Last year, I took an excellent course in group facilitation. Terrence Metz was the instructor for the program, and he taught our class the incredible phrase: “To What Extent.” Now, you may be reading this and thinking, “What’s the big deal?”
I am sharing the phrase because it is helpful when groups meet. Here is an example:
“This idea will cause outages!” the programmer shouts.
“To what extent?” asks his colleague.
“Well,” the programmer shifts in his shoes, ”It happens a lot.” The group decides to get data before they make changes.
“There will be huge budgetary discrepancies and we will become unable to operate,” says the chief financial officer.
“To what extent?” the board challenges.
And then the chief financial officer backs down.
“To what extent” is the phrase that pays because it helps team members focus on getting data rather than being reactive and possibly exaggerating consequences.
I encourage you to add the phrase to your information gathering repertoire.
How do you focus on gathering information?
Last fall my colleague Jennifer Ledet, leadership consultant, and I enrolled in a Facilitation Course which led to our certification as facilitators. In that high-level program we learned advanced facilitation techniques such as:
- how to gain consensus across time zones, cultures, and continents
- how to help teams manage multimillion-dollar projects and make high-level global decisions
- how to create buy-in and acceptance when many options are all reasonable and each person, division, and company has different needs and the stakes are high
This is graduate-level facilitation!
Before companies, organizations, and boards of all types can achieve graduate-level facilitation, they must master Civility 101. Before a facilitation session, I survey employees regarding their concerns and am always struck by the number of workplace issues that are matters of common courtesy.
Here are the absolute basics of facilitation, and of civility for that matter:
Don’t yell, scream, or pound your fist on tables. Don’t throw things or point your finger at anyone. Don’t slam the door when you leave the room or purposefully tip over chairs (if you are clumsy like me, well, then it’s okay).
Speak calmly and professionally at all times.
Don’t name call or label people as ignorant, lazy, fat, stupid, unmotivated, or even worse.
Refer to people with respect.
Don’t talk ill of people after the meeting.
Don’t tell or threaten anyone after the meeting (or at any time for that matter).
Don’t say, “You will be sorry,” or “This will hurt your career,” or “You better watch your back.”
Remember that what you say before and after the meeting is as important as what you say during the meeting.
Don’t allow meetings to be about how things went wrong.
Ask, “How can we prevent this from happening again?”
“What safeguards are in place for the future?”
“How important is it that this doesn’t occur again?”
“How can we support the person, department, or process to reach our objectives?”
If there are people in your organization who exhibit these behaviors, please forward this message to them. Then go to your HR department, your in-house lawyer, or your greatest sponsor and ask for training — lots of it! It is needed and the cost of not having a professional and productive workplace is huge, not to mention that your organization is exhibiting signs of harassment.
Is your organization more advanced? Great! You are ready for graduate school!
Receiving feedback can feel like a gift, or feel like a hard slap in the face, can’t it?
So I have a lovely neighbor who is full of love and light. When she sees me, she always finds the positive to report on.
“I love to see you pounding away on the pavement,” she compliments.
“Did you see how slowly I am going? I never make it to a fast jog like you,” I retort
“Yes, but you are out here and every motion you make is a positive one,” she replies.
Likewise, I have another neighbor who also notices both my actions and inactions.
“You have trash all over the yard. Looks like you left the recycling out on a windy day again.”
I am thinking, “While you were talking, you could have picked up a piece or two.”
And as much as I don’t always appreciate her comments, she is the one who alerted me that we had lost a shingle, and she is the first to let me know when our dog has taken another unaccompanied walk.
Feedback at work is the same. Sometimes it’s just the encouragement you need, sometimes it’s something you already knew and sometimes it’s a blind spot that you aren’t excited about, but nevertheless, you needed to hear about it.
Feedback at work is one lens into how others perceive you. It can also give you some ideas to help you plan your own development and that feedback can help you reach your full potential.
Tips for effectively receiving feedback:
- Take long, deep breaths; they are free, take as many as you can.
- Listen carefully – paraphrase to make sure you heard the message correctly. This also demonstrates to the other person that you are sincere in wanting to hear his or her feedback.
- Ask for examples – direct the conversation by saying, “Tell me more” or “What have I specifically done to make you feel that way?”
- Acknowledge – you don’t have to agree or disagree with the person. It’s appropriate to recognize the other person’s input by saying “You’ve given me something to think about.”
- Think objectively – evaluate the feedback. Ask yourself if the feedback is valid and important. Have you heard it from someone else? Are the person’s standards and expectations valid?
- Think about what you are going to do with the feedback – you don’t have to act upon the feedback right away. Spend some time thinking about the feedback and then determine what action, if any, you wish to take.
In my programs I sometimes ask for examples of feedback that have really helped participants. I would love to hear from you.