Category Archives: Blog

Strategies on Crisis Management

Crisis management is as important as finance management, personnel management, etc. Having a clear and effective program and plan for an event is critical not only to your survival, but critical to the profitability and possibly the survival of the company. Being able to identify risk, assess the situation and respond appropriately is important, and requires not only training, but practice.

Be Proactive
You should have a strategy of what to do in a “worst case scenario.” Workplace violence prevention programs, policies, and training programs like this, will educate you and those around you to recognize the warning signs and triggers of workplace violence. You can learn what to do when you see these behaviors to stop the escalation. The company should also include emergency responses specific to different crisis. What does your company do to stop workplace violence? What are you supposed to do in the event of a crisis?

Policies
There are several policies that the company needs to have in their workplace violence policy. First, a clear company policy stating their position on violence and how it will be handled. This code of conduct needs to come from the top of the company, to stress the importance. This will emphasize that zero tolerance is the company’s stance. Second, policies on natural disaster, such as fire or tornado, need to be included in the plan. Step by step policies address evacuations, documentations, department involvement, etc. Last, policies should be included on criminal acts from outside (unknown) sources.

Programs
Second, there should be programs to perform risk assessments on a regular basis and a statement of how the company will handle these risks available to all employees; this analysis should identify the necessary changes to the company’s response to a crisis. There should also be a program designed for the reporting, documenting, and investigation into behaviors that cause concern.

Emergency Procedures
Emergency procedures need to be included in the crisis management program of any company. The procedures and responsibilities of not only the emergency response team need to be specified, but also the procedures that the rest of the employees need to follow. For example, there needs to be a fire evacuation procedure, an active shooter procedure, etc.

Train Employees
All employees need to be trained on the warning signs of crisis, along with reporting policies and emergency procedures, in the event that there is an occurrence. New hires should be trained as they are hired. As the risks and policies change, the entire workforce needs to be retrained.

This post is from March’s topic on “Crisis Management“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.

Augmenting Team Performance

No matter how well your team performs, there is always room for improvement. Leaders need to understand when and how to augment team performance. The key to augmenting team performance is offering authority, encouraging questions, resolving differences, and practicing unanimity.

Authority
One of the greatest tools that you can offer employees is the authority to make decisions. This level of empowerment makes employees stakeholders in the company, and it creates personal interest in the results of decisions. Employees should be given the authority to make decisions, but this authority needs to be limited to established guidelines. Employees should not be given carte blanche.

Ask Questions
Employees should be encouraged to ask questions in order to improve team performance. Scenario questions are particularly effective. This requires asking the “what if” questions.

Quickly Resolve Differences
It is important that differences are quickly resolved to improve team performance. The first step in resolving conflict is recognizing that conflict exists. At this stage, all parties agree to communicate and cooperate.

The next step is the clarifying the situation. This requires people to express their different positions. At this stage, facts, opinions, and assumptions are separated. The reasons for supporting different positions are supplied and analyzed. It is critical that people remain open-minded for this process to work.

An agreement is reached in the final stage. It is important to note that this process may be repeated before an agreement is reached. The final stage should include specifics such as dates, actions, and responsible parties.

Practice Unanimity
Unanimity occurs when all team members agree on the action to be taken. This is not conformity; it simply means that everyone has compromised and reached an agreeable solution. The problem with unanimity is that it can be nearly impossible to reach. People will often refuse compromise for the sake of being right. The process of resolving difficulties can result in unanimity when all parties are willing to keep open minds as they discuss their opposing views.

This post is from March’s topic on “High Performance Teams Inside the Company“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.

Roles of an Effective Team Leader

High performance teams require effective team leaders. A title is not enough to develop leadership. A leader must execute certain tasks well in order to inspire high performance. An effective leader will provide adequate training and constructive feedback. He or she will also create an environment of problem-solving and see mistakes as opportunities.

Provides Adequate Training
An effective leader will always ensure that team members have adequate training. The needs of the team will determine what type of training should be given.

Timely, Constructive Feedback
Feedback is necessary for any team setting. Effective Leaders are able to provide feedback that is both timely and constructive. For feedback to be timely, it needs to address issues as they arise. Do not wait for meetings and reviews to address issues. Be careful not to act out of emotion, however. Wait until anger or other emotions have subsided before giving feedback. When providing feedback, it is necessary to be constructive.

Views Mistakes as Opportunities
An effective team leader is able to embrace mistakes and see them as opportunities. Mistakes are inevitable. The key to handling mistakes is learning from them. When team member understand that they will not be punished for every mistake they make, they will act boldly and take risks that can benefit the team.

Environment of Problem-solving
A high performance environment is one that encourages problem-solving, but this environment requires effective leadership. Demonstrating this approach to problem-solving will encourage other team members to do the same.

Augmenting Team Performance
No matter how well your team performs, there is always room for improvement. Leaders need to understand when and how to augment team performance. The key to augmenting team performance is offering authority, encouraging questions, resolving differences, and practicing unanimity.

This post is from March’s topic on “High Performance Teams Inside the Company“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.

Leadership by Design

Few people are actually born to leadership. Most people have to learn how to become good leaders. One important aspect of good leadership is knowing what you are trying to lead others to. This involves careful consideration beforehand.

Begin with the End in Mind
Having a plan means that you know what the end result should look like. This can apply to your work environment, the culture, or what you expect from your employees. By having clear idea of what you want from your employees and what you want from yourself, you put yourself in a better position to plan how to meet your goals.

Setting Goals
In addition to company-wide goals, each leader of a team should have specific goals for their team that complement the company’s goals. These goals can inform how you make policy and what kind of team culture you foster. If you have ever been involved in meetings or team building exercises that have seemed to be fun but ultimately pointless or a waste of time, you can understand the need to have clear goals to strive for. Then activities such as meetings, exercises, or other activities assume a greater importance.

Determining Values
Setting goals for yourself, your team, and in some cases your company are important aspects of developing a plan for your leadership. However, on another level, these goals are actually not as big picture as you can get. To really understand how you can lead others, you must account for your own values and the company’s values as well. When you have a good grasp on what is important to you, this can clarify when to stand your ground and when to relent when you disagree with others, which is a position you will find yourself in often as a leader.

A Mission Statement
Imagine you are somehow able to listen in at your funeral. What will everyone say about you? What would you like to be said about you? Now that you have taken the time to identify some specific goals and some core values, the next step is to write out a mission statement. Think of the mission statement as a kind of personal constitution. Just as the US government uses the US Constitution as a guide toward decision making, this mission statement can help to serve as your guide. This can be your own personal mission statement, but it is also helpful to work out a mission statement with your team. However, the most important step in making these mission statements is that you have identified what you truly value and understand why you have set the goals that you have set, both for your team and for yourself.

This post is from February’s topic on “Being a Likeable Boss“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.

Leadership as Service

Whether you prefer an authoritative leadership style, a lenient one, or something in between, one factor that can truly enhance your effectiveness in leadership is to see yourself as serving the needs of your employees even as you serve the needs of your company or organization. Often these two sets of needs will coincide. The needs of your employees are the needs of a well-run organization as well. When they do contradict, seeing yourself as a kind of servant to your employees can help you to better weigh your priorities in both the long and short terms.

Top-down Hierarchies
The traditional form of hierarchy in business organizations is known as a top-down or vertical structure. This means that you have a clear ranking from CEO to mail-room clerk, and everyone understands their place. This structure has both advantages and disadvantages. If you are a leader in this type of organization, it is helpful to understand what those advantages and disadvantages are in order to better serve the needs of your employees.

A Lateral Perspective
An alternative to the tradition vertical organizational structure is known as a lateral or horizontal structure. In this structure, the different departments are administered by project managers who report to an upper management and serve as a conduit between the team and the administrators.

Know Your Employees
Regardless of which organizational structure you employ, to lead effectively it helps to know your employees on a personal and professional level. Obviously, with larger corporations, the former is more difficult than the latter, but taking the time to get to know your employees as people can help inform your decision making in ways that not only affect employee morale but also help in crafting more effective approaches. If you understand what it is like to work on the front lines, you can better address problems in such a way that does not create additional problems. Keeping abreast of what goes on in your employees’ lives can also help you in addressing each person as an individual.

Genuine Empathy and the Power to Lead
Brian Browne Walker’s commentary on the I Ching offers some excellent advice about leadership: “Gentleness and understanding create in others an unconscious willingness to be led.” When you can genuinely understand where your employees are coming from, you are able to know exactly what to do or say to get the best results from them. This requires developing your own capacity for empathy.

This post is from February’s topic on “Being a Likeable Boss“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.

Self-Reflection for a Servant Leader

When the day is done and the employees have gone home, where does that leave you – the servant leader? While it is important to take care of your employees and help them grow to succeed, you cannot forget to help yourself grow and pay attention to what you want to gain or achieve. A servant leader has to have a desire to serve not only others, but themselves.

Keep a Journal
It may sound elementary, but keeping a journal of your goals, desires, progress and even current projects can not only be therapeutic, but can help you keep track of where you’ve been, where you are at now, and what you want to reach in the future. It can be a great tool for tracking different ideas, opinions or general feelings during training or working with employees. Don’t be afraid to record any problems or frustrations you may be facing because the goal is to obtain honest self-reflection. Make notes of areas you are doing well in and identify areas in which you think need more work. While you may be training and teaching others, don’t forget to take the time to note your own challenges and achievements.

Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses
You spend all day evaluating your employees and future leaders to determine their strengths and skills and what areas they need more help with. But have you ever stopped to evaluate yourself? As a servant leader, it is important for you to identify your own strengths and weaknesses. Of course you have common leadership traits, but what other strengths do you bring to the table? On the other hand, what are your weaknesses that you need to address? What areas do you need to request help with? A good tool for this exercise is a simple written evaluation of yourself, but you can also use formal job assessments that identify job strengths and weaknesses, and of course a one-on-one conversation with a colleague can be a real eye opener.

The goal of this exercise is to be honest with ourselves. We cannot gain knowledge or seek help if we do not identify that there is a problem. If there is an area we excel in and identify as a strength, don’t be afraid to ‘hone’ those skills and share them with others.

Identify Your Needs
A servant leader has the desire to serve their employees and help them in their areas of need. But a leader cannot forget to identify their own needs as well. Sometimes we have to admit when we are in need of something and not be afraid to seek help. You may be a leader, but you are not invincible. Maybe you need more help developing training courses? Maybe you need more help learning computer programs? Or maybe you just need help getting the office organized or in order. Some needs may be more personal, such as a need for personal growth or a need for some time to yourself. Whatever your need turns out to be, it is important to not bury them inside and try to solve them all yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others and request help with meeting your own needs.

Creating Your Own Goals
As a leader, one of the first exercises you stress to employees is to establish goals for them to work toward. This practice is the same for you. When you begin a new segment at work, whether it is training a group of leaders or creating a new team to work with, you should take the time to create goals of your own to work on. Periodically check in on these goals to see if you are moving on the right path or identify areas you still need to work toward. Don’t be afraid to create long term goals as well that may take more time to accomplish. When you finish, determine if you can achieve these goals on your own or if you will need help from an outside source to do so. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help achieving your own goals and desires.

This post is from January’s topic on “Servant Leadership“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.

Be a Motivator

Motivation is an important tool to use in the workplace because it keeps employees uplifted and inspired to keep moving forward. But every employee responds to different methods of motivations, so the leader must be able to know what makes their employees tick and what works for them. Employees work best in an environment where their feel their leader is behind them and gives them a good reason to do great work.

Make it Challenging
It can be difficult for a leader to make the workplace a challenge because they may not be aware of what their employees can handle at one time. But a servant leader should be aware of the term ‘grow or go’ that is often used in the workplace. ‘Grow and go’ is a concept that means if a team leader or other management does not challenge the employee or make a stimulating workplace (i.e. ‘grow’), the employee may ‘go’ elsewhere. This could mean they leave the company entirely, or it can refer to their sense of confidence and willingness to work. A servant leader can help keep the workplace interesting by helping the employee grow in their own area, as well as others, by allowing them to expand their job duties or take on additional projects. Never feel threatened by those that want to take on more, but welcome the challenge they seek in new opportunities.

Provide Resources
Sometimes the simplest form of motivation is ensuring the employee has everything they need to succeed. This can refer to physical resources, such as supplies, team members or training materials. Resources can also include personal support, such as encouragement and feedback. After all, employees cannot do their job right if they do not have all the resources that they need. As a leader, let your team know that you are a valuable resource they can use, especially if they need something they cannot acquire on their own.

Ask for Employee Input
Sometimes a leader can struggle with finding ways to motivate their employees, but the simple solution is to just ask the employees what they want. Seek out the employee’s input on various topics, such as how they like to be rewarded, what drives them to do better, or simply ask what their leader can do to make their job easier. Most employees are eager to share what make them happy and will feel valued while giving their thoughts and opinions. Now that the leader knows what makes their employees happy and productive, they can use the information to find better ways of keeping them motivated.

Offer Incentives
Bonus and incentive programs are a popular motivation tool for many employees. Incentives can come in many forms, such as monetary bonuses, gifts, special titles or even manager recognition. Some employees may not respond to certain types of incentives, so a leader should recognize different forms of incentives and know which ones are best for their team. It is important to know the difference between an incentive and a bribe for good work. Employees want to feel rewarded for the work they have not – not like they are being coerced with a small gift to work harder.

This post is from January’s topic on “Servant Leadership“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.

Characteristics of a Servant Leader

There are many qualities and characteristics that define a servant leader, including good listening skills, empathy, power of persuasion and great communication skills. Although a servant leader may develop or follow different leadership styles, they must all possess some of these main qualities and characteristics in order to become a great servant leader to their employees.

Listening Skills
Great listening skills can be an important tool in any position. Leaders must be able to listen to their employees and actually hear what they are saying and what they are needing. Active listening is a common tool used in improving listening skills because it involves listening without distractions and then periodically repeating back what is heard for clarification. Good listening skills also include being able to remove distractions, never interrupting while someone is speaking, and paying attention to non-verbal communication, such as body language, tone and gestures. A servant leader knows that improving their listening skills can improve communication with employees, which in turn can lead to better professional relationships.

Persuasive Powers
Some leaders confuse power and authority with the ability of persuasion. But persuasion is a powerful tool that can be used without, well, power. Persuasion is the art of using your knowledge and expertise in order to enlighten and encourage others. It does not use force or backhanded coercion. A servant leader can use persuasion to build unity among the team and conformity when making big decisions. Of course persuasion should always be back by facts and research, so a servant leader should never use persuasion that is based on false information or personal choices. Persuasion builds trust, so leaders must learn to use it effectively.

Recognizes Opportunities
Sometimes when a leader recognizes an opportunity for growth and expansion, it is often referred to as foresight. Generally, a servant leader can recognize an employee’s potential or certain skill set and can see an opportunity for them to set a goal or complete a task. Sometimes the leader can simply observe how an employee works and find a good fit for them. Communicating with each employee allows the leader to get to know each employee and build a personal relationship with them. Other times, simple work evaluations can be done in which the leader takes notes about the employee and creates an outcome from their findings. Whatever tools the leader uses, it is always important to listen to their intuition as well and always keep their eyes open.

Relates to Employees
Being able to relate to an employee is similar to being able to be empathetic, but requires a little more emotional involvement. A leader should be able to relate to an employee by remembering how they got to the position they are in and what leader helped them along the way. Leaders can relate to their employees because they used to be one. When employees need help, or struggle with a task, their leader should be able to relate to their sense of need, rather than criticize or judge them for it. When it’s time to delegate tasks, ensure that you are assigning duties and not barking orders or demands. Allow the employee to work on their own as much as possible and let them work on their own confidence level. In the end, employees will feel closer to your equal and less like just another one of your employees.

This post is from January’s topic on “Servant Leadership“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.

Improving Motivation

Goals can be inspiring, but that inspiration can fade in the reality of everyday life. In order to achieve your goals, it is important that you find ways to motivate yourself. You cannot constantly rely on external motivation. Implementing different methods of motivation such as remembering peak moments, writing down goals and gamification will help keep you stay focused and positive as you work towards your goals.

Remember Peak Moments
Positive memories are powerful motivators. Remembering peak moments creates the sense of achievement and encourages us to seek out that same feeling again. Peak moments are not relegated to work accomplishments. They are any strong memories that create positive feelings. For example, completing a marathon may be a peak moment. Getting married or having a child can also be peak moments. Looking back over your peak moments will show you how much you already have, and how far you have already come. They will encourage and motivate you to keep moving forward and reach your goals.

Write Down Your Goals
Knowing your goals is not enough to keep you motivated; you have to write them down. Writing down goals creates a visual reminder of where you are going. When you are writing down your goals, remember to:

Use the present tense or the present perfect tense: This will help you visualize reaching your goals.

Use “I” statements: An “I” statement reinforces that they are personal goals. They are your responsibility.

Use Gamification
Gamification uses the process of game dynamics to blend intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Unlike online games that can become obstacles to productivity, gamification will actually help you achieve your goals. This system allows you to earn points towards rewards by accomplishing tasks. The points you earn provide incentives to complete more tasks and earn more rewards. You can create your own life game by taking a few steps.

Create Your Own Game:

Identify tasks: List the tasks/chores that you need to accomplish.

Assign points: Assign a number of points to each task. Tasks that you typically avoid should be given more points to provide greater incentive.

Assign rewards: Determine how many points are necessary to earn each reward. Higher point counts should be given to rewards that are more valuable. For example, an outing to a coffee shop could be 20 points, while purchasing game, book, etc., could be 120 points. The rewards will depend on what motivates you.

Keep score: Find a method to keep track of your points that works for you. You could use a spreadsheet or list them in an app on your phone.

You will probably have to adjust your game to find the most motivating rewards system. Once you have made the necessary adjustments, you will have fun reaching your goals.

Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress will help you see your accomplishments and which areas require more effort. Additionally, seeing the improvements that you make will motivate you to continue your hard work. Over time, you should see yourself consistently reaching more of your daily goals. There are different ways to track progress. You may choose to do it by hand, use a spreadsheet, or use an online tool such as Joe’s Charts. No matter the format you use, charting requires you to complete a list of daily goals. At the end of each day, you check off the goals that you accomplished. Do not expect to always reach all of your goals. The purpose of tracking progress is to show you the areas need more of your focus.

This post is from December’s topic on “Goal Setting and Getting Things Done“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.

Four P’s of Goal Setting

You need goals to get things done. However, not every goal is effective. The way that you word your goals will determine whether or not you reach them. When establishing goals, it is important to remember the Four P’s of goal setting. They need to be positive, personal, possible, and prioritized.

They Need to Be Positive
When you are creating goals, remember to make sure that they are positive. This means that you focus on what you want to achieve rather than what you want to avoid. For example, you would write, “I will achieve a promotion.” rather than “I will no longer work at this horrible job.” Staying focused on the positive will help improve your outlook and remove any negativity. This, in turn, will improve your chances for success. Reaching your goals will automatically help you avoid your present circumstances. When creating positive goals, remember to be as specific as possible.

They Need to Be Personal
When creating goals, they need to reflect your dreams and desires. Goals that are not personal are ineffective. Your goals should be about you and only you. For example, “My boss will appreciate me.” is an ineffective goal because it is not about you. It is possible to be a wonderful employee and still be unappreciated. A better goal would be, “I will find a supervisory position where I am appreciated for my talent.” If your goals are not personal, you will never achieve them. Making goals personal places the burden of responsibility on you, but it also means that other people do not determine when you reach your goals.

They Need to Be Possible
When creating goals, you need to make sure that they are possible. When you set impossible goals, you set yourself up for failure and disappointment. Creating possible goals demands that you be honest with yourself. Some goals may require continued education or experience to achieve while others will remain out of reach. For example, it is not possible for someone to become a famous singer without any talent whatsoever. You need to assess your talents and determine what you can achieve with hard work and what will be impossible for you to accomplish. Once you have determined which goals are possible for you to achieve, success will be within reach.

They Need to Be Prioritized
Brainstorming goals can become overwhelming. You will probably have more goals than you can handle. This is the time to prioritize your goals. Begin by numerically ranking your goals and choosing the five goals that are the most important to you. Choose these goals based on your passions, and make sure that they cover all areas of your life: professional, health, personal growth, finances, etc. All of your time and energy should be spent working towards these goals.

You should place your other goals on the back burner. It is not possible to focus on 20 goals at the same time. In fact, you should avoid the other goals at all cost. You risk becoming side tracked with less important goals if you continue to entertain them. You will need to reprioritize your goals periodically. For example, you can reprioritize after you achieve one of your top five goals.

This post is from December’s topic on “Goal Setting and Getting Things Done“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.

Reaching a Decision Point

The steps outlined in our previous post to set the stage towards consensus-building. When it comes to the actual decision point, it helps that a facilitator knows ways to guide a group towards optimal decision-making. In this post, we will discuss ways to identify options, create a short list, and choose a solution. We will also use a way of deciding not often considered by many, called the multi-option technique.

Identifying the Options
The following are some ways groups can identify options during decision-making. Some of these ways are also the ways of gathering information discussed earlier.

Brainstorm. Brainstorming is the process of coming up with as many ideas as you can in the shortest time possible. It makes use of diversity of personalities in a group, so that one can come up with the widest range of fresh ideas. Quantity of ideas is more important than quality of ideas in the initial stage of brainstorming; you can filter out the bad ones later on with an in-depth review of their pros and cons.

Round Robin. Ask each member of the group to suggest one option for consideration. All members must contribute an idea.

Facilitated SWOT Analysis. Some teams create each option as a group, and they do so by conducting a facilitated analysis of the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as they relate to the problem.

The most import thing about these processes is that they are conducted in a consultative fashion.

Creating a Short List
There are many criteria a facilitator use to help a group create a shortlist. The following are just some of these ways:

Costs and benefits. An ideal solution is one that has the least costs and most benefits.

Disagreeing parties’ interests. An ideal solution has factored in the impact on all parties concerned and has made adjustments accordingly.

Foresight. An ideal solution doesn’t have just short-term gains bit long term ones as well.

Obstacles. An ideal solution has anticipated all possible obstacles in its implementation and has made plans accordingly.

Values. An ideal solution is one that is consistent with the mission-vision of the organization and or its individual members.

Choosing a Solution
There are many ways a facilitator can guide a group in creating a shortlist. The following are just some of these ways:

Decide on a criterion (or criteria). Ask the group to come up with the criteria to be used to evaluate each option. These criteria could be costs and benefits, consistency with the values of the organization, feasibility, etc. Once criteria are set, the facilitator can guide the group into weighing each option according the criteria.

Survey which options members like. A facilitator can also conduct a quick survey of what each group members like in the list. You can select the solution either by strict consensus or by majority vote.

Survey which options members don’t like. Similarly, a facilitator can ask the group which options from the short list are no-no’s and eliminate them from the list.

Using the Multi-Option Technique
When coming up with solutions to an issue, you are not limited to choosing one best one. You can also pick several solutions to a problem, and follow through on these many solutions simultaneously. This is process called the multi-option technique.

For instance, in addressing a problem about lagging sales, approaches can be related to poor advertising, poor market selection, or a problem in the product itself. A group following the multi-option technique will assign a person or team to follow through on each option. One team can create a better advertising campaign; another team can look for a better market; while another team can improve the product. In succeeding meetings, each team will report their results as separate teams.

The solutions followed through in a multi-option technique are not necessarily complimentary to one another, although groups have the option to follow through on only complimentary ideas. But if the group wants to see two opposing scenarios with different assumptions, they can do so.

How can a facilitator conduct the multi-option technique? The group can brainstorm several options, and the facilitator can help the group select which of the many options they want to pursue further.

This post is from November’s topic on “Facilitation Skills“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.

Building Consensus in Meetings

The aim of facilitated discussions is to create participatory groups: one where the goal is cooperative rather than competitive decision-making. All members should have equal input in the process, and equal opportunity to voice opposition to an idea or conclusion. In this post, we will briefly discuss the key facilitation skills needed to build consensus.

Encouraging Participation
Consensus is more likely to happen if members feel encouraged to contribute. The following are some of the ways a facilitator can encourage participation in small groups:

Provide preparation guidelines in the meeting agenda. Participants are more likely to contribute, if they feel confident that they have something to add to the discussion. It’s helpful then to send out a meeting invitation with guidelines what to review and study in preparation for the meeting. It is also better if you can also send out guide questions ahead of time.

Before starting a group meeting, check on everyone’s comfort level. Some people are at ease being in meetings; others have difficulty. There are also situational factors, such as an uncomfortable seat or a poorly ventilated room, which can hamper group participation. Inquiring if group members are comfortable before starting a meeting can help a facilitator establish rapport with the group, and address hindrances to group participation.

State at the start of the meeting that members’ participation is not just welcome, but is integral to the process. Sometimes, all it takes is for the facilitator to explicitly say that members are allowed and encouraged to participate for the discussion to be a lively one. These guidelines can be made part of the orientation process.

Acknowledge responses. Show that you have heard and understood a contribution. You can do this in non-verbal and verbal ways. Non-verbal ways include eye contact, nodding, and leaning forward towards the speaker. Verbal ways include praising (“I’m glad you brought that up.”, “That’s a good point.”), clarifying (If I may reiterate what you just said, you suggested that, is this correct?), and requesting for more information (“Tell us more.”, “Please go on.”).
Avoid discounting responses. Similar, make sure that you’re careful not to give a response that might be interpreted as devaluing a contribution, or even ignoring it. Examples of discounting responses are “That was said already.”, “That’s irrelevant.”, “That’s it?, Is there anything else?”

Solicit group members’ responses. You can encourage participation by directly asking everyone their opinion on a subject matter. Example: “Can I get everyone’s opinion about this proposal?” or “Let’s share all our ideas. We won’t react until we’ve heard them all.”

Build on responses. A good way to encourage participation is to integrate each member’s response with that of other members or with the whole group. Similarities and differences are surfaced, and the way each point relates to another is verbalized. This way, the discussion is moving and the individual contributions are seen as relevant to the whole.

This post is from November’s topic on “Facilitation Skills“, which is also a full course on our MBA Certificate program, available online from Harvard Square. To build a strong foundation in leadership and business administration, this 100% online 6-month program is scheduled to start on the 1st of every month.