Ideas and resources
The wisdom of groups
I continue to be impressed by the wisdom of groups. I marvel at how much insight you can get out of just listening, asking questions and thinking in a group. It can shed a completely different light on an issue, help understand different perspectives and it makes you feel supported. Yet all it requires is some coordination and facilitation to get the right group of people together and working on each other’s issues. I have experienced this so many times in group coaching sessions, co-development groups and other small group work. By bringing your issue to the group and letting them ask questions, share insights and offer ideas, you can see the whole issue in a different light. It also helps to build trusting relationships with colleagues, and creates a support network within the organisation. And the resource is available just there, in your own organisation, or within your network. There are a few conditions to make it work:
1. Adequate group size. This will depend on the expected outcome and the setting. For coaching, smaller groups of 3 – 4 people often work best to create the necessary trust. As for problem-solving/joint generation of solutions, slightly bigger groups (up to 8 people) work better to optimise the diversity of ideas. If the group is too small, they may run out of ideas and steam, and if it is too big, time and space for everyone’s questions and ideas will become an issue.
2. The group composition. It is good to have people at similar levels (not more than 1-2 hierarchical levels of difference), or with a shared interest, so that they can relate to each other’s challenges. Being from different parts of the organisation is best, to add diversity and different perspectives.
3. Facilitation. In the beginning it is important that the group has a facilitator to get them started. The role of the facilitator is to provide structure and to "hold” the process, to make sure the discussion remains constructive and everyone is respected. This frees the group to focus on listening, asking questions and sharing ideas, without having to worry about the process. Whatever the format of the group interaction, everyone must feel safe and not judged. As the groups gets to know each other and go through a few sessions, they can also start working on their own, once they master the process and are able to keep the discussion constructive and non-judgmental.
4. Confidentiality. This may seem even too evident, but it is the essential foundation of any group coaching or group consulting, and needs to be explicitly stated every time.
5. Commitment. The members of the group need to be committed to the group work, and fully present while they are working together. Setting ground rules which include this can help to anticipate future obstacles.
Once all this works, the groups can really bring a lot to each member of the group as well as to the organisation. I have seen members of development/coaching groups develop a real support network with each other, where they are the first ones to celebrate each other’s successes and to offer help when difficulties arise. I have also seen people really struck by the insights the group’s questions bring, therefore being able to think much more broadly about their issue and the possible solutions. I have also experienced the empathy and understanding a group can offer for someone going through difficulties, and the unconditional support it provides.
So how can we make more use of this valuable resource we have around us? The first thing is to try it. You really have to experience it yourself to see the magic work. You also need someone to take the initiative – to identify the group members, coordinate agendas and locations and make it happen. And you need to be able to take the time for it. Depending on the format, the sessions can take up to a day, but once the groups have established trust and learned a process, they can also sometimes use it in a small group for a "quick fix”. I vividly remember a trio, who developed a habit of a peer consulting lunch. Whenever needed, they got together for lunch and used a structured group consulting process to brainstorm on one member’s issue. They had started using the process after having experienced it at a leadership development program, and had developed a habit of working on each other’s issues like that. As a result, they were bringing less issues to their managers, or when they did, they already had a tested idea in mind. Not to talk about the shared support they all appreciated, and therefore felt less lonely with their issues.
A walking meeting
You’re looking at your agenda, and seeing a day filled with meetings. You wonder how many hours will you sit in meetings today, having to concentrate, sitting.
What if you didn’t enter that meeting room, but instead went for a walk with the person you are meeting with? Many of us have too many meetings, which keep us sitting all day, sometimes our mind wandering off and thinking about other things. The meeting rooms are more or less the same, the chairs just as uncomfortable to sit for a long time; the walls do not inspire….Well, change scenery! Go out for a walk. You can still discuss your business issues, but walking will get your blood circulating, your muscles moving, ease your stiff back and depending on where you are, you might even breathe fresh air. As you are walking, you may get inspired by what you see around you. When you are walking side by side with another person, you both can get a different perspective, and it sometimes may feel more comfortable than looking at someone face to face. You can focus better (given that you have left your phone in the office), change ideas and feel refreshed. You can also walk alone, when you need to think. In any case, the benefits are multiple. I have walked with my coaching clients, and sent people off for a ”walk and talk” in leadership development seminars, and they always come back looking refreshed and feeling grateful for that moment of something different, a relief. Try it!
Articles and other reading
For managers looking to inspire their people, here is an insightful article on the "Meaning Quotient"
A classical article on the importance of authenticity in leadership :
Discovering your authentic leadership, by Bill George and others.
Struggling with time management and feeling out of energy? Read this :
Manage your energy, not your time, by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy
Fighting to influence key stakeholders? Here’s some sensible advice :
Effectively influencing decision makers, by Marshall Goldsmith
Feeling disconnected or disengaged in your job? Here’s an interesting read :
What brain science tells us about how to excel, by Edward Hallowell.
The classic article that anyone struggling with delegation should read:
Who's got the monkey? A re-edit with commentary from Stephen Covey
The must-read classic on organisational change:
Leading Change - Why so many transformation efforts fail? by John Kotter