Facilitating Meeting
From: M. D. Anderson Department of Performance Improvement
Date: January 15, 2008

Duke Rohe: Facilitating meeting is just not conducting and running a meeting. People get those things confused all the time and what I want to do is provide a little insider pointers that I picked up along the way that have allowed us to be more successful in conducting team meetings themselves. First of all, as a facilitator you are just there to facilitate group process. Three things that should be an outcome of that, one is you are trying to get the team to think in unison. The other is to get most out of the meeting itself. You have 60 minutes. You got to get most production out of that 60 minutes and so all you're doing is managing their output so the thing is successful. And finally you want to get the greatest value out of their work. They spent time, they came into the meeting. And you want them to walk away with the fact that they have accomplished a lot inside that meeting.

You have a new role as a facilitator. One is that you coach the team to success. And in essence what you're doing is sending in signals and showing them how to work together with their group process so that they could be more successful. Not only in this meeting, but the ones in the future. You're there to help mediate differences to their advantage. You enjoy the variety of the people working together, that kind of thing. Well how do you sit there and both work with the people that are introverts and extroverts. You want to manage those so that you gain the most out of that. You want to mature the team's focus and output as they get sharper each meeting, they come back to they should be stronger in their focus of staying in tune with what the team's purpose is. And also making sure that the output is always continuously getting better each time that they meet. You want to validate their understanding. It's to make sure that they're all on the same page, and that when they use words and terms and that kind of stuff, everybody is on level playing field and they don't move forward until they have full understanding.

The other thing is you learn your new role. You talk less and you manage more. You're just managing the context of the process itself. There's your new goal. Give the team the success for their... their accountability for their own success. It's not your role to make them successful. All you're doing is managing their process. So you put that on their shoulder. They'll take the accountability to do their work, get things done and be successful.

You are also there to give them guidelines to help them be successful. Given the ground rules to "go team" agreements, you're going to be sharing three things inside of each meeting. What we did, what we're doing, during this meeting and what we will do next time. You are also trying to manage equal air time so each one has an opportunity to share and you're gaining input from everyone. You're trying to bring them together as a team to be the team versus a problem. So, it’s like there's a statement that great groups have great enemies. And if they encounter a problem they're all fighting the problem. That way they don't fight themselves. The other thing is you're always trying to drive the discussion toward an action. Like, what are they going to do with the information? In fact you may cut the discussion short, cause I won't know how this is going to turn into action.

So again, you’re managing the time to make it most efficient as possible. You manage the context of the meeting while they manage the content. Just realize that if you don't get into their part, then they're not to get into your part. You want to list the accountability along the way, you get them monitoring their own group process and so that you can expect more from them as each team meeting happens. You begin listening at a different level. You sort of listen for what's not being said so that you make sure that they're not missing any information in order to be successful. You want to grow the team maturity. Each time they come back, they should have a little more under their belt. Not as far as working with each other, understanding each other, they can problem solve better. That kind of thing.

Another thing is you going to probably run interference between the management and their culture. So, if the manager needs to help make things happen that kind of stuff, you're sort of the bridge between the team's output and what the manager needs to do to support that. Your new tools - great questions. Great questions lead to great answers, and these are the things that I have seen that are helpful in our team meetings. Ice breakers as far as getting people warmed up, building a sort of trusting environment to begin with. Inquiry, and that's learning how to inquire and ask people questions that cause them to come up with the answers that they should be looking for.

Focus and that has to do with just redirecting them back to the central focus of the meeting itself so you can be effectively using the time. Clarity - and that's making it crystal clear that everyone understands before we move on, what's been stated, what needs to be done. That kind of thing. Exercising plan paranoia. And this is making sure that the team themselves are thinking about once we implement this thing into the environment, what do we need to watch out for? Because it’s brand new to everyone else. They haven't been inside a team meeting to enjoy what you've done. And then follow up has to do with making sure everybody is ready. When they come back to the next meeting, everyone should have their home work, their assignments that kind of thing take care of. New weapons. These are things that you don't want to fall... these are traps you don't want to fall into, one is getting too invested. And that means you're listening more to the content you're not doing the group process part your responsibility.

The other thing is allowing one person to speak for all. If you see one person taking on most of the air conversation, go ahead move around, ask the team what they want to think. It's a good way to divert that. Moving too fast or too slow. And again, it's a balance between the two. You want to move forward but at the same time you want to make sure you are not leaving some people behind as far as understanding. Assuming, you know that traps you every time.

Engaging the sound of silence. And that's allowing pauses to sit there and get people to speak. Because a lot of time people... you'll sit there and just insert words and... no pause, let them come out, wait for 60 seconds. Let them come out with an answer and they will. And then finally taking on responsibility yourself. Again, earlier we said - the accountability belongs to the team members for success. You are simply making sure that their group process is healthy toward that end.

Finally we always do a hot wash up at the end of each meeting and it's a good way to home and focus in at the tail end of the meeting, the last four minutes. Ask everyone to write like, what do you like about the meeting. And they'll write, some affirming thing that they like. Then write better, what would have made this meeting better. You go around share all the likes. Which is very positive and then better is a good way for people, a safe way for people to share this is what I want to see happen next time. It's a way of developing ground rules for next time. Well these are just few of the facilitation tips I want to leave you with. And I hope it helps you out in facilitating your meetings.