A Few More Essential Facilitation Guidelines

Here are a few more guidelines to help you facilitate an engaging and impactful meeting:

Encourage Participation

Encouraging group discussion will help you cover all points of view and ideas. This will create better quality decisions as well as highly motivated participants; they will feel that attending your meetings is worthwhile. When participants see their impact on the decision making process, ideas, and activities, commitment to the plan improves. If one or two people monopolize your meeting, the quality of the plans you produce will suffer.

Keep Track of Key Items

Have someone other than the chair or facilitator record key decisions and action items. It is not necessary to record every detail, but make sure you capture the key points, and reiterate them when appropriate.

 

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Meeting Follow Up

Within 24 hours circulate a brief report on decisions, individual responsibilities, next steps, next meeting dates, and so on. Quick action reinforces the importance of meeting and reduces errors of memory. Finally, follow up to see that the actions are being taken. If you do not follow up, all your effort may be wasted.

Almost everything about running a successful meeting involves being deliberate in what you do and say. Flip charts work well, because when you write something down, participants will disagree if you misrepresented their intentions. Verbally reiterating a participant’s point, or summarizing the conversation also works well. Give your participants every opportunity to speak up if they disagree. It is better to have disagreement happen during the meeting rather than after its finished.

One More Facilitation Tip

Many people say that speakers tend to rely on PowerPoint as a crutch, and that “good” speakers should be able to get on without. That may be true for speakers, but having a PowerPoint to give you cues, and guide your participants through your agenda can be an invaluable tool for facilitating a meeting.

Take the main items of your agenda and create a slide for each, and fill in the sub points as they make sense. Having this visual helper up on a screen throughout your meetings is a great way to let participants know where you are at in your process – and they usually appreciate the reference.

 

What are some other ways association professionals can further strengthen facilitation skills?

Essential Facilitation Guidelines

When you facilitate a meeting, these essential guidelines will help ensure a successful meeting for both team leader and participants:

Be Prepared

Arrive early to make sure any necessary equipment is set up and ready to operate at the start of the meeting. If you are not fully prepared when the meeting begins, you will waste time and appear unprofessional.

Start and Finish on Time

Always start and finish meetings on time regardless of late participants. Try to avoid restarting the meeting or recapping information for those who were late. This is tough to do with senior folks, but they will respect you for it. Always adjourn at least 5-10 minutes before your scheduled finish time, so participants can arrive on time for their next meeting. If you already have a culture where being on time is expected, this will be easy, if you have the other kind of culture…be tough.

 

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Stick to the Agenda

Stick to your agenda and keep conversation focused on the topic – don’t wait until the end of the meeting to try to catch up. Feel free to ask for only constructive and non-repetitive comments. Tactfully end discussions when they are getting nowhere.

Open with your Objective, and Close with your Accomplishments

Briefly reiterate purposes and established ground rules at the beginning of your meeting. End with a summary of accomplishments, clarification of agreements, and next steps.

Actively Manage your Meeting

Actively manage the meeting with three responsibilities in mind: stay on track, stimulate participation, and accomplish your objectives. Don’t allow participants to take your meeting off agenda. The best way to do this successfully is to manage your agenda in chunks. Don’t wait until the end of the meeting to try and get back on schedule. Park any off-topic items for discussion at the end of the meeting or at a later date.

 

 

7 Principles of Strategic Imperatives: Part 3

Unlike many of the concepts of effective business planning, Strategic Imperatives are something that many planners have never heard of. The idea of Strategic Imperatives, sometimes known as Strategic Priorities, Business Imperatives, Business Priorities, among others, have not had a long history.

The use of Strategic Imperatives is currently limited to the most forward thinking organizations, so if you can only do one thing to improve your business plan, focus on Strategic Imperatives.

6. Each Strategic Imperative Must Have a Clear Completion Date.

Although Strategic Imperatives are not projects, they do have a start and finish date. Strategic Imperatives are not operational, and they can’t go on indefinitely. Strategic Imperatives should change over time, and as Strategic Imperatives are completed, other Strategic Imperatives are started.

To build on the example I used in our last blog regarding “People Development” as a Strategic Imperative; it, of course is possible that at some stage in an association’s development the deliberate development of its employees may be a reasonable Strategic Imperative. But that Strategic Imperative must have well-defined boundaries, and clear objectives that can and must be completed in a reasonable length of time.

When those objectives have been met, the Strategic Imperative gets dropped from the list. Of course “People Development” is always going to be an important ongoing part of any operation, but it is no longer a Strategic Imperative. I see lots of examples like this in my work, including Strategic Imperatives around “Improving Member Service”, “Growing the Sales Force”, and “Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement.”

 

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7. Clearly define accountability for each Strategic Imperative.

Because Strategic Imperatives are strategic, we are talking about executive accountability.

The overall accountability for each Strategic Imperative should reside with one of the organization’s most senior people. But don’t fall into the trap of giving accountability for every Strategic Imperative to the ED or CEO. Yes, they have overall accountability for the vision and the strategy of the organization, but don’t forget we are trying to deliberately push accountability down the organization one step at a time, and Strategic Imperatives are the first step.

Although the accountability for each Strategic Imperative is going to be assigned to one senior person, there will be shared responsibility to execute it, as the associated actions move down the organization.

 

7 Principles of Strategic Imperatives: Part 2

Previously, we covered the first three principles required for effectively formatting, creating, writing, and managing Strategic Imperatives. Our list of principles continues below:

4. Strategic Imperatives should be inspirational

Setting up strategic imperatives are one of the first steps of using the strategy of an organization to drive action, and as such, they should be inspiring. Inspiration needs to be grounded in reality, avoid vagueness and feel good statements. To achieve this without speaking in platitudes, ensure each strategic imperative:

  • Is as specific as reasonable, given that it is strategic
  • Will be a stretch to accomplish without being so far out that it creates a sense of hopelessness
  • Is well written and presented in clear, concise language, without sounding like marketing
  • Is backed up with the underlying context and assumptions that were used to create them

5. Strategic Imperatives must be Imperative

This may go without saying, but do not allow items to creep into your list of Strategic Imperatives because it seems like the right thing to do.

Articulating even one Strategic Imperative that isn’t really imperative will weaken the whole set, and will sully the process. This is especially true if staff perceive that a Strategic Imperative has been included for political reasons, or that it’s just “lip service”. The first time staff and managers are introduced to the set of Strategic Imperatives, you want them to say “wow, those really are the most important things we need to accomplish, and I want to make my contribution.”

The best example I can give for this comes from my own experience helping clients articulate their Strategic Imperatives. In all the Strategic Imperative sessions I have done, almost without fail, the last Strategic Imperative on the list is titled “Human Resource Strategy” or “Develop the Best People”, or “Training and Development”, or sometimes just “People”. Now these are all great things, but are they imperative? Are they operational, or is it actually imperative that the organization puts a special time constrained emphasis on the development of its people right now?


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7 Principles of Strategic Imperatives: Part 1

Strategic imperatives should follow a specific format that are created, written, and managed with the following principles in mind:

1. Focus on “What”, leave room for “How”

This is a subtle but important part of articulating Strategic Imperatives. Employees want to be informed of the crucial parts of an association’s strategy and given a clear sense of priorities, but they do not want to be told how to do their jobs. This distinction matters, because if you want the Strategic Imperatives to really drive action, then you need association staff to get on board and work towards the solution themselves.

Focusing on “how” to achieve Strategic Imperatives, is restricting and prevents employees from coming up with the best approach for execution. By putting focus on what needs to be done, rather than how to do it, will produce superior results.

2. Define success but not how success will be achieved

This principle builds on number 1. What success looks like for each Strategic Imperative (SI) must be measurable, and specific, but not overly detailed. However, if SI’s are too vague, then staff cannot envision how they can contribute to a solution.

A successful board should be guided by those who bring different perspectives to the table.

3. Communication is key, be careful of spin

In fact, SI’s form a key part of communicating an association’s strategy to staff. This is what strategic imperatives are all about – bridging the gap between strategic and operational planning.

Create the initial set of SI’s completely without spin. Once senior management is united behind the intent of the Strategic Imperatives, then a version can be crafted and broadly communicated. You have a key role in ensuring that SI’s are created without spin, until a decision is made to create a communicable version.

During the process of creating Strategic Imperatives, senior leaders can become overly concerned with what people will think or how the imperatives will sound to staff. Do everything you can to prevent this from happening, otherwise the line becomes blurred between what is spin and what the actual intent of the strategic imperative is.

 

Stay tuned for more principles of strategic imperatives!