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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Understanding the Unspoken

Imagine that you have prepared for a week for the perfect requirements workshop. You know your agenda is on point and the techniques you are going to use are perfect for the group you will be facilitating. You are confident that this will be a successful workshop.  You also know that all the participants were prepped prior to the meeting on the purpose of the meeting and the changes that will be coming through this project.  The morning of the workshop you walk into the room confident. You start to set up the room ready for the day. Individuals start to arrive for the meeting. You smile and greet them as they walk in. Some greet you back and others do not. You start to wonder why there are some that are being cold and you haven't even started the session yet. You begin to get concerned as now you are beginning to wonder what this session will really be like.

As you begin the session you go through the agenda. You can tell that some are engaged while others are clearly disengaged. You begin to slowly get discouraged as this session might be harder than you expected.

I'm sure everyone has experienced this before. I have found that the unspoken can be just as telling as the spoken.  Truly, actions do speak louder than words.  However, you can still maintain your composure and confidence even in this environment. Here's how.

  1. Your response - how you respond to the dynamics in the room can define the environment.  It's important you still maintain control and composure.  Your reaction is more important than anyone else in the room. Facilitate the workshop with confidence, engage those who are engaged and those who are not by asking for their insight, ensure that all voices are being heard in the room even if his takes you of your agenda.
  2. Observe - It's really important in all that you do you observe.  In this type of situation though you need to observe quickly. Scan the room and carefully watch the body language. If you see individuals not making eye contact, arms crossed, leaning back in their chair or even checking their emails on their phone, there is probably a reason to be concerned. This may be telling you their mind is elsewhere when you really need it to be in the room.  When a person is engaged their body language may consists of sitting up straight, leaning forward, head nods, taking notes and making eye contact to make a few. If you are getting mixed body language in the meeting you may need to adjust your style quickly. The key to this is doing it quickly. Time is of the essence so it's important to be comfortable that your well laid out plans may need to be adjusted on the fly. So how do you do this you make ask? Great question! Move to number 2. 
  3. Adjust your style - You have to be comfortable changing up your agenda at a drop of a hat. If you are too bound to your plan without any flexibility your life as a facilitator is going to be rough. You may need to pause the agenda and do an exercise or ice breaker to lighten up the mood in the room or you may just need to go around the room to hear what is on the individuals mind. The focus here is to adjust you style to the environment to a place where everyone is somewhat comfortable. Everyone may not be totally comfortable, but your goal is to get the disengaged less disengaged and more comfortable. In order to do that you will need to drive it. Maybe tell a person story that relates to the topic you are there to talk about, or go around the room and ask everyone what is the one problem that keeps them up at night, or maybe find out why they feel they are a part of the workshop. You may find out why the disengagement is occurring. Once you lighten the atmosphere you want to seek to understand which is #3 below. 
  4. Seek to understand - Based on the questions you asked as you tried to lighten the mood you might have gained some insight on the disengagement, but if you are still getting resistance you may want to have a 1:1 conversation with the individuals who are disengaged after the meeting. Depending on how bad the disengagement is you may want to take a 15-20 minute break and pull the individual aside to have a conversation. You may find they did not want to share their concerns in front if others and having a more private conversation they are willing to open up. You need to continue to focus on the objective at hand without getting off your game during the meeting, but you've got to take time to understand why there are some who are disengaged. 
Once you have an understanding on the dynamics in the room and the concerns then continue to adjust your style.  Adjusting your style doesn't mean you are weak, it means you are taking into consideration everyone in the room who has a vested interest in the project.  It means you are creating an inclusive environment to understand the business needs to ensure an optimal solution is created.  

Remember, you need to ensure you are flexible and adaptable to your environment.  That is what takes you from good to great.


The BA Martial Artist

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