Many decisions a group must make are not as simple as yes/no or black/white. One technique that I use involves having each individual express their personal feelings in terms of the number between 1 and 30. The extremes are 30 = yes, for sure! and 1 = absolutely not! Descriptors for these extremes can be adjusted to reflect the issue or question at hand.
Statisticians and psychologists claim that 1 to 30 is the ideal range to get an accurate expression of feeling. One to ten is too tight a range, with too much difference between each single point to reflect an individual’s true opinion. One to 100 is too large and individuals tend to think back to school days where any mark below 50 was considered a failure, so the full 1 to 100 scale is not utilized by all. Like the case of Goldilocks, the 1 to 30 range is neither too big nor too small…but just right!
Once individuals have indicated their number on the ballots that I have provided, I create a histogram on a flipchart to give the group a great graphic depiction of the summary of their personal opinions. In a few minutes, this can provide an excellent starting point for a decision, without long and heated debate.
I have met many facilitators at various workshops and conferences in recent years. Listed below, in alphabetical order, are four that I consider among the best. Each of them has an excellent website and newsletter, as well as books that they have written relating to facilitation. I have taken training workshops from all four and each has influenced my work in a particular way.
I have initiated a feature on my website called Bryan’s TIP (Timely Idea to Practice). I base this feature on various issues or challenges that I have helped clients address during recent facilitations. I choose situations where I think the results will be of interest or value to other clients. Of course, there will be no names mentioned! I hope you find this of value to you.
TIP #1 – Establishing Ground Rules
A few minutes establishing ground rules early in a session can be time very well spent and make your session more effective. The time to develop these guidelines is before they are needed, rather than introducing them or imposing them after some participant has tested the limits of the group process. It is critical to get “buy in” from the participants, so they feel a commitment to the guidelines and may even apply some peer pressure to those engaging in unproductive behaviour. Feel free to start a list with a few of your favourite ground rules but always be willing to add others that are offered by group members that appear to have the endorsement of any of the group participants. Note the guidelines on a flipchart and post in clear view, so they can be a visual reminder throughout the session, no matter how subtle.
TIP #2 – Introductions
Introductions can range from tedious and ineffective to exciting and engaging. To hit the positive end of the range, it is critical to quickly get everyone engaged in small group conversations of two or three participants interviewing each other. By discussing something that appears unrelated to the subject matter of the session, you will have an opportunity to begin to build rapport within the group. Recently, I initiated a “pair share” activity where each participant asked their partner, “What skills do you have outside of your workplace that will help make your contribution here today more effective?” and asked each person to report their findings to the group. The result was a buzz of activity replacing the silence of apprehension that was present, as well as an excellent opportunity to practise two key ground rules of active listening and concise responses. That trend continued throughout the day.