Creating a Psychologically Safe Space for Better Collaboration

GroupMap - Creating a psychologically safe space for better collaboration.

What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological safety is a term coined by Professor Amy C Edmondson of Harvard University. It describes a workplace environment free from interpersonal fear. It is an unspoken belief shared by the members of a group that theirs is a safe space in which they can take interpersonal risks.

As humans, we remain hard-wired with a fight or flight response. We assess every environment we encounter for risk. We pick up on even the smallest of cues, process them and decide if we’re in a safe place or we’re not. If we register we’re not safe, one of our two, pre-programmed reactions kick in. We find ourselves feeling we want to fight or flee.

We never stop assessing our environment. Even when we’re at work, we have our feelers out.

In a world of ergonomic furniture, fire drills and hand sanitizing stations, it’s easy to assume workplaces would be at the top of the safety list.  But our assessment goes beyond the physical. We gently register smiles, nods and responses. We pick up on eye rolls, sighs and silences. We tune into how our manager and colleagues interact. All to inform the level of risk we perceive to be aligned to our livelihood.

This process is because of our programming. It interprets ‘my job is safe’ as ‘I am safe’.  This is the feeling that’s at the core of psychological safety.

When you are working in a psychologically safe space, your feelers don’t register risk. This means your job receives your full focus. Not only that, the absence of fear means you experience a sense of confidence and trust. You feel you have permission to be both honest and candid. You sense that you can speak up and your voice is valued. This means you feel very comfortable sharing ideas, asking questions and offering comments. It is also a space in which you feel it’s ok to make mistakes.

What Isn’t Psychological Safety?

Edmondson makes it clear that psychological safety isn’t a workplace goal. Rather, it is a means of reaching a goal.

A psychologically safe space isn’t –

  • one that lacks conflict. In fact, conversations in safe spaces can be quite direct, and very candid.
  • one where there’s blind celebration of all ideas. Instead, ideas in safe spaces are still explored and assessed.
  • one that lacks errors or failure. It’s a space in which people feel safe to take risks and experiment with different solutions.

Most importantly, psychological safety isn’t an excuse to slack off or say whatever you like. There is still an expectation people will act appropriately within the workplace. They will be thoughtful and considerate. They will be productive and professional.

Why is Psychological Safety Important?

Author Anthony Hood gives two reasons why psychological safety is important –

  1. Without psychological safety, people are afraid to speak up. When people are afraid to speak up, bad things happen.
  2. A psychologically safe space supports the bottom line.

A lack of psychological safety means fear is present. Fear impacts thinking and decision making. With fear driving our behavior, self preservation is our priority. This means, in a fearful moment, we overlook the bigger picture to protect ourselves. As a result, bad things happen. Those bad things can include planes flying into mountains or patients receiving the wrong treatment.

Psychological safety also supports the bottom line. As work becomes more complex with less resources, team success requires team members to step up. In doing so they are taking an interpersonal risk. When they suggest a better way forward, it will need to be defended when scrutinized. They are presenting themselves as having expertise, possibly greater than that of their peers and manager. They are not ‘going with the flow’. They are ‘rocking the boat’ for the sake of the team delivering value.

High-performing teams typically feel safe enough to take risks. They also care enough to do so.   Edmonson’s work reflected this when she examined the relationship between two dimensions –  psychological safety, and motivation and accountability

GroupMap_Edmondson’s psychological safety and motivation and accountability

Four zones were identified –

  • Learning and high-performing zone.
    An environment of high psychological safety and high motivation is called the learning and high-performance zone. This is the ideal space for a workplace team. They are motivated to take risks and are therefore more likely to experience success.
  • Comfort zone.
    An environment of high psychological safety and low motivation is called the comfort zone. This could be an environment in which there is no fear, but also no sense of buy-in from the team.
  • Interpersonal anxiety zone.
    An environment of low psychological safety and high motivation is called the interpersonal anxiety zone. This is a space in which there is a great deal of fear and people are disempowered.
  • Apathy zone.
    An environment of low psychological safety and low motivation is called the apathy zone. It’s a space in which there’s low performance and very little else.

    The interpersonal anxiety zone should be of particular concern. This is the zone that can be very impactful on an individual’s mental health and therefore wellbeing.

How Does Psychological Safety Improve Collaboration?

Psychological safety improves collaboration in three important ways.

Firstly, psychological safety addresses groupthink. Groupthink is when our desire for cohesion influences group decision-making. We don’t want to appear different from the group, so we favor ideas that will help avoid conflict so consensus can be quickly reached. It occurs when we are feeling unsafe.

Secondly, it also addresses hesitancy. When we’re unsure we will hesitate before sharing suggestions and ideas. In that moment of hesitation we may self-edit or self-censor. When we find ourselves in a psychologically safe space we readily offer our ideas and feedback. This also means more ideas are shared.

Finally, psychological safety supports the evolution of ideas. Without the fear of things such as a judgment or adverse action we freely offer and embrace feedback. We are actively curious and open to possibilities. We will explore the potential of suggestions. This drives creativity and innovation.

In short, psychological safety supports collaboration because we’re not held back by fear. We’re not weighed down by excessive worries about others’ opinions regarding our actions. Our energy isn’t directed to thinking of ways to avoid the potential for embarrassment and other threats. Psychological safety gives us the freedom to engage, explore and create.

What Does a Psychologically Safe Meeting Space Look Like?

Meetings offer a window into the level of psychological safety of a team or group. If the group feels safe, the following four key signs will be observed.

  • Participation is high. When meeting attendees feel safe, they happily engage in the meeting. They will offer ideas and suggestions. They will be curious about the topics being discussed. They will ask questions to clarify and confirm their understanding.

  • Mistakes will be mentioned. When meeting attendees feel safe they will acknowledge and own their mistakes. Their errors will be used as a learning opportunity because psychologically safe spaces are the ones in which learning takes place.

  • Feedback is requested. When meeting attendees feel safe they will actively request and offer feedback. Feedback is seen as constructive. It is understood it is a reflection of the idea and not the person suggesting it.

  • There will be conflict. When meeting attendees feel safe they will disagree. It is understood that healthy dissent can stimulate neural pathways and spark creativity. Attendees will share their concerns regarding an idea. They will offer alternative ideas. They will explore the merits of all suggestions and reach a consensus.

How Do I Know if My Team Feels Safe?

The best way to find out if your team feels psychologically safe is to ask them. Of course, that’s easier said than done. This is because the way someone is asked about psychological safety can, in fact, affect that sense of safety.

For example, if a manager asks a team member if they feel safe, they are highly likely to say that they do. That’s not because they do really feel that way, but rather because they simply want to shut down a potentially uncomfortable conversation. Claiming they feel safe is the easiest way to do this.

Edmondson shaped seven key questions to help assess the level of psychological safety felt by a group. 

  1. If you make a mistake on your team, is it held against you?
  2. Are you able to bring up problems and tough issues?
  3. Do people on the team sometimes reject others for being different?
  4. Is it safe to take a risk?
  5. Is it difficult to ask other team members for help?
  6. Do people on the team deliberately act to undermine your efforts?
  7. Are your unique skills and talents valued and utilized?

The questions help to assess the level of group-based fear. The more fear that’s apparent, the less safe the group feels.

As with our earlier example, asking these questions directly to a group member will distort their response. The best way of capturing feedback to these questions is to allow people to respond anonymously. If time allows, it’s also valuable to allow for asynchronous responses. This means people don’t feel rushed or pressured in any way.

As time passes and team members come and go, it’s important to revisit these questions. The shared experience of existing team members can be daunting for new people. Not only that, what makes people feel safe will change over time.

What Can I Do to Build a Psychologically Safe Space?

GroupMap - How psychological safety supports collaboration2

While it’s everyone’s responsibility to foster an environment of psychological safety, it is tethered to the top of an organization. Leaders and managers need to model behavior that others will follow.

  • Acknowledge mistakes. Keep the saying “to err is human” front of mind. Show that everyone makes mistakes and that the important thing is to learn from them and grow. It’s also valuable to acknowledge those that helped to identify and fix the error. This reinforces the importance of the team.
  • Be available to the team. Listen to their feedback, concerns, and questions. Listen to their suggestions. Be curious and ask questions that give your team a platform to speak.

  • Respond mindfully. Owning up to mistakes isn’t easy and it should be supported rather than punished. Responding with annoyance, anger or frustration will only diminish psychological safety. It may even teach people to hide their mistakes or blame others.

  • Ask for help and offer it. It’s important that asking for help isn’t seen as a sign of incompetence. Instead, it’s an indication of being self-aware. If someone has a particular experience, make the most of them by asking them to assist. If an important deadline is looming, ask others to contribute to lower stress levels. If someone is struggling, offer to help out. Help is a symptom of good teamwork and collaboration.

  • Facilitate guidelines. They could range from meeting ground rules to a team agreement. Allow the people working together with the opportunity to set the parameters in which they will operate. This will give people the chance to define the behavior that helps them feel safe.

  • Nominate a devil’s advocate. Appoint someone to be critical of ideas rather than supportive. This distances an individual from any criticism they may issue as well as helps to ensure all ideas have rigor.

Everyone can contribute to psychological safety by  –

  • Saying what you would want to hear in the workplace. If you were new, had made a mistake or done a great job, what would you want to hear from your colleagues? Well, say it. Connecting with empathy and demonstrations of support will foster a sense of trust and safety.

  • Keeping things in context. You could be a part of a project group, a workplace team, or a committee member. You are a member of a group that has a purpose so don’t make it personal.

  • Expressing gratitude. The positive effects of gratitude range from better sleep to an increase in life satisfaction. Expressing gratitude is a way of acknowledging the help that was received. As we’ve said before, help is a sign of collaboration and good teamwork.

Make your Meetings Safer with GroupMap

Supporting psychological safety does take some effort but it’s well worth the effort – and GroupMap can make it easy.

Groupmap supports the effective delivery of workshops, meetings, teaching, and training. It boasts features specifically designed to overcome barriers to collaboration, foster a safe environment and increase meeting participation.

You can start straight away with any one of the 80+ templates.

Use GroupMap to run your next online session today.

Have more questions or would like a demo?

5 Great Ground Rules for Effective Meetings

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Effective meetings are important to our working life; after all, no one wants to waste time, engage in unhealthy dissent or increase workloads. 

If you’re holding a meeting to share ideas, solve problems, build team morale or train your team members, establishing meeting ground rules (or house rules) can help ensure your time is well spent. 

Just like the rules of a sporting match, meeting ground rules ensure all team members are aware of – 

  • the parameters in which the meeting will operate
  • what they can expect of others
  • what is expected of them

Meetings that have ground rules are more likely to – 

  • run on time
  • achieve their purpose
  • deliver value
  • nurture positive connections 
  • foster a collaborative environment

Of course, some conventions may already exist within your workplace (having phones switched to silent at all times), so meeting ground rules are in addition to those understandings. 

At GroupMap there’s nothing we like more than coming together to share, create and inspire each other. 

Here are the five great ground rules we use to help us get the most out of our meetings.

We agree to – 

1. Hit the Ground Running!

To kick off a productive momentum, show up to the meeting on time, and be prepared to get cracking! 

Read through the agenda and supporting documents, and make sure you have delivered any action items assigned to you.

2. Stay on Task and Start on Time!

Keep one eye on the timer and another eye on the agenda. 

Adhere to the time allocated to a topic, and if a decision, action item, or consensus has been recorded there’s no need for further discussion. 

Don’t assume that if you are happy for the meeting to go over time, everyone else is too.

3. Be Critical of Problems, not People!

Everyone should feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, opinions, and ideas. 

A great way of achieving this is to unpack ideas. Importantly, if people stick to this rule everyone should feel comfortable enough to tackle difficult topics, safe in the knowledge that –  

  • healthy dissent is an exploration of ideas not an exercise in judgment 
  • differing opinions are to be embraced as they can foster creativity and positive change

4. Listen then Speak!

Sticking to this rule may be more difficult than you think as most people ‘listen to speak’ rather than ‘listen then speak’. 

Adhering to this rule helps meeting participants maintain an open mind, and actively listen to what is being said. It also gives them time to think before they offer feedback. 

Lastly, but by no means least, this rule is a wonderful mechanism with which participants can demonstrate respect for each other.

5. Use a Common Language!

Words really do have power. They can be inclusive, positive, and empowering, and they can also be the opposite. 

Sayings, idioms, and other figures of speech that are usually culturally or generationally based have the potential to be confusing, or even divisive. The use of acronyms can be isolating. Management speak has a reputation for being unnecessarily convoluted.

Keep it positive and simple, while avoiding colloquialisms and corporate jargon.

Supercharge your Ground Rules

Buy-in is the secret ingredient that will supercharge your ground rules and keep your meetings focussed and efficient. That’s because the greater a participants’ sense of ownership of the rules, the more likely they are to stick to them. There are some simple ways to achieve this.

1. Have the Meeting Participants Shape the Rules

Put some time aside to brainstorm, explore and talk through potential ground rules with the people who will be using them. You will discover what they think is important in the meeting space.

GroupMap has made this easy; our House Rules template has been designed to guide you through the process. It helps you capture, discuss, and then decide upon your rules as a group.

2. Remind People of the Ground Rules

It may seem obvious, but referencing the rules in the meeting is the best way to help people remember them. Include the rules in the agenda itself and have the facilitator start each meeting by running through the rules. Putting aside some time at the start of your meeting to discuss the rules will help people remember what they have agreed to.

3. Meeting Observer

If meeting participants agree, appoint someone as a meeting observer who can give feedback on how well the rules are being followed, and how they help the meeting flow. This can act as a reminder as to why you set the rules in the first place. 

When the rules are followed during the meeting in order to support the meeting experience, the observer can highlight what happened and the positive consequences that resulted. Similarly, if people are not sticking to the rules, the observer can outline what happened, and suggest what could be done better next time.

It’s important the meeting attendees are comfortable with this and see it as a mechanism for continuous improvement rather than judgment.

An alternative to appointing an observer is to have an anonymous feedback mechanism such as a survey designed to help gauge how well people feel the rules have been applied.

4. Regularly Review the Ground Rules

Effective rules make effective meetings. To ensure the ground rules are doing what they are meant to do, put aside time to revisit the rules with the participants and update them if necessary.

Set your Meeting Ground Rules Today

GroupMap captures individual thinking first, then reveals the group perspective, all in real-time. 

It’s just one of the many ways we can help you conduct effective meetings and collaborative sessions.

Think better together with GroupMap! Start your 14-day trial now!

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5 Effective Facilitation Tools to Improve Online Meetings

effective-meeting-facilitation-tools

Using the right tool for the job makes all the difference. Sure, a brick can crack open an almond but you spend a lot less time picking out bits of the shell when you use a nutcracker.

The same can be said of meetings. Using the right meeting facilitation tools will help you deliver the outcomes you hope to achieve more effectively.

Here’s a list of simple, meeting facilitation tools that can support you at your next meeting.

1. Agendas

A well-planned agenda delivers value before, during, and even after a meeting.

  • They help you plan a meeting. They’re like a shopping list that requires you to compile a schedule of who says what and when. You can decide on logical order, and allocate time for each point to be covered.
  • They help you facilitate a meeting. The agenda makes sure everyone you need is in the right room at the right time. It can be used to guide everyone through the meeting topics ensuring everyone stays on track.
  • They help you document a meeting. The agenda includes key information in a logical structure, so the agenda format can be followed as a guide to capture meeting notes. Action items can be recorded against each topic for later follow-up.

Best of all, an agenda is a way of determining if a meeting is even needed. If there’s nothing new to discuss, the meeting can be canceled.

If your meetings have more of a Lean Coffee approach, then have the team add items they would like to discuss at the start of the meeting. This style of real-time agenda creation works well for dynamic teams who value coming together to talk about what is important at the time.

Whether your agenda is pre-planned or in real-time, it can help to –

  • focus the conversation
  • save time
  • ensure everyone has skin in the game

2. Brainstorming Templates

Templates are a useful way of structuring a meeting, increasing engagement, and supporting collaboration.

Online templates are particularly effective as they –

  • support the delivery of face-to-face, remote and hybrid meetings
  • support the delivery of both synchronous and asynchronous meetings
  • capture all inputs as the session progresses. This means there’s no need to rewrite information from post its or flip charts at the end of the session
  • allow participants to contribute anonymously or use an alias, therefore, supporting a psychologically safe space

Templates can directly echo the purpose of a collaborative session. From stakeholder mapping or a SWOT analysis, through shaping SMART goals, templates offer a clear and transparent process.

You can also use templates for book-end meetings to increase participation, engagement, and energy.

Here are some examples.

Icebreaker Templates

Icebreakers are a great way of warming up a group and fostering connections between participants.

There are two main types of icebreaker templates –

  1. Plotting – participants place their name or avatar somewhere onto an image to represent where they are or how they feel.
Use GroupMap to capture how each person is feeling at the start of the remote meeting - Ice breaker activity
    2. Open question – participants respond to an icebreaker question by either writing something down, inserting an image, or possibly both.

House Rules Templates

Having teams and groups agree to a set of guidelines within which they will operate increases the likelihood of participation. This is because the participants know what they can expect of others and what is expected of them. These could be a simple ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ template or a positive experience that is reverse engineered with a template into a list of house rules.

Check-out Templates

Checkouts are the last things to happen in a meeting. They can be used to –

  • gather information about the meeting itself
  • help participants to reflect on the meeting and solidify their thoughts

They can also be used to help you gauge how well your participants thought the meeting went.

3. Timers

We all know the agony of a meeting that runs overtime and the ecstasy of a meeting that ends early. So it’s unsurprising that timekeeping is a critical part of meeting facilitation.

Using a timer is a simple way of ensuring that:

  • People do not talk for too long without making a decision
  • All the topics on the agenda are discussed
  • Meeting processes such as brainstorming, voting, discussion or action planning are time-boxed appropriately.
  • Meetings end on time!

When people perceive something as valuable, they tend to be less wasteful of it. This is exactly what a stopwatch (or similar) does for a meeting. People are cognizant of the limited time that exists, they are therefore more likely to get straight to the point and less likely to waffle.

A timer can also be used to justify a facilitator closing down circular conversations, parking discussions that are off-topic, and scheduling additional meetings for further exploration of topics.

4. Voting Tools

Voting allows ideas to be prioritised so conversations can focus on what’s important rather than simply what comes next on the list. It also helps deliver a transparent and equitable process as the loudest voice in the room has just as much sway as the timidest.

Like many other facilitation tools, voting can help support a psychologically safe space, especially if it is done anonymously and independently.

Anonymous votes – means that each person can put forward what they really think and not be impacted by ego, fear, or reprise. There is no text attached to their name so they can indicate their preferences freely.

Independent votes – means that they are not impacted by what others have already done. You’ll want to avoid mechanisms where votes are seen in real-time as it can easily bias how others vote. This form of anchoring means that sometimes ideas with votes simply get more because they are seen to be the popular ones already selected.

If there are a number of ideas to consider, a facilitator doesn’t have to limit the number of votes a participant can make to one. Each participant can, for example, be allocated five votes so the top five ideas can be discussed and explored.

With a tool like GroupMap, you can also choose between allowing people to vote on only once per idea, or allocating all their votes to a single idea. Votes are tallied automatically. You can also provide written instruction as to what you want people to vote on.

Some common voting criteria are the ideas people –

  • most want to discuss
  • have the most questions about
  • think are the best ideas
  • think are the most important
  • see as the most creative

Voting is a handy facilitation tool when there are lots of ideas, limited time or you simply want to gauge the energy of the team.

5. Discussion Toolbox

A discussion toolbox is a set of conversation triggers, tips, and tricks that you can use when you’re facilitating meetings. They help you guide discussions, give participants the opportunity to contribute, and that all options are explored.

A discussion toolbox can be made up of:

  • open-ended questions
  • closed discussion prompts
  • discussion building questions
  • probing questions

Reach for the Right Tool Today

Whether you’re facilitating a brief meeting, half-day workshop or week-long conference, the quality and reliability of your facilitation tools can make a world of difference.

GroupMap was designed by facilitators for facilitators. It’s a powerful online brainstorming and collaboration tool that includes a range of features to help you deliver great meeting outcomes.

Start your 14-day free trial today.

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Facilitating More Inclusive Meetings for Introverts

groupmap-shares-useful-techniques-designed-to-make-meetings-more-inclusive-for-introverts-using-an-agenda-keeping-meetings-short-exploring-meeting-preferences-and-allocating-tasks

Good facilitators use a variety of techniques to build inclusive meetings. One approach is to consider the different personalities in the room, then design meetings around people’s preferred working styles. 

Ever since Carl Jung first defined the terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’, people have been interested in how our personality affects our lives. Workplace stereotypes suggest introverts want to be alone and work independently, while extroverts are loud collaborators. 

Introverts often  –  

  • enjoy low stimulation environments.
  • reflect before making decisions.
  • prefer quality time with one or two people rather than larger groups.
  • think deeply before speaking.
  • provide written over verbal feedback .
  • have a tendency to listen more.

Extroverts on the other hand often – 

  • Prefer high stimulation environments.
  • make decisions and speak quickly.
  • like the company of others.
  • Talk out their thoughts
  • Make verbal contriubtions over written ones.

As a facilitator, you know people can fall anywhere on the introvert-extrovert spectrum and not to think in binaries. 

At least one-third of people are introverts, according to Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  With that said, making meetings more inclusive for those who may be introverts benefits all meeting participants. Introverts feel more comfortable and engage more, and extroverts benefit from their insight and input. 

Here are five tried and tested techniques to facilitate more inclusive meetings for introverts.

1. Send an Agenda in Advance

Introverts can be unnerved by the unknown, so they are likely to want to know what will be included in a meeting beforehand. 

Sending out an agenda in advance of a meeting is a great place to start. It will let people know exactly what may be expected of them, and they won’t feel caught off guard should they need to participate. Introverts tend to only speak when they have something meaningful to add to a conversation, so sending out an agenda in advance gives them time to prepare and increases their likelihood of participation.

Not only is a pre-circulated agenda an effective meeting facilitation mechanism, but it could also save the introverts in your team a lot of anxiety. They will feel far more comfortable in knowing what is coming up in the meeting and can think about what they would like to say and contribute at that meeting.

todays-agenda

2. Keep your Meetings Short

Believe it or not, short meetings are inclusive meetings.

People who are unnerved by meetings will be less inclined to speak if a meeting goes on for too long or overtime. Providing certainty as to what topics will be discussed and when is more likely to keep people engaged and comfortable in the meeting space.

In the case of introverts, activities or events that go overtime can lead to overstimulation (sometimes called an introvert hangover); an introvert’s reflex is to shut down in an attempt to reduce the stimuli. They may appear to go quiet, switch off, or even walk away.

When it comes to the latter stages of a long meeting, introverts may seem distracted and start to appear restless; this is a protective mechanism kicking in that’s trying to protect them from that overstimulation.

With this in mind, rather than holding a single lengthy meeting, break it down into shorter ones. If a long meeting is absolutely unavoidable, allow people to ask for a break if they feel their minds wandering or exempt themselves if the topic being discussed doesn’t apply to them. This is an effective meeting facilitation technique regardless of personality type.

The simple act of setting a timer on a meeting signals the length of the meeting to the team.

timer-clock

3. Discuss Meeting Preferences One on One

The more you know about your meeting attendees, the more inclusive your meeting will be.

Knowing the meeting preferences of people is the best way of ensuring you’re facilitating the most effective meeting environment for them. 

The best way to do this is to send out a quick email inviting people for a brief one-on-one chat to discuss the approach they prefer. This will allow everyone time to consider their preferred meeting style, and share it with you outside the context of a large group.

Introverts may prefer – 

  • talking over issues in smaller groups.
  • the opportunity to share ideas anonymously. 
  • asynchronous meetings that allow them time to consider their input.
  • if presenting, for questions held to the end.
hand-raise

4. Find Opportunities to Include Introverts in Meetings

Exploring the ways in which people feel comfortable contributing to a meeting will make it more inclusive.

If people simply do not wish to say anything during a meeting, they are the perfect person to be the scribe. Have them capture the minutes of the meeting and ask them to follow up with participants to ensure action items are delivered.  Giving them the opportunity to express themselves in writing so that they have more time to consider their answers is a fantastic way to equalize the process. You’ll find that their input is often far more considered and detailed so it’s important not to skip over their contributions and that their ideas are heard.

They can also be invited to comment on other ideas, add more descriptions, insight, and feedback, and provide deep dives for the group.

Provide enough thinking time and reflection time. If you are having an online meeting, this is a good time to have people turn off their cameras and mics so that they have some quiet time to think.

Finally, they may be comfortable stepping into the role of meeting observer, gauging the effectiveness of the meeting ground rules or the timekeeper for the meeting.

introvert-listing-materials

5. Enlist Introverts as a Resource

Introverts may be more comfortable contributing outside the meeting. 

They may be happy to – 

  • identify gaps in the agenda.
  • deliver tasks aligned to action items.
  • compile information needed to inform the discussion that can happen during a meeting.
  • explore innovative ways to deliver effective meetings.
  • research and provide data that can be used in the meeting.
  • provide their thoughts before the meeting that can be used as examples
light-bulb-idea

Start Facilitating Inclusive Meetings Today

It’s always helpful to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team and how you can support them as they continue to learn and grow. 

Meeting tools such as GroupMap have been designed with inclusivity in mind. Boasting features built to support equity and psychological safety, GroupMap can help you deliver inclusive meetings and create a comfortable meeting environment for all involved.

  • Create a simple agenda that people can add to.
  • Timebox the meeting and each step to keep things on track.
  • Create a quick survey to find out more about your meeting attendees before the meeting.
  • Use individual brainstorming mode to give people their own space and time to think.
  • Open up the meeting beforehand for asynchronous meetings and collect ideas beforehand.

Facilitating a meeting has never been easier with the help of GroupMap

Have more questions or would like a demo?

The 7 Secrets of Productive Meetings

groupmap-delivers-outstanding-online-meeting-tools-so-you-can-deliver-more-productive-meetings

Productive meetings deliver useful outcomes within a set timeframe. They are purposeful spaces in which – 

  • people quickly connect and collaborate.
  • time and effort are well spent.
  • good decisions are made.

The best thing about productive meetings is that everyone seems to appreciate them. They tend to be a morale booster. People leave them with a shared sense of purpose and a greater connection to their team.

As much as we like them, productive meetings are less common than you’d expect. In fact, when Harvard Business School surveyed 182 senior managers about meetings, 71% said meetings were unproductive.

So why aren’t we getting the most out of our meetings?

Well, there are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, meeting facilitation is a skill not everyone has. Then there is the constant change to the way we communicate in the workplace. A change that may not have been effectively shifted into the meeting space. Finally, productive meetings take preparation, which means time and effort. Let’s face it, both are often in short supply in most organizations.

Life’s too short to waste it sitting in unproductive meetings. So here are some of the tried and tested methods we use to deliver productive meetings.

1. A Meeting can Only be Productive if it’s Needed

The idea of simply not having a meeting isn’t considered often enough.

You wouldn’t water a garden if it’s been raining for three days straight. So why do we head into meetings when we have nothing to discuss? If a report that’s needed for a meeting isn’t ready. If key people aren’t available. If input, guidance, or approvals aren’t needed. Then don’t have a meeting.

Similarly, if an effective alternative to the meeting can be used, use it! 

While years ago it was simpler and cheaper to hand out copies of a report in person, that’s no longer the case. Information can be circulated in a number of faster, cheaper ways. 

If an issue only requires the input of one other person, it can be discussed without a meeting. There’s no need to have others sitting in the same room to witness it. 

Canceling a meeting is unlikely to upset people. Far from it! People will appreciate that you are considerate of their time and glad they can redirect their energies elsewhere.

2.  A Productive Meeting is an Organised Meeting

There are two things to consider when organizing a meeting – 

  • An agenda
  • A meeting space

First, let’s consider the agenda.

Agendas are a really helpful meeting tool that is important in all sorts of ways. They can help plan meetings. They can help facilitate meetings. They can help document meetings. Importantly, agendas increase meeting productivity. 

Agendas list what will be covered when and by whom. They can increase a meeting’s productivity by –

  • helping people get organized and prepared.
  • setting time limits. 
  • focussing discussions.

Sending out an agenda helps people organize their schedules. People can also prepare for the topics that the meeting will cover. This means the meeting time itself is more likely to be used productively.

Agendas can help people make the most of their time. They reduce the influence of Parkinson’s Law. This is when a task takes as long to finish as the time allocated to it. They also help the meeting facilitator monitor discussions. This helps to make sure conversations are focused, and therefore more likely to be productive.

Secondly, the meeting space.

If you’re running a face-to-face meeting you need a room. It needs to be big enough to hold the number of people who will be at the meeting and include any equipment that might be needed. Assuming a space will be available is a big mistake. Waiting for someone to find a room is not a great way to start a meeting.

Similarly, if you’re delivering an online meeting you need an online space. Everyone attending the meeting needs to be able to access the space. It also needs to be able to work alongside any online tools or templates needed to facilitate the meeting. This time, the productivity killer comes from assuming everyone knows how to engage in the online space. So it’s helpful to run a practice meeting to make sure everyone is comfortable with the technology that will be used.

Running a hybrid meeting? You’ll need to make sure you have both a physical and virtual space.

3. Ground Rules Provide a Solid Foundation

Just like the rules of the road, meeting ground rules ensure everyone knows –

  • the limits they need to stick to
  • what they can expect of others
  • what is expected of them

Meetings that have ground rules are more likely to run on time and achieve their purpose. Not only do ground rules create more productive meetings, but they also deliver other benefits. We discuss ground rules, including how to write them, in more detail here.

4. Productive Meetings Include Follow Through

Imagine you’ve just emerged from a fantastic meeting. It finished on time. You worked through everything on the agenda. Sure, there was dissent, but it was healthy dissent that led to an even better solution. Then, following the meeting, nothing progressed. Was that time really spent productively?

Nothing undermines a good meeting quite like a lack of follow-through. So to make the most of a meeting – 

  • ensure meeting notes are captured.
  • shape action points.

Make sure someone acts as the meeting’s scribe. They can capture the key outputs of the meeting that are then shared at its end. 

Shape action points as part of the meeting. Good action points – 

  • are clear, precise, and specific.
  • start with a verb.
  • include a due date.
  • are assigned to someone.
  • are reported at the next meeting.

Lastly, ensure people follow up on their actions before the next meeting. Send out a list of agreed action points a week before the next meeting. It’s a good way to remind people of what they were meant to do.

5. Keep an Eye on the Time

Time is a limited resource. Productive meetings make the most of the time allocated to them.

Align the meeting to a productive time of day. Some groups may work best in the mornings. Others may be more focused after lunch.  

Include an allocation of time for each topic on the agenda. This allows facilitators to shut down conversations that are off track or over time. The time allocations have given them permission to act. 

Make sure someone is given the job of timing each topic. They can give a warning bell a minute before people are to move on to the next topic. 

6. Many Hands Make Productive Work

We’ve already mentioned some of the roles that can increase a meeting’s productivity. A facilitator, a scribe, and a timekeeper. While it’s often very tempting to allocate them all to one person, don’t. Allocating them separately increases the likelihood that the jobs will be done well. It also means that meetings aren’t overly burdensome for one person.

Similarly, ensure the action points are as evenly spread as possible. Asking one person to deliver on all of the action points could be problematic.

Finally, consider including one last role that we’ll go into detail about below.

7. Commit to Productivity

Having people mindful of and committing to meeting productivity will improve it. 

One way of doing this is by having someone observe and report back on the meeting.

The observer must be objective. They will look at how well people stick to the meeting rules. They will look at how well people keep to time limits. Importantly, they can watch to see what impact these things may have on the productivity of the meeting.

Additionally, the observer can keep a watch out for anything that happens during the meeting that increases productivity. If someone suggests a subgroup further explores a particular topic. If someone offers to email information rather than running through it in the meeting. If someone suggests putting a contentious issue to a vote. These sorts of things can be noted. 

While meeting blocks can also be noted, it may not be helpful to dwell on them. If the information hasn’t been made available to everyone. If no one has a timer. If the meeting starts late. These will have a negative effect but so might focussing on them.

Importantly, the observer will report back on their observations at the end of the meeting. They can help positively reinforce the productive behavior they observed. 

Include this opportunity for feedback as a part of the agenda. It will keep participants mindful of the importance of productivity and support a positive wave of improvement.

Start your Next Meeting with GroupMap

Don’t worry, these aren’t secrets you need to keep. They will help improve just about any type of meeting you can think of. Feel free to share them with anyone you want to help.

GroupMap was designed to help people think better together. Our online meeting templates are a great tool that supports your meeting process so you can focus on the people in the room.

Check out our plans today!

Have more questions or would like a demo?

How Online Brainstorming Templates, Tools and Techniques Can Improve Your Meetings

groupmap-shares-how-online-brainstorming-templates-tools-and-techniques-can-help-you-deliver-more-effective-meetings

When we hold a meeting, we hope that people will openly share ideas without judgment. We hope ideas will be presented in an organized way. We hope that technology will be an enabler, not a barrier. 

Instead, meetings are often unproductive, filled with awkward silences or participants who don’t contribute. 

An online meeting can have even more difficulties. Trying to manage a flow of ideas in chat or an online whiteboard is also very challenging. 

This is where brainstorming templates, tools, and techniques could be the solution.

Online brainstorming lets you take advantage of the virtual space. It can help you achieve things you can’t in a traditionally delivered, face-to-face meeting. 

Brainstorming templates, tools and techniques can help you deliver more effective meetings. They – 

  • shape a logical meeting process
  • eliminate production blocking
  • allow anonymous input 
  • increase meeting participation
  • allow people to collaborate in real-time

Online Brainstorming Templates Help You Structure Your Meeting

Brainstorming templates are designed to deliver effective meetings. This makes them the perfect meeting tool. 

Online templates are really helpful as they – 

  • can support many different types of meetings (in-person, remote, and hybrid).
  • can work with your meeting time frames (synchronous or asynchronous).
  • help to capture all inputs as the meeting progresses.

Brainstorming templates directly reflect the purpose of a meeting. Examples include:

Templates offer a clear and easy process. With a clearly structured purpose in plain view, people are more likely to be productive.

Online Brainstorming Techniques Stop Production Blocking

Taking a brainstorming session online can stop production blocking and deliver more effective meetings.

Production blocking happens when one person in a group ‘blocks’ other people from offering ideas. Some examples of production blocking include – 

  • a talkative person dominating the session, stopping others from sharing.
  • one person talking may distract others in the group and they forget their idea.
  • having listened to an idea that was poorly received by the group, a person decides not to put their idea forward.

Production blocking is really common in face-to-face sessions. Virtual brainstorming can overcome this by reducing the influence of others. People can individually brainstorm their ideas on their own devices before sharing them with the group. It also allows participants time to generate their ideas before they are shared with the group. 

With a press of a single button, all ideas can be shared with all participants at the same time. This completely removes any distractions, hesitancy, or other similar influences.

Online Brainstorming Tools Help Build Effective Meeting Environments

Online brainstorming tools let people add their ideas free from fear if done anonymously. This in turn supports a psychologically safe space. 

In a traditional brainstorming session, people won’t put forward ideas if they are concerned about what others think. Gathering anonymous input using whiteboards, flipcharts, post-its and pens takes a lot of time. Ink color and handwriting are obvious clues as to who wrote what (even if a neutral facilitator does collect things up). If people don’t feel safe sharing their ideas, they won’t. 

Online brainstorming tools help to remove this concern as they allow for anonymous input.  People are then more likely to be open and honest with their responses. They will feel more comfortable sharing ideas they think may be controversial.

Online brainstorming tools also let people vote and rate ideas without bias from others. Again, this means people are protected from the opinions of others.

Online Brainstorming Increases Meeting Participation

The main reasons for this are – 

  • with clarity of process and purpose, people are more likely to be focused.
  • the fewer ideas that are ‘blocked’, the more ideas that can be captured.
  • the safer people feel, the more likely they are to engage.

Research has reflected this by comparing the performance of brainstorming groups. Online brainstorming sessions generate more high-quality ideas with a higher average of ideas per person than traditional methods. Studies have also shown that loose associations emerge more often during virtual brainstorming sessions. Not only that, and participants tend to be happier with their results. 

Ready to Run Your Own Online Brainstorming Session?

There are many benefits that online brainstorming templates, tools, and techniques bring to a meeting. They can help address issues that come with face-to-face sessions, foster a supportive environment and increase meeting participation. 

GroupMap is an easy-to-use online brainstorming tool that can help you deliver more effective meetings. You can start straight away with any one of the 80+ templates. 

Use GroupMap to run your next online brainstorm today.

Have more questions or would like a demo?

6 Facilitation Techniques to Inspire Productivity in Meetings

meeting-productivity

A great meeting coordinator can get a group to brainstorm, discuss, and, most importantly, decide upon many things in a short amount of time. The challenge is that many organizations do not have a specialized facilitator to fulfil that position.

As the modern workplace grows more collaborative and digital, it is becoming increasingly necessary for all team members to understand how to conduct efficient meetings.

Here are six facilitation techniques that’ll help you lead the next productivity-boosting meeting with confidence.

1. Start Meetings with a Quick Check-in

Check-ins position everyone in the room to pay attention to the meeting and one another.

During your check-in, ask questions such as –

  • What’s on everyone’s mind before we get started with the agenda?
  • What is one thing you intend to accomplish during today’s meeting?
  • What one word best defines your current state of mind?

Check-ins take only a few minutes and result in substantial benefits. They allow individuals to get to know one another better and bring people’s attention to the room, ensuring that everyone is mentally present for the discussion.

2. Establish Question-based Meeting Agendas that Promote Participation

One of the most crucial aspects of being a facilitator is a neutral status, which entails raising areas of concern or opportunities, preferably in question form. A well-crafted question can help make complex topics more manageable and encourage other members to share their expertise on the subject.

Instead of posting a common agenda like “discuss marketing strategy”, try listing out question-based formats such as – “what major market risks require our attention and how can we best prepare for it?”.

This agenda strategy helps set the meeting tone and help members think of answers beforehand.

3. Delegate Specific Meeting Roles

It is acceptable, even wise, for a facilitator to delegate tasks such as note-taking and time-keeping to others.

Allowing attendees to contribute fosters a sense of collective ownership of the meeting’s success.

Remember to rotate the responsibilities at each meeting so everyone has the opportunity to engage and contribute.

4. Create Opportunities for Engagement

The facilitator should be mindful that certain group members may be less outspoken than others, though their opinions remain just as crucial. The facilitator should establish an environment of equality in which they can participate.

Establishing meeting rules underpinned with inclusivity is of paramount importance. Look to those attending the meeting to help contribute to these understandings so that their shared ownership of the expectations increases the likelihood of adherence to them.

When facilitating discussion, ask simple open-ended inquiries to spark their curiosity and elicit responses. Use questions such as –

  • What do you think?
  • What would you do? and
  • Do you have any other ideas?

Given these questions will be asked without notice, offer people the opportunity to “pass” or nominate for the conversation to “circle back” so that those less forthcoming individuals don’t feel put on the spot.

If time allows, consider separating participants into small groups to encourage quieter team members to participate. Then, bring everyone back to the whole group and ask for highlights of the chat.

5. Review and Combine Ideas for Greater Focus

Once all participants have had the opportunity to respond to the question the meeting is to address, it’s important that those ideas are organized and assessed. Once all participants are on the same page, it’s possible to shape agreed action points. 

With all ideas collated, the facilitator can work with participants to –

  1. Review all of the ideas
  2. Identify any ideas that can be grouped together
  3. Vote on the ideas they wish to bring forward to discuss

Involving participants in such a sense-making activity can help them better understand the connection between multiple ideas. It also ensures that the meeting’s time is spent focussed on the more important matters.

Using meeting facilitation tools can be of great help in supporting this process. Such tools can also add value as they transparently capture and report back on the ideas generated by the meeting.

6. Conclude with a Quick Debrief and Plan Follow-ups

Debriefing time should be set aside at the end of the meeting.

Facilitators can improve retention of meeting outcomes by summarising –

  • The issues covered
  • Information acquired
  • Decisions made, and
  • The tasks and individuals accountable for their delivery

Finally, following the meeting, ensure there is follow-up with participants.

Valuable progress can be achieved at a meeting, but it is meaningless if there is no follow-up to ensure proper execution of the agreed action points.

Final Thoughts

Meeting facilitation is a valuable transferable skill.

While someone new to the facilitation space may make errors; that’s fine! One doesn’t have to be a master facilitator to save a team hours of wasted time.

Facilitation skills will grow as they are practiced, which is why the most valuable advice to a would-be facilitator is –

Get out there, and start practicing!

GroupMap is a real-time online brainstorming and group decision-making tool that dramatically improves the output of team brainstorming activities.

Start a free trial and boost your company’s productivity today!

Have more questions or would like a demo?

Keeping Groupthink Out and Teamwork In

avoiding-groupthink-in-your-online-collaboration

Believe it or not, it’s possible for signs of harmony to point to issues within a group. As strange as it may seem, groups that arrive at swift consensus, appear immune to conflict, and can easily navigate ethical conundrums may have a problem.

That problem is groupthink, and it’s collaboration’s kryptonite.

To counteract this, it’s important for facilitators to be –

  • conscious of the potential of groupthink when curating a collaborative environment
  • aware of any symptoms that may appear during the collaborative process so that they may be swiftly addressed

As passionate fans of collaboration, we are keen to help you keep groupthink out of your sessions to make more space for teamwork and the positive outcomes that comes with it.

What is Groupthink, and What’s so Bad About It?

First referenced in 1971 by psychologist Irving Janis, groupthink sees our very human desire for cohesion influencing group decision making. It is the tendency for group members to override their own critical evaluation of an idea or situation, in order to minimise conflict and reach group consensus.

It’s something we all do from time to time. If ever you have agreed to meet up with a group of friends at a cafe you don’t like, or you find yourself at a quiz night when you were really hoping to head to an escape room, it’s likely you’ve agreed to be there because of groupthink.

Although groupthink is unintentional its consequences can be significant. While agreeing to attend a quiz night is fairly benign, in extreme cases, groupthink can be so impactful that the outputs of the group are irrational or dysfunctional.

Groupthink can actually counteract the benefits of having a group involved in the decision making process; the desire for harmony acting almost as a repellent against diverse opinions, ideas and solutions, and devaluing differing expertise and varied experience.

What Causes Groupthink?

Groupthink occurs when we are feeling unsafe; the less safe we feel, the more likely groupthink is to influence us.

This is because groupthink is a byproduct of our underlying wish to fit in, to be liked, and to exist harmoniously with others; it is the result of our unconscious pursuit of ‘safety in numbers’.

Groupthink can be a response to –

  • a high-stress situation
  • an environment of uncertainty
  • recent failure or criticism
  • time pressure
  • a lack of impartial leadership

What are the Symptoms of Groupthink?

A facilitator can ‘test’ for groupthink by looking out for the following –

  • new ideas and perspectives are met with silence
  • group members self-censor or offer the opinions of ‘anonymous others’ rather than their own
  • dissenters are quickly pressured to change their view
  • opposing viewpoints are labeled ‘stupid’, ‘weak’ or ‘wrong’
  • the problem is only seen from one perspective

The great thing is, by appropriately calling out these symptoms, a facilitator can negate them.

How to Avoid Groupthink so Better Decisions are Made

The more supported and safe participants feel in the group environment, the less likely groupthink is to occur.

Here are three simple steps you can follow to help deter groupthink and deliver better decisions.

1. Build a Transparent Process that Fosters Divergence

A process that side steps groupthink to capture all ideas amongst its initial steps is a great way of encouraging divergent thinking. This can be achieved in a couple of simple ways –

  • asynchronous input
  • anonymous input
  • divergent and convergent thinking cycles

Asynchronous input allows members of the group to submit their ideas individually at a time that suits them. It means participants can give themselves as much thinking time as they need to respond, without the influence of the group. Asynchronous input comes with the added bonus of helping to overcome recency bias.

Allowing participants to submit their input anonymously can be used synchronously or asynchronously. Anonymous input allows participants to be completely honest with their feedback, safe in the knowledge that their ideas will not trigger direct adverse action.

Stepping participants through divergent and convergent thinking expands their context.

  • Divergent thinking requires each participant in the group to only focus on new, innovative, and wild ideas. The process is additive, so participants can build upon these new ideas. The goal is to think laterally (beyond the obvious). Conversations are driven by vision, ideals, wish lists and creativity. 
  • Convergent thinking is the opposite. Limitations and constraints are put in place to encourage consensus building to see what is plausible and realistic. 

Moving participants in and out of this cycle as part of your process encourages both forms of thinking which help to foster divergence.

Online collaborative tools are ideally placed to support this. The more effective tools include features that allow for anonymity or the use of an alias, and remove the possibility of personalities being identified through handwriting. It’s possible to set the tool so that members of the group can’t see each other’s responses until the facilitator allows, so participants won’t be swayed by the thoughts of others.

Ensuring the process is transparent can help remove another layer of uncertainty; knowing how information will be used or shared means participants won’t jump to a wrong conclusion or possibly become defensive during the collaborative process.

2. Encourage Healthy Dissent

According to the Harvard Business Review, healthy dissent can stimulate neural pathways and spark greater creativity.

Try – 

  • appointing a member of the group as devil’s advocate to give them permission to spark conversations that trigger opposing views
  • having groups track the ideas they wish to dismiss, then ask them to defend those ideas 
  • allocate participants a different character through whose lens they are to consider an idea

Being able to consider all aspects of an idea is to be encouraged as it will help unearth all manner of creative solutions.

One approach to encourage healthy dissent is to argue like you are right, then listen like you are wrong. This form of active listening gives everyone a chance to put their point across and to feel supported when they speak.

It can be challenging managing conversations that matter to people. They will speak with passion and conviction and it may at times feel like tensions are high. Healthy dissent is about managing and respecting the process and the debate.

3. Give the Leader the Day Off

If the group is a team, having the team leader or manager absent themselves from the group decision process can be beneficial for everyone. 

When the leader remains in the room, ego, authority, and fear are likely to have an impact. It might not be obvious with a highly collaborative team, but undertones of these will still exist.

The absence of the boss or manager on the other hand side-steps this influence. In self-organised teams, each person has the chance to put themselves first, and address the problem in a way that best works for them.

It allows group members to interact with their peers without – 

  • the influence of a hierarchy
  • fear of reprisal
  • any concerns around the lack of impartial leadership 

It is a way for a leader to – 

  • show trust
  • gain greater insight into their team
  • empower teams to take action on their own.

This is a powerful way of procuring a very honest response from a group, particularly if the group decision omits references to individuals.

Putting it Into Practice

GroupMap is an online collaboration tool that offers all manner of templates to help guide group discussion and decision making; it also offers the flexibility for you to build your own!

GroupMap lets people brainstorm asynchronously, anonymously, change the role of facilitators, and allows individual brainstorming and equal participation to ensure that the voice of the individual, as well as the collective, is heard.

GroupMap lets you capture the three most important views in the brainstorming session: your’s, mine, and ours.

Have more questions or would like a demo?

5 Ways to Level Up your Meeting Facilitation Skills

lvl-up-meeting-facilitation-gm

With meetings and workshops now commonplace, facilitation is considered a highly desirable  workplace skill; of course, it’s no surprise given the incredible difference a good facilitator can bring to such sessions.

Additionally, when one considers current employment trends, facilitation skills appear to be of even greater value; “empathy, judgement and leadership” being both in-demand skills, and core to the fabric of a good facilitator.

So whether you’re looking for a way to deliver greater value at work, or you’re keen to enhance your resume, honing your facilitation expertise is a great place to start.

At GroupMap, helping people think better together is what we’re all about. Here’s what we think makes a great facilitator along with some practical steps to help you get there.

What is a Facilitator?

A facilitator is a person who enables a group of people to work together more effectively so that they may deliver high-quality outcomes.

Those outcomes could be a range of things, including –

  • capturing and exploring ideas
  • making decisions
  • crafting a shared understanding
  • finding a solution to a problem
  • designing a product
  • achieving a consensus

What Makes a Great Facilitator?

A great facilitator sets the stage so that the group can perform together at their very best. The facilitator does this by supporting the two key elements of a collaborative session –

1. The Collaborative Process

The collaborative process is what happens during the session, as well as how, where and when it happens.

When building a process a facilitator considers –

  • the outcome required of the session and the date by which it is needed
  • who needs to be involved
  • what needs to happen at the beginning, middle and end of the session to deliver that outcome
  • how time should be allocated
  • if the session is to be in-person, online or both
  • when the session is to be held in order to deliver the outcomes when they are needed

2. The Collaborative Environment

A collaborative environment is one conducive to participation, cooperation and focus, and as a result, high-quality outcomes are delivered faster. They are psychologically safe spaces in which participants feel acknowledged, accepted and respected.  

In shaping a collaborative environment, a facilitator will demonstrate –

  • Respect: by recognising and acknowledging the intrinsic value of each participant in the session
  • Empathy: by putting aside their own context in order to be open to embrace a genuine understanding of that of the participant
  • Neutrality: by putting aside any bias, prejudice or agenda, so that only the inputs of the group shape the outcomes of the session

The facilitator will foster open channels of communication, ensuring –

  • input is honest
  • participation is balanced
  • conflict is respectfully addressed

A great facilitator remembers that, despite the fact all eyes may be upon them, they are not the star of the show; the stars are the participants, and it’s their time to shine.

What You Can do to Become a Better Facilitator

1. Get Organised

Whether you’re delivering an hour-long meeting, a half-day workshop, or week-long training, you need some sort of overview or agenda that outlines –

  • the purpose of the session
  • who is participating
  • when and where the session will happen
  • the steps that constitute the session
  • a timeframe

If you find yourself pulled in to deliver a session that isn’t supported with an outline, take the time to construct one with the group there and then. A quick brainstorm will ensure the purpose of the session is clear and the group is focussed; the smooth delivery of the session will make up for the time you spend with this initial gathering of thoughts.

  • send out calendar invitations along with the session overview well in advance.
  • lock in the resources you need to deliver the session

2. Open Those Channels of Communication

  • Kick off with an icebreaker to warm the group up; icebreakers are known to increase group engagement and focus.
  • Take the time to work with the group to establish the ‘house rules’ for the session. When members of a group know what they can expect of others and what is expected of them, the likelihood of participation increases while an environment of psychological safety is supported.
  • Don’t do all the talking; you are the conductor not the orchestra.
  • Deliver information in easily digestible steps; too much information will be overwhelming.
  • Allow for silence and thinking time. It allows individuals to consider their responses before sharing them.
  • Listen and paraphrase what is said to ensure you have understood things correctly.
  • Look to the body language of participants for additional cues.
  • Draw out and make space for reticent or quieter participants to contribute, and stack conversations to support balanced participation.

3. Keep an Eye on the Time

  • Allocate a time to each of the session steps, and stick to it!
  • Ensure participants are aware of the timeframes within which they are working.
  • Call out and wrap up circular conversations.
  • Park discussion if consensus can’t be reached and circle back if time allows.

4. Maintain the Focus

  • Use the number of inputs generated by the group as an indicator of their engagement; positively reinforce effort, it will inspire more participation and reinforce focus.
  • Check in regularly to assess energy levels; when energy wanes so does focus.
  • Listen out for chatter; it is a helpful barometer that can point to –
    • The completion of a task – so move the session on to the next step
    • Disengaged and distracted groups – so remind participants of the session’s purpose
  • If a participant seems off-topic, explore if their opinions support the purpose of the meeting.

5. Embrace a Facilitator’s Mindset

  • Be curious. Use questions and phrases such as –
    • What did you mean when you said…
    • Tell me more about…
    • What would that look like?
  • Adopt the mantra “it’s not about me”. Despite our very best of efforts, possibly only the most self-actualized of people are able to consistently exude respect, empathy and neutrality; this is a work-around until you get there.

Start Facilitating Today

GroupMap is an online collaboration tool designed by facilitators for facilitators. It helps you construct and deliver a polished collaboration process, and includes features that support the curation of a collaborative environment too.

GroupMap can be used to support face-to-face, virtual and hybrid sessions. It captures data as you go; there’s no tedious note transposing at the end of your workshop because GroupMap does it all for you!

Have more questions or would like a demo?

Lucid Meetings uses GroupMap to deliver best online collaboration

Lucid meetings online meetings

Successful meetings everyday!

Lucid Meetings

Lucid Meetings is an innovation meeting company, focussed on helping teams run successful meetings everyday. 

The Lucid Meetings team focuses on the underlying systems that make successful meetings a regular part of your organization’s culture – being agenda management reliable records. 

The organization’s educational programs also helps teams design and lead successful everyday business meetings. 

Elise Keith is the founder and CEO of Lucid Meetings and has been using GroupMap to enhance collaboration in public educational events and private training programs. 

“Lucid Meetings helps thousands of teams worldwide run successful meetings every day,” explained Elise.

“In 2020, Lucid Meetings was recognized as one of the top-10 global influencer brands on the topic of remote work and virtual meetings.” 

The search for an online collaboration tool

Elise had wanted to find an online collaboration tool to support brainstorming, sensemaking, and decision making activities for large groups. 

“The free tools I’ve used–like Google Slides or Jamboard-lack the features and power needed to make it easy for large groups to get right to work, through no fault in design because that’s not what they were built for,” commented Elise. 

“Many other visual collaboration and decision support tools require lots of setup, time during the workshop for training participants, or they don’t produce usable results you can work with later.” 

Hitting the sweet spot with a group collaboration tool 

GroupMap online collaboration tool

Elise found GroupMap when first researching online brainstorming and decision support software to integrate with Lucid Meetings platform in 2015. 

Her thorough research is well documented and initially looked at 25 tools for online brainstorming and decision making and has now been updated to 35 tools. 

“Five years later and after comparison to many, many others, GroupMap remains my favorite for most educational workshops,” said Elise. 

“In my opinion, GroupMap hits the sweet spot. Participants find it easy to use with minimal instructions, it supports the multi-step processes I need to run, and it gives me useful data afterward.” 

Using GroupMap for collaborative brainstorming courses 

Elise and the team at Lucid Meetings recently conducted a public, online event, exploring “Meeting Technology.” The event included a deep dive with Scott Wharton, the VP and General Manager of Logitech Video Collaboration. 

In this event, participants used the brainstorming functionality of GroupMap, a variation on polarities and a variation on nine windows. 

Online collaboration occurred in a GroupMap workspace that Elise had set up (see below) with three brainstorming sessions. 

Lucid Meetings GroupMap

A customisable template was used to create the three brainstorming sessions for this Lucid Meetings event – starting with a polarities exercise below. 

GroupMap online Collaboration Tool at play

This was then followed by a four and nine windows template where participants can type in their ideas, comment on others’ thoughts and also vote using the thumbs up functionality. 

Online collaboration tool with GroupMapGroupMap with Lucid Meetings

A solution for meeting facilitators 

Elise noted that the recent online event on “Meeting Technology” using GroupMap as an online tool brainstorming was well received. 

“After the event, several facilitators said they’d check it out, because it was slick.”

Elise also commented that GroupMap supported the focus on Lucid Meetings events, which are on the ideas and content, not the technology itself, 

“Most of my participants didn’t say anything about GroupMap at the event, which is actually perfect. When we use other tools, we often get many comments about either challenges they’re having, or remarks about how much work it looks like we did to set it all up.” 

“For public events, I don’t want my participants thinking and commenting about all the prep work I did, so I’m really grateful when the tech can disappear so they can do the work. I feel GroupMap achieves that.”

“In my private programs, we run a series of mini-workshops over the course of several months. GroupMap makes it easy for me to take content from an earlier session and build on it later. Brainstorms from one session turn into the content we sort and analyze in later sessions.”

“This makes it easy for everyone to see both how their ideas are evolving, but also to pick right back up from where we left off.”

As a meeting facilitator herself, Elise indicated that using GroupMap gives her access to easily harvestable and analyzable data. 

“I can also publish pretty maps, which enhance the post-event value.” 

Reporting with GroupMap

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