In my blog post Facilitating the “Angry Mob” meeting – Part 1 , I talked about the core things the facilitator needs to do to prevent problems in an “Angry Mob” meeting. Now we need to talk about what to do when problems happen. Some common problems are:
- Side-Bar Conversations
- Endless Discussion
- The Power Grab
- Slow Decisions
- Malicious Silence
- Going too Deep – Dealing With Minutia
- Staying on Time
In this blog post (part 2) I will comment on three of these:
The most effective way to negate the impact of a facilitator is to simply start having your own meeting, a side-bar conversation. By having a side-bar it says to the rest of the group that their opinions don’t matter, that the real decisions can be made by the side-bar participants and as the the facilitator you can’t let it happen.
Buy a tazer if you have to, but don’t let side-bars ruin your meeting. More polite than a tazer is perhaps:
- interrupt with a friendly reminder of the ground rules – 1 meeting
- “Sorry everyone, could we have silence for a moment. Jay, could you repeat that for the rest of the people so we can discuss it as a team?”
- “Sorry everybody, we seem to have multiple meetings going on here, I will have to ask you to make comments as I go around the table person by person”
- “Ok everybody we’re going to take a 15 minute break. Jay, can I have a side-bar discussion with you now? I know we don’t permit side-bars but I need to break that rule for a minute during our break”
We have all been in them, the endless discussion. Most of the time it is caused by a lack of planning and focus for the meeting, but sometimes caused by poor facilitation.
- if it’s dragging on without progress, move it to a parking lot item with specific information requirements to gather to have collected before you meet again
- detect and respond to “personal agenda’s” . “Jim, I believe you have made your position clear about <topic>. Is everyone agreed that we understand Jim’s concern here? Yes? (round table) Let’s move on.”
- topic waffling – “Sorry I am not sure how this directly relates to our topic. Can you either explain the relationship or let’s cover this another time?”
- dog with a bone. When a person or group of people just won’t let go of a topic. – “take a break, hold the people who had latched on to the issue behind and talk specifically about the danger of their behavior and ask what is required to get forward movement ie. What’s it going to take to get you to drop that bone?”
As a facilitator you can improve and get closure on discussion by frequently summarizing back to the group what you are hearing and reminding the group of conclusions/agreement already reached. This creates a funnel effect where there is less and less room for the discussion to wander as time progresses.
If there was total alignment, there is pretty good chance the client doesn’t even need a facilitator. So don’t be surprised that there will be conflict. Even when you set ground rules like “No comment is stupid”, inevitably in a high emotion meeting someone will say “That’s a stupid idea” or worse. Dealing with conflict isn’t the most difficult problem for the facilitator, as long as you are the facilitator and not taking sides in the conflict. Six simple steps..
Step 1. Recognize conflict and STOP THE MEETING. Don’t ignore it, it will not go away.
Step 2. Confront the issue in non-threatening way. “Bill, Cary It seems like we have an issue to deal with before we can proceed…”
Step 3. Surface concerns in the full group.
Step 4. Address concerns in the full group.
Step 5. Seek acknowledgement that the issue has been dealt with and permission to continue
Step 6. Restart the meeting