Enrolling Collaboration

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Enrolling Collaboration

Leadership and facilitation is all about stimulating the process collaboration.

“Hello, my name is Alfred E. Newman.”

Or, “Hello, my name is Alfred E. Newman….. Do you know who I am?”

Effective communicators understand that one of the first things a speaker should do is take control of the conversation. They do this by forcing focus in the form of soliciting a response. We call this “enrolling” the audience. Yes, there are those awkward moments when nobody in the audience responds to a question from the speaker. But give it a few seconds and most people are trained to respond when someone is obviously waiting for a response. Effective communicators-like experienced sales closers-understand that it is essential to remain silent while waiting for a response. Each awkward second places more pressure for a response.  However, when gathered in a group setting, most people are reluctant to respond. From the outset, facilitators know they must gain control of the conversation and motivate active participation. Once that initial ice is broken, collaboration kicks in.

Leadership and facilitation is all about stimulating the process collaboration. Experts point out and a universe of examples demonstrate that effective decision making and effective change is most powerful when made in an atmosphere of collaboration and stakeholder “buy-in.” The easy part is collaboration but the more problematic is creating the end result of a consensus opinion on a course of action. As various ideas and observations are offered by the group, the facilitator should always be “testing the waters” by asking for differing opinions. Once there seems to be a consensus, the facilitator must again challenge the consensus and guide the group to closely examine any objections.

Making sure all objections have been identified and successfully addressed is key to consensus buy-in. Once a decision has been reached it must be tested several times. “Are you sure this is the way to go?” Facilitators not only listen to the response but also take note of body language that may signal lingering doubts. Of course, 100% buy-in may not be realistic but if there is an obvious consensus, everybody is off the responsibility hook if things don’t come out the way the group imagined because professional due diligence has been used.

If all objections are not fully addressed during the facilitation phase, “push-back” and resistance to change during the implementation phase can be costly in terms of lost management credibility as well as any costly re-work that may be needed to re-direct a new solution.

Participants who are not engaged in the consensus process can put the whole process in jeopardy. Facilitators must keep a level of “participation anxiety” by noticing those who are not fully engaged and “invite” them into the conversation.

New technologies, global competition and the need for innovation require a continual process of evaluation. To gain the most realistic and positive results from identifying problems, new needs and creating solutions, users and subject matter experts (SMEs) need to brain storm from all angles and come up with consensus solutions. Effective facilitation leverages the combined knowledge, experience and creativity of stakeholders. The more better that valuable process can be tapped into, the better the chance for solid solutions.

MetaOps Inc. fully understands the importance of developing productive facilitating techniques. We have developed a program named “TOP Facilitator Training” (Technical, Operational and Personal), which trains company leaders on effective facilitation and customizes the program to fit the needs of the company.

Example Enrolling questions: getting people to physically and verbally acknowledge agreement and understanding.  Ask for and expect hands to be raised and heads to nod.  Stick with it until you get full participation – this establishes you as being ‘in control’ of the group.  Generally the negative and positive side of the same question can be effective.
        Increases buy-in to the process.  Usually a question or questions requiring a response of ‘yes.’
        “How many in the room agree “X” is an issue we must address?”
        “How many of you have been frustrated by this?”
        “Who here thinks we should NOT do something about this issue?”
Use enrolling questions as a technique to move from one major topic area to another when appropriate.


Additional Reading

Decision Making in Complex Times

Three Steps to Better Decisions


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