Meeting participants who make procedural suggestions to the chair, or facilitator, or to the meeting as a whole, are taking on a portion of the role of facilitator. When these suggestions are welcome, well timed, and infrequent, they can improve the flow of the meeting.
And sometimes facilitation suggestions create problems. Offering a process suggestion can be a risky move, even when the group is stuck or in chaos. Here are some tips for improving the chances of making suggestions that actually help.
- Accept that the participant view is biased
- Involvement in the discussion can obscure your view of it. This is why dispassionate facilitation by an uninvolved party is so helpful.
- Facilitation suggestions from participants can still be helpful, though, if you present them from an honest personal perspective, and if they are received as information about how the discussion looks from your perspective.
- Accept the facilitator's skill
- If someone is acting as the formal facilitator, he or she might already have thought of any process suggestion you might offer. And there might be good reasons for not adopting it, or not adopting it yet.
- A suggestion might nevertheless be welcome, if you offer it in a way that acknowledges the facilitator's skill and perspective.
- Neutrality helps
- If you've already taken a position on the matter in question, or if people believe they know what your position is, some who hold other views might interpret your facilitation suggestion as a ploy to advance your own position on the matter, even if that isn't your intention. This is especially likely if the discussion is polarized. And it doesn't matter to others whether they can divine how your suggestion advances your position — they can doubt anyway.
- Your Your facilitation suggestions
are more likely to be accepted
if you've been neutral
on the matter in questionfacilitation suggestions are more likely to be accepted if you've been neutral on the matter in question, not only in the current discussion, but in all previous related discussions.
- Alliances can erode credibility
- Even if you've taken no position on the matter in question, facilitation suggestions can be seen as attempts to seize or consolidate power within the group. For instance, if someone who's seen as an ally of yours would benefit from the suggestion, doubters might assume that the two of you have a deal going.
- Restrict your facilitation suggestions to matters that don't advance your own position or the positions of anyone regarded as allies of yours.
Timing is perhaps the most important factor that affects acceptance of facilitation suggestions. Ideas offered to save time by avoiding a process you regard as wasteful are rarely accepted. Ideas offered after significant time has been lost in a futile search for resolution are more likely to be accepted. The long way around is sometimes the shortest path. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Effective Meetings:
- What Haven't I Told You?
- When a project team hits a speed bump, it often learns that it had all the information it needed to
avoid the problem, sometimes months in advance of uncovering it. Here's a technique for discovering
this kind of knowledge more systematically.
- Using the Parking Lot
- In meetings, keeping a list we call the "parking lot" is a fairly standard practice. As the
discussion unfolds, we "park" there any items that arise that aren't on the agenda, but which
we believe could be important someday soon. Here are some tips for making your parking lot process more
- Towards More Gracious Disagreement
- We spend a sizable chunk of time correcting each other. Some believe that we win points by being right,
or lose points by being wrong, but nobody seems to know who keeps the official score. Here are some
thoughts to help you kick the habit.
- The End-to-End Cost of Meetings: I
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- Virtual Blowhards
- Controlling meeting blowhards is difficult enough in face-to-face meetings, but virtual meetings present
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for dealing with virtual blowhards.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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