs and other verbal nasties leak out of us all. Keep the environment positive, productive, focused, creative. You influence the environment and you can change it if it's not working. 

    3. Follow some type of process 
    Don't wing it or make it up as you go along. There are many tools, models and processes you can apply and follow to make for a good interaction in a team. I love my Facilitator 4-Step process (the visual is about to be translated into Spanish) to help people move from giving their opinions, to coming up with ideas, to finally committing to action. Otherwise, you'll be lost in an infinity loop of 'OMG when is this thing gonna end'. Even if your process is a series of three or four questions, it's a process nonetheless. 

    4. Respond. Handle what happens. 
    When you're ready, the environment is good and you've got a process you're running... then all you have to do is handle what crops up in the session. You'll have your attention on the people and the work to be done, rather than your agenda or the timing or how you're feeling.


    Avoid the cliched advice on how to shut up a non-stop talker or the corny questions on how to get input from the quieter people in your team. They are just that - corny cliches. 

    Too often we're killing collaboration and diversity - without even knowing it.  "Gulp, what me? No, surely not."

    So look out leader, there's this contemporary capability I call Leader as Facilitator. You've got to achieve an outcome, get people on board and keep engagement high. It really is a balancing act. And it doesn't happen by accident or by 'winging it'. 

    Think about it. Be ready. Do these four things so you're ready to handle what happens in the moment. No sh*t. 

    Project Introverts - how to get out of that meeting ASAP!

    Diversity in backgrounds, cultures, languages, thinking, styles and communication - they come together every time we communicate, engage and connect with people we work with.

    If you're an introvert, you'll want to get your message across quickly, understand your colleagues quickly and then get outta that meeting or conversation ASAP. You may want to get back to the good stuff you were working on earlier - alone!

    I've seen in several project teams recently how so many delays, derails and slow-downs come from simple misunderstandings.

    "I thought you meant ..... when really you meant ....." or "You're talking about the big picture; I'm talking about this specific thing..." and it all drags on and on and on.

    Being able to capture, draw out and understand what someone else is saying, and then convey your ideas and thinking is critical. To do it rapidly is the game here. The faster you can understand others and get your point across, the happier we'll all be. Unless you just want to sit 'n talk...

    To speed up the process, get it sorted, get to understanding quicker and then get on with the other good stuff you're working on, you need two key skillsets...

    1. facilitation skills (how to handle the stuff that happens when groups meet) and

    2. visual agility (not arty drawing, but rapid sketching and visualisation).

    When culturally, linguistically and geographically diverse teams 'get this', they step way up into higher levels of performance and move on (quickly) from misunderstandings and cultural hurdles.

    Project teams have the opportunity to build this awesome skillset at a one day workshop I'm running in Melbourne on March 4, Visual Facilitation for Projects. Details here, early bird until February 19. 



    Trying to engage with your team? Try a few questions, not statements...  

    What  would  you  think  if  I  said  there’s  too  much  ‘telling’  going  on  and  not  enough  ‘asking’?    Percentage-­‐ wise,  how  many  questions  have  you  asked  today  vs  statements  you’ve  made?  Have  you  been  more  on   the  telling  people  things  side  of  the  spectrum  than  asking  questions?

    As  a  facilitator,  I’m  a  little  biased  towards  questions.  Finding  out  what’s  going  on,  what  people  are   thinking,  where  they  want  to  get  to  with  their  work  or  project  and  then  helping  a  group  set  out  a  plan  to   achieve  that.       But  as  a  manager  and  leader,  how  often  do  you  think  about  the  questions  you’re  going  to  ask?  In  an   interview  you  do,  sure.  But  what  about  your  team  meeting?  Or  a  project  check-­‐point  with  peers?  Or  a   ‘work  in  progress’  meeting  with  your  leader?

    In  the  work  I  do  with  groups  and  teams  –  across  corporate,  community  and  not-­‐for-­‐profit  organisations   –  I  see  and  hear  so  many  more  statements  than  questions.  And  there  are  many  opportunities  to  get  a   better  outcome  by  asking  a  question  first.

    Today,  thousands  of  mangers,  team  leaders  and  business  people  have  been  trying  to  get  people  to   understand  them  by  telling-­‐telling-­‐telling.  And  then  when  they’re  not  heard,  they  try  telling  it  all  over   again,  but  LOUDER.  You  can  probably  hear  some  of  them  from  your  desk!

    Yes,  there  are  open  questions  to  gather  information  and  open  up  the  conversation  (who,  what,  when,   where,  how,  why,  tell  me  about...)  and  there  are  closed  or  confirming  questions  (is,  are,  did,  would,   could,  can).       Did  you  know  that  when  you  don’t  think  about  the  questions  you  ask,  you’re  more  likely  to  ask  a  closed   question?  (That’s  a  closed  question;  answer  yes  or  no).  What  might  you  and  your  team  achieve  if  you   planned  for  and  then  asked  a  mix  of  open  and  closed  questions?  (Yep,  that’s  an  open  question).

    Questions  aren’t  a  sign  of  not  knowing.  They  won’t  show  you  up  as  the  dumbo  of  the  team.  They’ll   actually  help  you  get  to  where  you  need  to  quicker  and  with  far  less  pain  than  telling,  telling,  telling,   arguing,  debating,  telling  some  more,  deep  breathing  and  then  fuming.

    Here’s  why:  a  few  questions  at  the  start  of  a  meeting  with  a  peer  (What  are  you  hoping  to  get  out  of  our   catch  up?  What  are  the  challenges  that  are  most  pressing  for  you  at  the  moment?  How  is  your  team   responding  to  the  restructure?)  will  reveal  so  much  more  and  prepare  a  fertile  ground  for  you  to  plant   effective  statements  when  you  need  them.

    Last  week  I  had  a  meeting  with  a  colleague  who  had  just  completed  a  poor  performance  conversation   with  one  of  their  team  members.  My  colleague  had  been  all  about  telling  the  team  member  what  wasn’t   working  and  then  telling  them  what  they  had  to  improve  on.  Yes,  oh  so  engaging  for  the  team  member.   Buy-­‐in  level  =  15%.  Enthusiasm  level  =15%.  Opportunity  for  trying  something  different  next  time  =  100%.

    The  conversation  (that  means  two-­‐way  folks!)  could  have  involved  some  questions  up  front  and  then   based  on  the  answers  and  responses,  the  conversation  could  achieve  much  more  –  for  both  parties.       ‘How  have  you  been  finding  the  changes  in  your  role  over  the  past  few  months?’   ‘What  have  you  enjoyed  about  the  role?’   ‘What’s  challenging  or  frustrating  for  you?’   ‘What  areas  of  your  performance  do  you  think  we  could  discuss  and  work  on  today?’     These  can  help  set  an  agenda  for  the  meeting  and  focus  on  engaging  the  team  member  to  buy-­‐in  to  the   fact  that  this  is  about  them.  It’s  not  about  the  manager  telling  them  what  to  do.

    Some  organisations  call  these  coaching  conversations  and  will  give  you  a  little  laminated  card  with  cheat   questions  on  it  so  you  know  what  to  ask.  That’s  great  –  at  least  you  can  do  some  thinking  before  the   meeting,  interaction  or  conversation  about  the  questions  you’ll  ask.

    I’m  sure  there’s  plenty  a  notebook  or  Ipad  in  your  organisation  today  with  a  list  of  key  points  to  be  ‘told’   at  the  next  meeting.       So  for  the  next  meeting  you’re  at,  prepare  a  list  of  questions  you’ll  ask  people.  You’ll  be  more  engaging,   they’ll  be  more  involved,  the  interaction  will  truly  be  an  interaction,  and  you’ll  be  getting  focused  about   the  information  you  need,  before  you  launch  into  a  statement  or  two.

    How  does  that  sound?  Do  you  think  that’s  something  you’ll  be  able  to  put  into  practice  for  your  meeting   later  today?  What  things  might  get  in  the  way  of  that  happening?  Would  you  let  me  know  how  that   goes?