"How Do You Keep Meetings Moving?"

Participants will often ask about how they can keep their own meetings going after the facilitator has left. There are great resources out there. I usually recommend Sam Kaner's "Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision Making," "How to Make Meetings Work" by Michael Doyle and David Straus, and "How to Make Collaboration Work" by David Straus. But if someone just wants a quick fix, I share this story from "Switch" by Chip and Dan Heath.

Excerpt from “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard”

By Chip Heath and Dan Heath

General William "Gus" Pagonis led the logistics operation for the Gulf War under President George H. W. Bush. Pagonis was responsible for moving 550,000 troops halfway around the world, along with all of their equipment. His team made the arrangements to serve 122 million meals, pump 1.3 billion gallons of fuel, and deliver 32,000 tons of mail. Even a Wal-Mart executive would get spooked thinking about this.
Needless to say, clear and efficient communication was essential. Every morning, General Pagonis held a meeting that started at 8 a.m. and ended at 8:30. No great innovation there, but Pagonis made two changes to the routine. First, he allowed anyone to attend (and he required that at least one representative from each functional group be present). That way, he could ensure a free and open exchange of information across the organization. Second, he required everyone to stand up during the whole meeting.
Here's Pagonis on the benefits of the stand-up meeting:
"Early on, I discovered that making people stand up keeps the ball moving at a quicker pace. People speak their piece and then quickly yield the floor to the next person. On the rare occasion that someone starts to get long-winded or wax philosophic, an unmistakable kind of body language begins to sweep through the crowd. People shift from foot to foot, fidget, look at their watches - and pretty quickly, the conversation comes back into focus .... I can't recall the last time I had to crack the whip. The peer group has great power."
Pagonis was consciously creating a habit. Any meeting format he chose would have quickly become habitual. It would have been just as easy for him to enshrine a two-hour, seated blabfest. What's exciting here is not the existence of the habit, but rather the insight that the habit should serve the mission. When you've got 550,000 troops to relocate, you need focus and clarity and efficiency. A stand-up meeting won't guarantee any of that, but it will help, and it's "free"- it's not any harder to create than the blabfest would have been. (Similar stand-up meetings are used in Agile programming projects in Silicon Valley, which place a premium on quick collaboration.)

Design Pattern: Room as Agenda

Room as Agenda

Room as Agenda

Following the logical thread of a group process isn't easy. It's tough for participants to see how one facilitated activity will lead to another, and how the whole event will eventually get them where they want to be. Agendas alone fall short, especially if there are multiple, distinct objectives.

One way to help the group see the process is to immerse them in it. Arrange the templates, charts, chairs, and tables around the room so that the activities flow from one chart to the next, following the agenda. Whether the spaces are visual templates, blank charts for graphic recording, or stations for group or individual activities, the purpose is to help the group visualize how the day will unfold sequentially. The room becomes an assembly line for ideas. 

Introduce the process just like you would walk through an agenda: walk through the room, giving a light touch to each activity. Give a timeframe for each activity. Don't forget to mention where lunch, breaks, and other invisibles will fit in. Emphasize the logic of how ideas will flow from one activity to the next.

Using the room as the agenda helps big picture people see how it all fits together. It reassures detail people and process people that time, thought, and planning have gone into this. And it surfaces any challenges to the process early, so that participants can empty their backpacks and be more fully engaged. 

Click to view the room above interactively and in 360: http://360.io/BVBsZN

I've watched many graphic facilitators use this method. It's most directly inspired by the Grove Consultants' design pattern of Rooms as Memory Theaters.

Kinetic Sculpture

I've always been drawn to new and different ways that groups can collaborate to build something that can help them better understand their organization and culture, whether it's kinesthetic modeling or abstract painting. Along those lines, I'd like to introduce you to Kevin Reese, an innovative artist with something exciting to offer. Kevin is a "collaborative artist" who works with arts centers, schools, and whole communities throughout the country to create “moving” works of art — high flying, colorful mobiles. In the past 15 years, Kevin's SchoolSculptures has created over 170 installations in 30 states.

This summer, he was the artist in residence at the IFVP conference and, with the participants, created a stunning mobile during the conference. 

From the moment he stepped up to introduce the concept to the final reveal and every creative-energy-infused moment in between, his passion and artistry truly created the sense of community we were hoping to drive.

He is now launching TeamSculptures to offer a corporate team-building experience like no other-- a week-long residency where Kevin becomes your corporate artist-in-residence.

He works with teams to: 
- Design and create a large-scale mobile that represents the goals and aspirations of your company.
- Install the mobile in your lobby, lunchroom, or conference room for daily inspiration.

Strengthen your team potential:
- Discover your visioning strengths through a new medium.
- Tackle novel challenges, rather than solve routine problems.
- Imagine multiple possibilities as you work toward a common goal.
- Find inspiration and motivation from an artist of singular passion and unique skill.

Kevin is looking for beta sites to test and develop his residency this spring. His fee will be significantly discounted, so get in on the ground floor of what will no doubt be a popular national offering. If you're interested, Kevin will personally visit your company to discuss how this residency can work for you.

Check out his website: www.teamsculptures.com. You can also contact him directly at SchoolSculptures@aol.com.

All the best,

Energizer: Changing Perspectives

Here's one that I'd forgotten about until seeing it again last week from a (non-visual) facilitator. It's a super-fast energizer that underscores the importance of perspective.

Ask participants to stand and point at the ceiling with their hands above their heads. Ask them to begin tracing a circle in a clockwise direction. Slowly, have them move their hands downwards below eye level. Keep the circle going. The effect is that the direction of the circle has changed to counter-clockwise. In fact, the direction of the circle hasn't changed: what's changed one's the perspective on the circle. 

This is a quick way to inject a little energy and remind participants of the Principle of the Beachball. 

Principle: The Beachball

The principle of the beachball is one of the most powerful principles on perspective taking that you can bring into a facilitation.

Here's a script to introduce the Principle of the Beachball:

"Imagine that there was a beachball in the center of the room. Based on my perspective, my senses, my experience, my expertise, everything that I am is telling me that this beachball is red. So what’s the first thing that someone on the other side of the room thinks when they hear me say that? That I’m wrong! How could that possibly be? From their perspective, the beachball is clearly blue.
"The principle of the beachball tells us to hold the space for all perspectives. No one can see an entire beachball from one perspective. It’s impossible. What we’re going to be working on today will be a lot more ambiguous than a beachball. No one will have the one perfect perspective. There’s no such thing. Trust in your colleagues, that when they share what they share, they’re giving you a glimpse of their perspective. And challenge yourself to say, “How might ALL these perspectives be true?” By bringing in all perspectives, we get a clearer picture of the whole."

I’ve heard the principle of the beachball used by many facilitators, including Elise Yanker and Nancy Reuscher, so I’m not sure where it originally came from. I use it so often that I actually carry a little inflatable beachball with me to help make the point. The little beachball also serves as a pretty good talking stick. 

Principle of the Beachball

Principle of the Beachball

Energizer: The Rope Puller / Strippen Zieher

The Rope Puller (or Strippen Zieher) is one of the best ways to energize a group. It's fun, challenging, gives the group something they can celebrate, and best of all, it quickly recreates the dynamics participants can experience while part of a group process. There are many uses for the Rope Puller as explained in the instructions (including using chalk, tracing patterns, drawing pictures, and following a track.) Here's my favorite use of the Rope Puller to mirror back to the group the emotions they may be experiencing in the larger process.

Participants use the Rope Puller for group writing.

Participants use the Rope Puller for group writing.


Prepare by taping a sheet of flipchart paper down on a small table. Make sure there's plenty of standing space around the table for your participants.  Draw three parallel lines along the length of the paper: solid, dotted, solid. Make any necessary allowances for participants with disabilities. Set up the Rope Puller with a No. One Neuland marker velcroed to the central peg and nylon cords looped through the disc's ten holes. Select a word for the group to write that's clearly relevant to them. For example, "Baltimore"  for the Baltimore City Council, or "Chemistry" for the American Chemical Society. The word should be about ten letters long. 

Here's a script to introduce the Rope Puller:

"We're going to take a minute and do a quick energizer, to shed light on the dynamics that you might experience as you take part in the group process going forward. Has anyone ever been done one of those creative, think-outside-the-box puzzles? This isn't one of those. No grabbing the marker in the middle of the disc! You can only touch the Rope Puller by hooking your index finger through the loop at the end of the string. Go ahead and find a free loop and hook it with your finger now. Everyone got one?"
"OK, now on to the task. Remember back in grade school, when you were learning to write, and you had those big sheets of paper with the solid and dotted lines? The paper on the table is one of those sheets. Your task, as a group, is to write the word '_____.' Go!"

Give no other instruction. Get out of their way. Make as many observations as you can that parallel a group process. What do they do first? Did they orient to where the top of the page is? Did they choose capitals or lower case? Did a natural leader emerge? Did they celebrate? At what point? What was communication like at beginning? The middle? The end? Was everyone actively engaged? Did anyone resist the process? Take notes for yourself, observing as much as a possible.

When the group finishes, ask them open-ended questions about the process, for example:

  • How was that?
  • What did you notice about the process?
  • What did you notice other people were doing?
  • What was going on at the very beginning? What happened? What emotions were you feeling? 
  • What happened in the middle? How did it feel?
  • How about the end? How did that feel?

Add your own observations where appropriate, but always follow up with a question after your own observation: Who else noticed that? What does that mean for a group? How do you see that show up in your day-to-day work? How could it show up today?

Close the energizer by drawing an analogy to the group process that participants are about to go through. Here's a script you could use:

"Just like the Rope Puller, at the beginning, there's uncertainty, lack of clarity of direction, doubt, and anxiety. You get through the beginning by being open to the process. At the middle, speed picks up. Intuition takes over. Less instruction is necessary. You get through by going with the flow and being sensitive to the push and pull of the people around you. At the end, the process closes. There's celebration. There's a sense of accomplishment. Doubt and anxiety are replaced with pride and relief. You get through it by honoring each other's efforts."
"At certain points in the group process we're about to go through, you'll experience the same emotions. At those times, it's important to remember that this is an intuitive process, and that further you get into it, the more comfortable it'll be."

Throughout the course of the day, point back to the resulting word chart as a check in: "What letter would you say you're on right now? What does it feel like?" 

As a model for group dynamics, the Rope Puller works well as a complement to the Principle of the Roller Coaster. 

Variation: +10 participants

Lately, I've experimented with using the Rope Puller with groups larger than the standard 10. So far, the largest group has been 32. To accommodate larger groups, make additional lengths of nylon cord with tied loops at both ends. Hand these additional lengths of cord out, one to each participant. Their first task is to make a "human network" by passing their cords through other loops, until everyone has a single loop. Not every length of of cord will be necessary. Ask the group to try to ensure that their are no runaway offshoots, where a branch splits significantly more times than any of the others. This is to ensure that the distribution is even, and everyone is relatively the same distance from the marker. Once the network is complete, proceed with the instructions as above.

The Rope Puller is available at Neuland.com.



Principle: Balcony and Dancefloor

The principle of the Balcony and the Dancefloor comes from Ron Heifetz.  

It's easy for participants to get tunnel vision on their perspectives, losing focus on what else is happening in the room. By introducing the principle of the Balcony and the Dancefloor, you (or anyone) can call a balcony moment to pause the conversation and shed light on the human behaviors.  

Draw this simple poster: 


Explain that the Dancefloor represents the content of the conversation we're having. It's WHAT we're talking about. The Balcony, by contrast, is a place from which to make objective observations about the human dynamics. It's HOW we're engaging with each other. 

Ask, "What are people noticing about what's happening in the room? What would you say the dynamic is? How are people showing up? What could we do to make this conversation more inclusive of others' views?" 

The Balcony and the Dancefloor is one of the best ways to keep emotions cool and minds open.  


Action Plans

One of the most basic takeaways from a facilitated session is an action plan. This can be as simple as a bulleted list on a flipchart synthesizing all the decisions from the event. For higher engagement and accountability, you can put recording the actions in the hands of the participants.

Here's two templates for participants to record actions:

In both cases, participants use the left side to brainstorm out their own goals. Then, they break  down those goals into actions and give themselves due dates for achieving the actions. Checking in with an assigned accountability partner or peer coach is often the first action.

What is YOUR strength in the process?

Ever heard comments like, "This detail is too much for me," or "Just tell me what to do," or " How do we KNOW this is the right way to go," or "Have we explored all the options?" That's individuals identifying their own strengths and weaknesses in process thinking. If you ask participants upfront to identify what part of the process they prefer to be in, you'll do a lot to keep them engaged. 

This model blends the ideas of Interaction Associates, the Inscape Team Dimensons Profile, and Sam Kaner's model of Divergence/Convergence. Explain that there are those people that like to Open: brainstorm, explore options, and bring in new ideas. There are those that like to Refine: assess feasibility, value, and impact, and combine, critique, challenge, or eliminate ideas. There are those that like to Close: decide, assign, plan, execute, and check the box. 

There's huge overlap with this model and the Myers-Briggs, the Team Dimensions Profile, Social Styles, and other personality assessments. What works about this model is that it also maps back to the flow of ideas of a facilitated session. In this way, participants can be aware in advance of the points in the agenda where they may be at their best, and where they may be out of preference.


Build a Bridge

The Marshmallow Challenge is one of my favorite activities. Since learning about it at IFVP 2012 from a former Disney trainer, I've seen it help dozens of groups realize the importance of team dynamics, fast failure, iterations, and facilitation. Unfortunately, it requires special materials (marshmallows and spaghetti), which means planning and preparation. It can't be done on the fly. 

Another activity that CAN be done using standard facilitation materials is "Build a Bridge" from Interaction Associates. Groups of four to six participants must build a freestanding bridge that's four feet long and stands two feet off the ground. It must support a grapefruit-size ball of paper and tape as it's rolled along the span. The bridge must be freestanding, not connected to any other object. It must also be movable. 

Participants have six sheets of flipchart paper, a roll of tape, scissors, and beverage service items like three or four cups, plates, and swizzle sticks. They must choose a team lead, plan for ten minutes, build for eight minutes, and then evaluate for ten minutes (using plus delta.)

Any number of concepts can be demonstrated or drawn out of this activity, including those from the Marshmallow Challenge. A powerful concept are Interaction Associates' "Dimensions of Success," which show Results, Process, and Relationships. How did the groups do on each of the dimensions? What happens if one is missing? Ideally, "Building a Bridge" will create team dynamics in the safe space of your event that participants can draw powerful lessons from.

"Build a Bridge" sketchnotes

"Build a Bridge" sketchnotes

Narrative Visions

Just added: Here's a homework assignment for participants, instructing them on how to write a narrative vision.

I just finished first day out of a two day course on Facilitative Leadership by Interaction Associates, and it has been fantastic. I'm going to need a week just to process everything I heard. I highly recommend the course. 

Tonight's homework assignment was to create a narrative vision. This isn't your generic corporate vision: "Be the best provider of service in our industry." This isn't even the inspirational "I want to put a ding in the universe," Steve Jobs-type of vision. A narrative vision is something much more personal, sensory, and visual. It appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos alike. It touches the sublime. 

Narrative visions are individual reflections and writing. Begin by writing a brief mission of the organization or team. This could be its task, purpose, or reason for being. Next, capture the values reflected in the work. Which is to say, the beliefs about what is important or desired. Then, brainstorm a quick list of five to seven images of what success would look like. 

Finally, in 100 words or less, write a vision from the perspective of someone experiencing it. What do they see? Hear? Smell? Touch? How do they engage in the experience? Are there other people there? How do they interact? How does the protagonist feel during the experience? Afterwards?

I didn't do very well at this. I couldn't get what I wanted to say down to 100 words. But I'll probably use this vision again, a lot:

The moment you enter the room, you know this meeting will be different. People are talking and smiling and laughing in small groups, standing together, or sitting around movable tables loaded with markers, paper, tablets, and other creative tools. Some are quietly reading, writing, drawing, or typing on their own. The floor-to-ceiling picture windows provide a spectacular view of the landscape and let in soft natural light. Easels and movable walls hold the content of meeting, and despite the flood of information, the flow and progression of the ideas are easy to grasp. With a glance, you understand the purpose and process of the meeting. You decide to explore the content on the boards and listen in for a while.
After briefly exploring on your own, you are welcomed warmly by the host, and quickly oriented to the social norms of the group. You agree to the principles of the meeting, inwardly relieved that you can engage in a way perfectly attuned to your own temperament and preferences. You are invited to join wherever you like, either on a discussion topic you feel, or with the people you’d like to engage with.
You head over to a group of four people writing on a large whiteboard. After reading their ideas and listening briefly, someone asks your opinion on an issue. You thoughtfully share your perspective. The others acknowledge and build on what you say. You have seamlessly integrated into their discussion. Their supportive, accepting attitude is in keeping with the principles you agreed to, and you’re happy to reflect that attitude back to them.
Sometime later, a soft chime rings as the host calls the attention of the group. She briefly checks in on the process of the meeting. Small adjustments are made to the principles. New methods are introduced and brought into the space. The meeting resumes. Some participants opt to continue their previous conversation, others politely excuse themselves and join others. Some pursue individual tasks. Some groups break up. Some form. Some individuals solicit others for their help, input, and feedback.
When the meeting ends, you feel refreshed and deeply engaged with the outcomes. Much of the work the group laid out for itself was accomplished during the meeting, leaving only a few small tasks to delegate or accomplish later. You are grateful for the experience and for the open collaboration you shared with your colleagues. You are satisfied by your own contribution. As you reflect on the day, you decide that there was no better way you could have spent your time. You look forward to tomorrow.

Visual Energizers

Energizers intentionally disrupt participants' mental modes and patterns. They break the ice at the beginning of an event. They move learning modes from passive listening to active engagement. They can safely provide an opportunity to model good group dynamics, such as withholding judgment and giving constructive feedback. And they can shift individuals' focus between self-reflection and group participation. 

In all cases, energizers should end with a group reflection, giving participants the opportunity to relate lessons learned back to the overall purpose of the event. Energizers for the sake of energizers may be fun and build esprit de corps, but alone don't advance the purpose of the event. The best energizers serve as a model and microcosm for the overall event. 

Here's a collection of some visual energizers. 

Rope Puller

Participants collectively draw one picture or write one word using a single marker tethered by a number of strings.

Models accepting the facilitative process, group dynamics, leader/follower roles, intuition, and the learning arc.

Models accepting the facilitative process, group dynamics, leader/follower roles, intuition, and the learning arc.


Participants contribute their own repeating abstract patterns to an overall composition.

Models reflection, meditation, individual mindfulness, and group processes.


Participants draw simple line self-portraits. Portraits can either be realistic or metaphoric.

Self-portraits model withholding judgment, supportive feedback, individual perspectives,  and team diversity.

Self-portraits model withholding judgment, supportive feedback, individual perspectives,  and team diversity.


Participants make up stories to explain simple, abstract drawings.

Droodles model creative thinking, abstraction, story telling, and celebration.

Droodles model creative thinking, abstraction, story telling, and celebration.

Exquisite Corpse/Telestrations

A visual "telephone game," where participants alternatively draw and caption in a series.

Models communications, systems thinking, and power dynamics.

Learning Symbols

In two minutes, draw a symbol that represents a learning experience you've had. Share with the group

Models story telling, constructive feedback, and group diversity.

Graphic Puzzle

Participants must fit together a large puzzle and color it so that the elements do not mismatch. 

Models systems thinking, communications, production blocking, leader/follower relationships, supply chain thinking.

Me as a Superhero

Participants draw themselves as a superhero, complete with costume, backstory, list of superpowers, weaknesses, sidekick, and villain. Be sure to include male and female versions. This idea comes from Trent Wakenight, Marker Ninja.

Models self awareness, leadership styles, team diversity, and story telling.

Kinetic Sculptures

Captures participants ideas and input on perfectly balanced pieces of moving art.

Collaborative Communities - Kinetic Sculpture facilitation at International Forum of Visual Practitioners 2016 in Washington DC. Facilitated by Brian Tarallo, Heather Martinez, Trent Wakenight, Lauren Green, and Dean Meyers. Designed by Kevin Reese.

Models diversity, future visioning, collaboration, and culture.

Why You Should Avoid Plenary Like The Plague

A struggle in designing a facilitated process is deciding how much time to keep groups in plenary (one large group) as opposed to working in small groups, pairs, or individuals. During design, one person (often your client) may want to use the plenary to advance their own ideas. You hear, "They really need to understand this," and "If I explain it well enough, we could save a lot of time," and "They're smart people. They should just get it." Ultimately, this cheapens the value of others' perspectives. Not only that...  

  • ...it drains the introverts. Although introverts are good listeners, listening in a large group of people is exhausting. 
  • ...it frustrates the extroverts. Extroverts engage by thinking things through verbally. That can't happen if they have to sit still and be quiet. 
  • ...it blocks production. If only one person is speaking, no one else can contribute to the shared pool of knowledge, bottle-necking idea generation. As diversity and inclusion guru Joe Gerstandt says, "One speaker can lobotomize a group."
  • ...it fosters social loafing. Plenary puts people back into the grade school mental mode of "chalk and talk:" sitting back, passively listening, getting bored, or checking out mentally. Even after the plenary session ends and group work begins, it's difficult to shift out of this mode and start contributing.
  • ...it builds evaluation apprehension. Not many people like being publicly judged. The larger the group, the greater the fear of speaking out. 
  • ...it shorts the learning process. Facilitator extraordinaire Nancy Reuscher uses the metaphor of the marathon to describe the learning process. When you're in the middle of running a marathon, you're hating life. You're thinking about the pain and exhaustion and how far you still have to go. When you get to the end, you forget all that and are feeling great at having accomplished something difficult. Someone who's finished the marathon can't drag others who are in the middle of it to the end just by explaining it. They're caught up in their own condition. Everyone has to get through it on their own and in their own time. 
  • ...it disengages. By sending the message to be in receive mode, you are tacitly stating that the group's ideas and input are unimportant.

Worst of all, it defeats the fundamental purpose of bringing a group together for a facilitated session. Following Peter Senge's modes for decision making, it takes groups out of the Co-create mode and slams them into the Tell mode. When that happens, it's no longer a facilitation. It betrays the reason they came together in the purpose. It's become a lecture. And high-performing professionals with minds of their own don't get engaged by being lectured at. 

Future Visioning

If you want to get people to freeze up, ask them, "What does your future look like in ten years?" Unless they're psychics, strategists, or futurists (see: Faith Popcorn) and they're whole life is future thinking, chances are folks'll give you their best impression of deer in the headlights.

People need a concrete container to fill with the abstract concept of a future state. John Ward of Many Minds calls this "useless sense-making." My favorite method is the Grove's Cover Story Vision. It plays out like this:

"Imagine a point in time, ten years from now, when you've accomplished every goal you've set out for yourself. You've achieved your vision. You've successfully executed your strategic plan. You've delighted your customers and employees. You're living the dream.

"In fact, you've been SO successful that your favorite industry magazine has decided to feature you in their next issue. For the next hour in groups, you're going to design that issue. Which magazine is it? How does the cover story headline read? What does the cover look like? What are some of the images associated with the article? What are the quotes - what your customers and other stakeholders saying about you? What are some of the metrics? What are the sidebars - the human interest stories, or the impact your success has had?

"Work in groups at your table. You have a template, magazines to cut pictures out of, markers to draw with, tape, scissors... everything you need. Spend a little time brainstorming up front, then we'll hear from each group."

The Grove's Cover Story Vision visual template

The Grove's Cover Story Vision visual template

The Grove has an alternate version of the Cover Story Vision called In The Movies. After having used both, I prefer the Cover Story Vision because it's easier to conceptualize producing a magazine article than a movie.

In March 2015, Heather Martinez and I were invited by a friend to help a girls' high school soccer team do some future visioning. We designed another version of the Cover Story Vision, modeling it after a school yearbook. We took the team through a series of guided questions: Imagine yourself on graduation day. What do you want your year book to say? What do you want your friends to write to you? What clubs will you have participated in? What were you voted most likely to do? 

It's easy for participants to conceptualize their visions of the future if they have a concrete container of a visual template like the Cover Story Vision. Once the container is filled, it's not difficult to derive the components of the vision necessary to lay out objectives and goals.

Here's a copy of the yearbook template Heather and I designed, please use it!

Other future visioning methods:

  • Have participants perform a skit of a mock CNN interview taking place in the far future where participants talk about their huge success.
  • From Trent Wakenight, have participants give two minutes of an acceptance speech for an award they've received as a result of their success. 
  • Postcards from the Future


"Good Enough, Push On" (GEPO) has two uses. First, it can be used as a meeting principle to respectfully close a topic that has run out of intellectual steam. "Let's GEPO this." Second, it can be used as a design principle to counter balance the healthy but wasteful tendency to make something perfect. Not everything needs to be a Cadillac. Good Enough, Push On. 

"For Position Only" (FPO) is a rough iteration to get client feedback, before wasting time and effort that may be headed in the wrong direction. Here's what Seth Godin has to say about it:

When creating a layout, designers put low-resolution, imperfect, non-final images, all marked "for position only." They exist to help the client understand the gestalt of the piece and to give feedback.
They're temporary, parts of a whole ready to be replaced with the real thing once the big picture is locked down.
And the concept works in just about every project, every conceptual structure we seek to put together.
We act 'as if', then we worry about the polish at the end, not at the start.

GEPO is all about closing a conversation or task when enough energy has been given to it. FPO is all about keeping a conversation or task open, but pausing to check assumptions and get feedback. 


By Mia Liljeberg

Visual practitioners include graphic recorders, visual thinking trainers and graphic facilitators. Visuals are being used more in business communication, and this has provoked interest among business leaders.

There is plenty of research showing how the brain processes information. Vision is our strongest sense for capturing information: we remember in pictures. This is why storytelling is so efficient - it creates images in the heads of the audience. We remember more of what we see than what we hear, and we remember even more if we are engaged. Facilitative leadership  enables the team to engage in several ways; what we do, we remember.

Rosanna von Sacken, a visual facilitator, coach and practitioner listed ways in which graphics and visuals can help in facilitative leadership:

  • include diverse perspectives,
  • inspire contributions as participants see contributions on the board,
  • engage and excite people as the “picture” emerges,
  • connect the dots to bring the bigger picture into view or focus,
  • visualise disagreements
  • create common understanding,
  • clarify issues as they emerge,
  • enable talk about sensitive topics
  • generate ideas, innovation and solutions,
  • build relationships indirectly.

Multi-dimensional leadership is about collaboration, transparency and involving all levels in difficult conversations and in participatory decision-making. According to Rosanna, leadership is no longer just top down directives. Facilitators bring “head” skills, “heart” skills and “hand” skills into more prominent play. More focus is being placed on relationships and expressions of appreciation, without which results may not be as full and rich as they could be.

Facilitative leadership, like visuals and graphics, can be applied to many different fields, disciplines and professions. Traditionally, leaders are sent on training programs, such as communication, time management, how to delegate. These training areas do not necessarily consider cross component combinations and applications. Effective facilitation skills, on the other hand, provide the cross-over between these components.

Rosanna uses the metaphor of a fruit bowl: the bowl is like the facilitator, the container that provides the space and holds the different kinds of fruits together. The facilitator designs the processes to reach the desired outcomes, designs the tools and processes to be used and how best to engage the participants.

Facilitative leadership can be learned and developed. With more millenials entering the workplace, the need for engaging, entertaining meetings is growing, and more organisations are seeing the value of facilitation and setting up internal facilitator pools.

It´s easy – you can do it!

Anyone can learn and develop their facilitative leadership skills. Learning can typically be achieved in 3 ways, Rosanna says:

  • through reading,
  • by observing others or
  • by practicing and doing

Facilitative leadership is best learned this way, through application and practice in real or simulated scenarios, with feedback provided by experienced and trusted facilitators.

The bonus of using visuals in your facilitation is that it also adds fun to the work.

Visuals help the group to listen better as they receive on two channels, auditory and visual. They also engage the group and open up communication to get to the real essence of the dialogue.

There are no neutral visual decisions. All visual decisions are either helping you or hindering you in getting your message across. It could be the colour, the proportion, the direction etc. Metaphors are a good example of visuals that hold a lot of added meaning, but can also limit thinking due to the limitations of the metaphor.

Facilitative Leadership is a competency that can help you get results in so many situations, in your organisation as well in your private life. To facilitate is to connect people and ideas and real results.

So where do I start?

  • Invite participation through questions, using whiteboard, post-its and other tools so many can be engaged at once
  • Reduce your airtime to let others increase their airtime.
  • Think about the decision making process and the decisions to be made, which ones are negotiable and which ones are not. Make sure it is reflected in changed ways of presenting information.