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Effectively Facilitating Group Collaboration


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Did you know that many judge your effectiveness and leadership skills by how well you run your meetings? The key to a successful group session is having an effective facilitator who can organize the meeting, control it and skillfully guide the team towards achieving their goal for the session.
You may think ‘We already know how to facilitate group sessions’ but you will be surprised at the statistics and costs of how many meetings we all attend yet how little of them are actually effective in terms of reaching their goal!
This seminar is a 1 hour version of my 2 day course on facilitation that covers at a high level what is taught in the class.
Want this seminar presented at YOUR organization? just email

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Effectively Facilitating Group Collaboration

  1. 1. The Art of Becoming an Effective Facilitator Presenter: Sally Elatta 1
  2. 2. About the Speaker • Sally Elatta • Founder of • Enterprise Process Improvement Coach, Architect, Trainer • Coached over 18 teams on adopting more Agile methods. • Taught over 600+ students • Certified ScrumMaster, Scrum Practitioner, IBM, Sun, and Microsoft Certifications. • • 402 212-3211 2 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  3. 3. Session Agenda  The Current Reality and Statistics of Meetings  Top Meeting Dysfunctions  Top 10 Must-Have for Effective Meetings  The Role of a Facilitator  Listening and Questioning Techniques  Information Gathering Techniques  Closing 3 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  4. 4. The Grim Statistics • Approximately 17 million meetings occur in the U.S. each and every day. • A PM could easily spend 4-5 hours per day in meetings. That‟s 100 hrs/month! • A study has shown that 25 - 50% of the meeting time is unproductive and discusses irrelevant issues or doesn‟t achieve a concrete outcome. • 63% of the time meetings have no clear agenda or purpose. So what does all this mean??? LARGE WASTE of TIME = LARGE WASTE of $$$ 4 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  5. 5. Workshop – Collaboration Challenges “Not another meeting! Meetings are a waste of time!” Have you heard this before? What are the top challenges with meetings? Brainstorming Workshop You have 4 minutes 5 5 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  6. 6. Common Meeting Dysfunctions No clear purpose or agenda. No agreement on a Multi-headed Groups. The common goal for the tendency to go in different meeting. directions simultaneously. Personal agendas. Not separating the “What” Attacking other‟s opinions. from the “How” No roles defined. The Dominator who speaks the loudest! No one “controlling” the Participants not speaking up meeting process. or providing input Power abuse. Late or missing attendees. Not tracking decisions or action items. 6 6 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  7. 7. There is a Solution! Collaborative meetings are one of the most complex activities you “do”. The success or failure of the collaboration effort has a significant impact on you and the group. To solve “Collaboration Challenges”, we need to address and improve the knowledge and skills of the facilitator. 7 7 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  8. 8. 5 Skills to Improve On 1. Knowledge of the roles 2. Effective meeting preparation and design 3. Listening, observation and questioning 4. The ability to manage dysfunctional behavior 5. Information gathering techniques 8 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  9. 9. Roles for Effective Sessions To truly achieve effective group collaboration, each meeting must have the following roles identified: – The Sponsor – The Facilitator – The Participant – The Recorder 9 9 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  10. 10. The Top 10 Steps for Effective Meetings - Handout As a Group, Let’s Review the Handout Titled “The Top 10 Steps for Effective Meetings” 1010 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
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  12. 12. Who is the Facilitator? The facilitator is the meeting orchestrator. They control the “Process” of the meeting not the “Content”. The facilitator is a servant leader of the group, neutral and non-evaluating. Responsible for making sure the participants are using the most effective methods for accomplishing their task in the shortest time. Responsible for helping the group reach its goals. Skilled at effective meeting preparation, facilitation and closure. 1212 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  13. 13. What Does a Facilitator Do? Communicates meeting purpose, agenda and roles. Uses visual tools such as Agenda, Ground Rules, Action Items, Group Decisions as the Group Memory. Designs the meeting using a variety of possible techniques to help the group achieve their goal and builds consensus around the meeting purpose. Helps keep the group on track until they accomplish what they set out to do or change direction. Provides a „Safe Environment‟ for collaboration. Makes sure all participants have an opportunity to speak and they are protected from personal attacks. Controls meeting dysfunctions such as domination, side conversations, off topic items, personal agendas … etc 1313 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  14. 14. The Diamond of Decision Making 14 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  15. 15. Listening and Questioning • Facilitating open discussion meetings can be very challenging and requires a facilitator who can use effective Listening, Observation and Questioning Skills. • We call it “Process Listening” as appose to “Content Listening”. • Example Listening & Questioning techniques in the next 2 slides. 15 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  16. 16. Promoting Full Participation • Techniques for promoting full participation by all attendees: – Encouraging – Uncomfortable Silence – Round Robin – Direct Questioning • Use direct eye contact and physical proximity to engage and encourage participation. 16 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  17. 17. Promoting Mutual Understanding • Techniques for bringing about mutual understanding: – Paraphrasing – Drawing People Out – Linking – Tracking • Also look for body language to gauge if your audience understand what was just said. 17 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  18. 18. Dysfunctional Behavior • Examples of dysfunctional behavior: – A Dominator – The Rambler – Power Abuse by Manager – Side Conversations – Naysayer – Anger/Extreme Emotions 18 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  19. 19. Managing Dysfunctional Behavior Never use anger to confront the person exhibiting dysfunctional behavior. Never use embarrassment to resolve the dysfunction. Always strive to bring the person back into the meeting. Stay mindful of your own dysfunctions. Know what brings out your bad behavior and control it. Stay neutral, professional and composed. Example techniques coming up next. 1919 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  20. 20. Managing the Dominator This is the well-acknowledged expert or the self- appointed expert in the room. S/He controls any discussion or decision being made. Your Options: – Add or point to an existing ground rule that covers the “Full Participation” and ask the team to follow it. – Don‟t give them eye contact, use body language to shift the focus away from him/her. – Say “Ok, that is a valid point John, I’d like to hear from everyone else now ..” – During a break, thank them for contributing great ideas and ask for their help engaging others and getting their input. 2020 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  21. 21. Managing the Naysayer Of course, we have to have one of them in each meeting contributing: “this will never work!”, “We‟ve already tried this, it failed ..” “ We will never get approval to do that” Your Options: – “That’s a valid concern John, do you have any positive ideas of how to make this work?” – “You might be right John, team, what positive and creative suggestions do you have for making this work? ” – “Great list of concerns, now let’s discuss feasible solutions” – Establish and point to “the art of the possible” as a ground rule. 2121 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  22. 22. Managing Side Conversations This is a dysfunction that attacks almost every group session. Two people engaged in a side conversation may indicate: – They have lost interest in the meeting – They forgot that their participation is needed – They have an interesting thought they want to share related to the topic being discussed. Side conversations can jeopardize your group‟s confidence in you as an effective facilitator. 2222 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  23. 23. Managing Side Conversations .. Your Options: – Make sure you have a ground rule stating “One conversation at a time”. Gently point to the ground rule and say “Folks, one conversation at a time please” – 2nd time: Make direct eye contact with them, gently smile and repeat the ground rule. – Stand near them and whisper the ground rule. – If it is reoccurring, ask them if their conversation is important enough for others to perhaps join them? 2323 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  24. 24. Information Gathering Techniques • All meetings do not have to be Open Discussion format! • There are very creative and powerful methods for gathering and processing information from groups. • “*Thinklet” cards are easy to follow cards that provide you step by step instructions for how to implement these activities. • * Introduced by Dr. Robert Briggs and Gert-Jan DE Vreede 24 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
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  26. 26. ThinkLets for Generate The core of what you do during “Generate” is brainstorm and list ideas. Here are some activities/thinklets for facilitating brainstorming: – Facilitator-Led Callouts – Post It-Notes – Pass the Card – LeafHopper 2626 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  27. 27. Summary • To become an effective facilitator, you need to improve your skills and gain new techniques that will help you skillfully bring a team to their desired outcome. • You need to improve: – Your knowledge of the roles involved – Your meeting preparation and design skills – Your listening and questioning skills – Your ability to manage dysfunctional behavior – Your information gathering toolset 27 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009
  28. 28. Training & Coaching Training Coaching & Consulting •Mastering the Art of • Project Management Facilitation Skills Assessments •Effective Requirements • Troubled Project Gathering Assessment & • Servant Leadership Recovery • Real World Agile and • Agile Project Initiation Scrum team training + and Planning Project Jump Start • End to End Project • Executive and Business Execution Overview of Agile/Lean • Process Improvement • … More! Roadmap Execution
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  30. 30. References Excellent List of Resources: International Association of Facilitators: http://www.iaf- RECFTC: /Facilitation 3030 Copyright(c) Sally Elatta 2009