Ep 46 - Navigating and Managing Your Business Ecosystem Pt. 2: Facilitating The Common Workplace Challenges To Drive Business Forward - with Michael Wilkinson

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This episode is presented in partnership with the Association of Strategic Planning. Their 2019 annual conference -- Strategy and Your Business Ecosystem -- is taking place in Denver from May 15-17. For more information, visit https://www.strategyassociation.org/

In Episode 45, we learned the secrets of meeting facilitation from Michael Wilkinson, the founder and managing director of Leadership Strategies – The #1 Facilitation Training Company. In this episode, Michael returns to explore specific use cases of his facilitation techniques, especially in the virtual, multi-generational work environment.

He talks about how to facilitate collaboration when technologies, hierarchies and varying workforce considerations like age and skills come into play. In the end, coming together to drive initiatives forward takes an understanding of group dynamics, using differences as strengths, and valuing solutions no matter who they come from.

Setting Up the Virtual Meeting Environment

To run smoothly, virtual meetings require more planning than in-person ones. You should plan for all of the same factors – purpose, product, probable issues, and participants – and then anticipate and create solutions in advance for the technological challenges.

Shared visuals, engagement activities, and on-call tech support are all critical to keeping your team aligned, focused, and connected throughout the session. When you have the right parameters in place for effective virtual meetings, you increase efficiency by reducing travel time and by connecting smart people across the globe – meaning you can move faster toward achieving your initiatives.

Managing Power Across Generational and Hierarchical Divides

When dealing with the hierarchy of power and influence in a meeting, what’s most important is to directly address the imbalance. It’s about leveling the playing field so that one person’s opinions don’t dominate the final outcome of the meeting. As Michael says, you have to stick to the four principles – inform, excite, empower, and involve – to make sure everyone had a voice.

But what happens when you’re dealing with a multigenerational workforce, on top of a rigid hierarchical structure?

As with any other type of meeting, it’s about predicting the interactivity of the group in order to effectively navigate the group dynamics. You also have to help participants look past their egos and accept that solutions can come from anywhere. The trick is to stay positive, focusing on solutions rather than pointing out problems, and playing to each other’s strengths rather than competing for top rank. As long as everyone has the opportunity to share and understand each other’s perspectives, the whole of the group will be greater than the sum of its parts.

And this is why facilitation is about more than running better meetings – it’s about helping people open their minds and work better together, in work and in life.


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Key Takeaways:

  • Effectively preparing for virtual meetings requires thinking about the virtual details.

    • Set up a technical environment that ensures every person can 1) see the same materials on screen in order to get aligned and engaged, 2) have a voice, and 3) stay on-task – while still applying the facilitation techniques that you’d use for an in-person meeting.

    • Leverage video, as it allows better engagement than conference calls, but what’s critical is that everyone can see the same screen.

    • Use a moderator, particularly a technical one responsible for those potential tech issues when you have more than six or so people in the meeting.

  • Managing the potential power dynamic can be done by using positive language and small teams.

    • When people are having trouble speaking to power, diffuse the concern by using positive language (looking for solutions and opportunities instead of pointing out problems), which makes it easier for participants to share their thoughts since you are not setting up an argument.

    • Breaking the group into small teams in order to share ideas also makes it easier for people to speak to power. One speaker can present the group’s ideas to the larger group.

    • Good leaders should let themselves be disempowered in group decision-making.

      • Ask others to share their opinions before you speak as power usually shifts towards the most influential or most senior person in the room.

      • Agree to leave titles out of the room while meeting and give everyone equal decision-making power.

      • ‘Guerilla’ facilitation can be used to move a meeting along by a non-facilitator.

        • Change the potential dysfunction from a power shift by asking a question to the rest of the room or to a person who has not shared their voice yet. The key is asking questions and not making statements.

        • To create a meeting environment where opinions are valued, particularly in a multi-generational dynamic, create the ground rule of insights before decisions.

          • Before you make any decision, discuss what’s been done in the past and any other relevant details so everyone can go in with the same information.

          • With diverse members and potential opposing points of view in a meeting, establish the ground rule that solutions come from anywhere to fend off impending meeting dysfunction.

            • Anyone may have an insightful solution so focus on what that is vs. who said it.

            • With cross-functional team members, value the different perspectives from different groups because you can capture all perspectives to work toward a solution.

              • You want to make sure you create solutions that build on the best of the best.

              • Use questions to steer the group in a positive direction when there is creative abrasion between groups and their ideas.

                • Ask, “What do we like about that idea? How can we make it better?”

                • Becoming an effective facilitator really happens by doing it and honing this skill.

                  • Start applying facilitation techniques in everyday meetings and conversations, even one-on-ones. Test, learn, and refine your abilities to help you create the momentum you need.


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