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:
- Virtual Meetings: Dealing with Inattention
- There is much we can do to reduce the incidence of inattention in virtual meetings. Cooperation is required.
- Costs of the Catch-Me-Up Anti-Pattern: II
- When we interrupt a meeting to recap the action so far for a late-arriving attendee, the cost of the
recap itself is just the beginning. There are some less-obvious costs that can be even greater.
- Why People Hijack Meetings
- When as chair of a meeting, you have difficulty completing a reasonable agenda, you might be the target
of a hijacking. Here's Part I of a series exploring meeting hijacking.
- Meeting Troubles: Collaboration
- In some meetings, we collaborate not in reaching objectives, but in preventing our doing so. Here are
three examples of this pattern.
- Stone-Throwers at Meetings: II
- A stone-thrower in a meeting is someone who is determined to halt forward progress. Motives vary, from
embarrassing the chair to holding the meeting hostage in exchange for advancing an agenda. What can
chairs do about stone-throwers?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- And on July 15: Disjoint Concept Vocabularies
- In disputes or in problem solving sessions, when we can't seem to come to agreement, we often attribute the difficulty to miscommunication, histories of disagreements, hidden agendas, or "personality clashes." Sometimes the cause is much simpler. Sometimes the concept vocabularies of the parties don't overlap. Available here and by RSS on July 15.
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