A frequent question that leaders and people leading conversation have is, “How do I keep people focused and on task so that we can be productive?” I have posted an in-depth video on this topic on the Free Resources page of my website. This blog is just a short cheat sheet of tips.
There are 3 key strategies to accomplish focused and productive team conversations. The first thing to remember that people sharing all of their enthusiasm and wandering from idea or topic to topic is not necessarily a sign of difficult group behavior, rather it calls for facilitation support.
When a participant seems to drift or get into story-telling, reframe their comment into how it connects to the outcomes of the work – “Help me understand how your idea or story connects to our outcomes?”
When you as the facilitator know that you want people to keep focused on the task at hand it is very wise to do an initial prevention at the beginning of the meeting. This may sound like, “We are excited to be here and there may be a tendency to get into stories or long explanations of ideas. My job is to keep us on the ideas, not the stories and explanations. For this reason I may respectfully interrupt people if we start to veer off track. I apologize upfront.”
This strategy encompasses a whole range of micro skills. Many of these skills have been developed by Michael Grinder (www. michaelgrinder.com) or through Neurolingistic Programming (NLP) technology. One of the key group dynamic that often sidetracks groups is the presence of one or more external auditory processors. These are people who need to talk out loud to reach a clear understanding of what they are saying. The key here is to be able to recognize such a person by paying attention to their processing style, and then to interrupt their sharing once you are crystal clear about what they are saying. If the facilitator doesn’t accurately articulate their message and capture their message, this type of processor is likely to repeat the whole message again. In this instance both the person and the facilitator will likely lose permission and credibility with the group. For more in-depth explanation of non-verbal strategies check out the whole video review or scan the other Free Resources on my website.
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