decision making

10January 2017
Much of my work involves creating self-organising groups. When we create self-organisation we release energy in the people within the system to find their passion and take responsibility. I believe in this way of working so much that I've even integrated it into my personal life – here's an example... In my pre-children era I used to spend Boxing Day with friends at Kempton Park horse races. It was always a fun, albeit usually cold and windy, day out – a chance to catch up with friends, blow the cobwebs away, and enjoy the competitive spirit of horse racing. Race meets aren’t much fun with small children so, with the birth of my children came the birth of a new idea: “Why not have a day at the races from home!?” It started with two families getting together and has evolved over the years to its most recent format with 40 people. What I love about the way this event has changed is that everyone can bring their families, with at least three generations mingling together. It grows each year with new families joining us, and everyone has a great time, including me. So, here is my formula for a great Boxing Day Races party –
  • Each family that's invited can bring their relatives along, as long as they bring enough leftovers to feed them!
  • I provide tables for the food, plates and cutlery and I cook baked potatoes to accompany them.
  • When people arrive they put out their offerings and everyone shares what they have brought to the party.
  • Each person places £10 into a sweepstake for the race.
  • Each person then bets on one horse per race and gets three points for first place, two points for second and one point for third.
  • The races are televised, so, in between eating and drinking, we watch the races. It's very noisy as people really get into supporting the horses they bet on.
  • At the end of the race meet we tot up the scores and award prizes.
  • This year we reached a new level of self-organisation – one of my friends created an app! Everyone placed their bets from their phones before they arrived, or on arrival, and the scores popped up on the app as the day unfolded.
  So here are the principles of self-organisation demonstrated here
  • a common purpose – to have a good time
  • a leader who is willing to let go of control – I am always happy to eat drink and be merry!
  • ways of working, including decision making, that are understood by all – in the rules of the betting and the roles everyone takes
  • an effective induction and integration of new people. I love the way that each year the core partygoers explain the format to the newcomers.
  • the space for people to take the initiative and improve the system – the app!
My experience is that self-organisation appeals to the core of human nature, for people to take control of their environments. It inspires passion and responsibility in those involved, and releases the leader from the constraints of needing to control, so that she can be free to lead the fun. So, as we enter 2017, a fresh new year, have a think about which elements of self-organisation you might want to integrate into your life. Happy New 2017!
12December 2016
When I was a junior manager I was told that part of my job was to inspire and motivate my team in order to gain their commitment to aligned action. After years of trying to do this I started to realise: 1) People are motivated by a complicated set of factors, all of which are invisible to others and sometimes unknown to the individual concerned. 2) My power to act was in creating the conditions for people to ignite inspiration, motivation and commitment in themselves. This came as a bit of a relief, because the leadership philosophy of my youth was to develop ‘Martin Luther King-like’ presentation skills, to rally the troops. Unfortunately, I found myself lacking in these skills. However, what I am able to do is create the conditions for rich dialogue in which people inspire themselves. I have learnt that the level of commitment and motivation people can create among themselves is far greater than I can achieve by imposing my views. This might sound a bit fluffy… Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that just by getting a group together inspiration, motivation and commitment will magically emerge, far from it. The conditions for rich dialogue require structure, intentionality and attention to the subtle biases in our culture that get in the way of self-motivation. I also don’t want to sound dismissive of presenters who have the ability to inspire. The growth in popularity of TED Talks is proof that there are people all over the world who have the ability to inspire through their stories. The art of taking that inspiration and landing it in action is the dialogue that follows. When we create structured dialogue it has the power to unleash motivation and commitment. Let me give a specific example… A common approach taken in business meetings is to have presentations followed by question and answer sessions (Q&A). If we unpack that approach, the implications are:
  • The presenter has the answer to the group’s questions
  • ·Implying that the expertise lies with the presenter, rather than the group, unconsciously disempowering the group
If we shift the emphasis in this approach to… STIMULUS – short, impactful presentations in easy-to-digest format, aimed at stimulating the listener’s thinking. (For ideas on how to do this, take a look at Nancy Duarte’s philosophy on engaging communication CLARIFICATION – a chance to ask for points of clarification DIALOGUE – about where the stimulus takes people’s thinking, what it might mean and the implications for the work in hand. … then we are much more likely to light the touch-paper of motivation. If we haven’t then it will be apparent in the dialogue, whereas in the presentation format I first proposed, dissent and lack of motivation remains hidden. So, to go back to the title question, I think that inspiration, motivation and commitment lie within each of us. These are not things that can be ‘done’ to us by others, they can only come by unleashing what we have inside us. If you are charged with getting others to be inspired, motivated and committed, then my offer to you is to invest your energy in the design of high-quality dialogue, rather than searching for inspirational speakers.
07March 2016
Agile has achieved wide acceptance within the project management world. We have been thinking about how agile concepts work in vision, strategy and deployment processes. Our question is can meeting facilitation add value as agile co-thinkers with leaders who understand that the world is a constantly changing place. (more…)
17February 2016
Liz Forder finds her major influencers in her personal life and her effective meeting facilitation. What she has learned from powerful women influences her professional work, particularly her facilitation of groups through the power of meeting. She carries her own empathy, humility and respect for others into her client communications. And, there is room for Bruce Springsteen, Princess Diana and Nelson Mandela in her own mashup of their life experiences, poetry, storytelling and empowered thinking. Have a watch and listen as Liz tells us about these powerful people and others who continue to shape her thinking. Give Liz Forder a call to share your own passions and what drives you, and maybe sing a Springsteen song together, at +44 (0)1628 471 114. Or let Liz know what you are thinking about, or your meeting needs, in the contact form. She'll get back to you as quickly as she can.
15February 2016
Personal growth is what drives Fiona Stratford, even in her client relationships. Internal, personal reflection supports her thinking with clients. Learning from relationships supports her professional interactions. Fiona's goal is to learn from everyone she meets, from line managers in her early professional career to luminaries of thoughful revolution like Gandhi and Martin Luther King. She believe strongly that 'one small step could be the biggest thing you ever do.' Listen and watch Fiona talk about those who have influenced her passion for working with people. To talk to Fiona Stratford about your passions and influencers give her a call at +44 (0)1628 471 114. Or send the contact form and we'll make sure Fiona gets your thoughts on your upcoming meetings or your influencers or how to empower personal growth, even in meetings.
30November 2015
All sorts of holidays are celebrated in December and early January. We wish you a wonderful and relaxing holiday season. Celebrate well, in good spirits, and with safety. It has become a tradition for Meeting Magic and Scribing Magic to offer a visual gift during this season of sharing. Our gift this year is a template you can use for personal reflection to gain some insights into 2015, uncovering what you have learned, and then think about how to take your learning into 2016, which may be in the form of ideas, questions or specific tasks you want to achieve. (more…)
Team meeting around the meeting table
12October 2015
I believe very strongly, passionately even, that to be truly effective and successful requires us to work better together. The increasing complexity of business life means that it is impossible for one person to have all the knowledge and experience necessary to make informed decisions in every circumstance. Teamwork is essential but it is not something that happens automatically. The best teams work incredibly hard at being great as a team. (more…)
26September 2015
One way to charge up your group, team, section, division or your entire organisation is to bring in some bespoke training. Not only do we offer four highly regarded workshops, we will design bespoke training that targets your specific needs, including building in the new energy you need to spark commitment, ideas generation, strategy and action. We target your training needs. Have a look at the offers we have posted on our site then give us a call to discuss what we can do to energize your company or your team. Serious work gets done in meetings, we help energize your meetings and we can help you do that, too. +44 (0)20 1628 471 114 or complete the contact form to tell us what training ideas you'd like to explore.
22September 2015
Time is very valuable. We are encouraged to make the most of time and be the best that we can be. So what does this looks like on a day-to-day basis once you have your vision for the future and start working towards it? (more…)
07September 2015
In August I made a business trip to Singapore where I met with clients, consultants and friends. One of the people I met with was Noel Tan, the current chairman of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) for Singapore. We shared perspectives on the changes in the market for facilitation in large organisations over the last 16 years, generally noticing that facilitation is much more widely applied in business today than it was back then. From my perspective this is a positive trend, as it is indicative of the appreciation of how collaborative working can deliver great business results. However, there is a negative side to this, which is that as people are exposed to facilitation more they see the benefits and think they can do it. Personally I think this is bonkers, which you will see below. This desire to 'give it a go' is partly due to people's hunger for good meetings, partly a desire to do good by the group or the organisation, but perhaps mostly attributable to a lack of awareness about what it takes to be an effective facilitator.

Maybe you can drive my car

I learnt to drive when I was 17 (yes, a very distant memory!). Up to this point in my life I had a great deal of experience of being driven, by my parents, by friend’s parents, in the school bus, etc. However, at no point did anyone suggest I might just get in a car and give it a go, without some expert supervision. Let alone would they have suggested that I drive other people. When I started to learn to drive, with the support of a driving instructor, I became very aware of some things that I had been unaware of when I was being driven. For example, I had to consciously remember to ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’. By the time I passed my driving test, I had practiced driving enough times that I could drive safely, but I was still very conscious of what I needed to remember each time I got in a car. I had to be aware to 'mirror, signal, manoeuvre'. After a decade of driving I could drive safely without having to over think it. The ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ mantra came to me like second nature. Anyone who was a passenger in my car would not have necessarily noticed what I was doing. Even so, I would not have considered myself a Lewis Hamilton, currently the #1 Formula One driver in the world. If I had wanted to take my driving to another level I would have needed to substantially develop my driving skills before launching onto the track! So, bear with me. Becoming a highly competent meeting facilitator is like becoming a highly competent driver. You wouldn’t launch yourself or your colleagues onto a track to compete with Hamilton without a great deal of training. So, here are the points I am making with relation to facilitation:
  • Good facilitation is invisible to the untrained eye but is felt in the smoothness of the experience – much like driving with a competent driver.
  • It takes expert support to develop facilitation capability – whether that’s training, coaching, or co-facilitation with an expert facilitator.
  • To reach an expert level in facilitation takes years of practice and ongoing development to achieve the capability needed to use innovative tools, without endangering the group.
And that last phrase is really the point. Facilitators who are untrained can endanger the success of the group. They can influence groups to their own thinking. They can actually move groups to poor decisions and not gain critical alignment, agreement and commitment. And, in the case of tension or conflict, can mishandle situations that have the potential for lasting damage for individuals and the group.

Have a test drive but learn your limitations

So, by all means, I would encourage anyone wanting to have a go at facilitating to jump in and test your skills and comfort. And it is important to recognise where you are on your journey and to understand that, without external intervention, we all have blind spots! Training, coaching and expert assistance is vitally important in learning to drive. Learning to facilitate well is equally important. The facilitators journey is one of acknowledging limitations and gaining insights into how to 'drive that car'.
An inspiring and creative approach to optimizing the outcome of every meeting.
Meeting Magic has decades of experience in supporting the development of facilitation capability for managers, leaders, project managers, change agents, and consultants in all sectors and in all levels of businesses. We know how to train people in a pragmatic way that enables application at whatever your level, whether beginner, intermediate or advanced. We can support your development through coaching, training, co-facilitating, modelling best practices and presentations about the impact facilitation can have.
An invaluable tool to help you succeed in business, whether as a formal facilitator or someone who wants to get things done properly.
Our next advanced facilitation open training course is the 11th and 12th of November. We offer in-house, bespoke/custom training in facilitative leadership, team development, taking vision to action, and virtual meeting facilitation. Give us a call at +44 (0)1628 471 114 to chat about which workshop works for developing your driving skills or might support your group's learning. If you complete the contact form, telling us about your learning goals, we will get back to you as quickly as we can.
A fantastic set of inspirational facilitators and trainers who bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to deliver a truly great course.
26August 2015
We are excited about our newest pages on the website. In addition to our popular Advanced Facilitation Training (AFT), our training offers now cover Collaborative Leadership, Vision to Action and Team Performance. These four offers round out the messages we have been sharing with clients and offering in training for our 16 years of service.
  • Collaborative Leadership: supporting management and directors who understand that harnessing group working creates a stronger, more focused organisation with rewards for all stakeholders.
  • Vision to Action: our unique formats for creating vision and understanding how to take the vision off the shelf and into committed action.
  • Team Performance: an in-depth exploration of how to sustain trust, commitment and momentum in groups of all types and in all sectors of an organisation.
While the AFT is offered as open, public training (with our next dates of 11-12 November), these new titles are offered in-house so that we can explore the topics within the context of your organisation, applying real-life issues and questions in a non-threatening environment. For more information on each of our training offers give us a call at +44 (0)20 1628 471 114 or complete the contact form telling us the training options you want to explore. We love training. Give us a call.
24June 2015
This article in the San Francisco Chronicles online service SFGate published on 11 June 2015 holds that leaders who are defensive about their actions and decisions are less trusted in their organisations. Have a read and then have a think with us. (more…)
18June 2015
I recently had a disarmingly honest conversation with a senior leader in a large organisation in Singapore. This person said, “When it comes to innovation, we are constantly giving ourselves a fat lip!”  If you are unfamiliar with this term, it’s not a cosmetic surgery enhancement. It’s a reference to getting a punch in the mouth with the result being a swollen, painful and fat lip. Before this somewhat harsh observation, our discussion had circled around the challenge and the frustration of trying to create a culture of innovation in their company. Across the Asia Pacific region, they have cubicles full of technically excellent people, all good at their work but when it came to innovative thinking, lip service was about as far as they got. “Yes, absolutely. Good strategy. Makes perfect sense. I am a big fan of innovation. We must do that. Now, back to work.” (more…)
15June 2015
Blog-For Blogging - 21 After all the weekends, public holidays, your own vacations and a few 'not-feeling-very-well' days are taken out of your year you'll have a little over 200 days left to do your real work, and I've not counted travel time in any big way yet. If you're in management of some description, expect about 80 of those days to get sucked up with meetings (conservative figure). Executives report about half of their meetings are a waste of time or half the time is wasted. That's at least 40 days (or 2 work months) lost. Gone. (more…)
05June 2015

Authored by Fiona Stratford, Meeting Magic Facilitator

[caption id="attachment_2002" align="alignright" width="296"]Understanding the costs of meetings helps clarify why meeting facilitation can add value to organisations. Understanding the costs of meetings helps clarify why meeting facilitation can add value to organisations.[/caption]

Wow, really???!! I heard some statistics today that got me thinking–managers within businesses spend between 50% and 75% of their time in meetings, with the higher percentage relating to more senior managers and directors.This is interesting in itself but the scary bit is that of those meetings some 42% result in NO action.

So the accountant in me just had to work out some costs relating to this. (more…)

25March 2015
[caption id="attachment_2094" align="alignright" width="300"]Using tablet technology and an online platform we can facilitate dispersed team meetings. Using tablet technology and an online platform we can facilitate dispersed team meetings.[/caption] Most dispersed groups meet 2 or 3 or 4 times a year for face-to-face meetings. These meetings then become critical forums for the group to make decisions together, and form relationships that will tide them over until the next f2f meeting. This often leads to crammed agendas and rushed decisions. By taking a blended approach to these meetings, the f2f time can be far more effective. By 'blended' I mean the use of virtual meetings either side of the f2f meeting. (more…)
20March 2015

This article was written by Katherine Woods and was first published in July 2013.

Meeting-Facilitation-Riga-Bendys-June-2014 I've been facilitating meetings for nearly 20 years. It makes me feel old just saying that! During that time, many things have changed. In the early days, the Internet was still in its infancy. I remember sending emails on a painfully slow dial-up connection, and mobile phones were still HUGE. Much has also changed in the business world, yet how people think about business meetings has changed very little. (more…)

06March 2015
We've added a new case study so you can see more of the kinds of work we have been doing and can do for you. Have a quick read and let us know how we can help you with your meeting facilitation needs. Give us a call at +44 (0)20 1628 471 114 or complete the contact form.
17February 2015
In our January newsletter we introduced the concept of the 5C's as the attributes of how leaders need to work in our fast changing world. We have chosen to explore CONNECTION first because, as I see it, a leader needs to decide WHO to involve before starting to collaborate and co-create. The best collaboration in the world isn't going to deliver robust solutions if the right people aren't involved. (more…)
09October 2014
 Why does thinking about collaboration cause so much pain? With all the challenges of the current business environment, why is collaboration the one way of working that doesn’t seem to get quality attention? Is the pain of NOT working together not strong enough to see the potential gains of true collaboration? Leaders of large businesses face many organisational tensioins that would benefit from collaboration, but too much collaboration can also cause pain. The pains of ineffective collaboration are:
  • Too many meetings – too slow to act
  • Unproductive meetings – nothing happens
  • Fragmented working – leading to inefficiencies and missed opportunities
……The whole is some of the parts. The gains of effective collaboration are:
  • Efficiencies brought about by sharing
  • Harnessing people power to resolve difficult business problems
  • Ability to deliver short term results and alignment to long term strategy
  • Balancing local and global needs
…. The whole is the sum of the parts and it’s an inspiring / motivating way to work! (more…)
05September 2014
You can tell Autumn is on its way, the leaves are turning, the hedgerows are full of berries and… the TV is full of XFactor! I must admit that the audition phase of XFactor is my guilty pleasure. It’s just an amazing cacophony of human behaviour – from the humble teenager who doesn’t know the power of their own performance, to the deluded individual who thinks they are going to be the next winner, but can’t even hold a tune. (more…)
19August 2013
In July my cocker spaniel, Lula, gave birth to a litter of puppies. We are now at the stage of finding suitable homes for the puppies. This process has involved families coming to our home, looking at the puppies and deciding which one they want. Observing families in their decision making processes has given me food for thought about how groups make decisions in business. A couple of observations that are top of mind are… (more…)
17April 2013
Most of the meetings I get called in to facilitate are complex. Companies don't tend to bring in external support for the day-to-day stuff, so it tends to be the tricky ones that get our attention.  I am often working with global groups, who have been brought together to resolve complex, strategic business problems. A chapter in Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, 'What the Dog Saw' have given me an interesting perspective on how to approach these types of meetings. (more…)
22November 2012
The Cambridge Online Dictionary defines conversation as:
'Talk between two or more people, in which thoughts, feelings and ideas are expressed, questions are asked and answered or news and information are exchanged'
21May 2012
There are situations where a little bit more meeting time is worth so much more than time outside a meeting. I experienced it recently in a meeting where I only had a 60 minute slot. This meant we agreed that people would send me their ideas afterward the meeting. (more…)
09January 2012
I am compelled to comment on an article I have just read, ‘What Makes a Good Leader’, available online at Director Magazine I work with senior executives in large organisations and I can see that the old style command-and-control leadership no longer works. Leaders need to earn their leadership positions, engage their staff and win the discretionary effort that is needed for businesses to survive and thrive in a tough economic climate. (more…)
27October 2011
I had an interesting experience of being facilitated this week. It was an intense 2 hour meeting to resolve a long standing problem. My experience was that I left the meeting feeling like we had made progress, and reasonably OK with the decisions we agreed. (more…)
14October 2008
I was speaking at a conference for the Institute of Grocery and Distribution last week and was pleasantly surprised that the group asked about tips for managing information in meetings. This area is so vital to having productive conversations in meetings. Information is like the currency that gets exchanged in meetings, but it needs to be in the right format to be useful. (more…)
20May 2008
Meetings should be about conversations that move our organisations forward, but all too often this gets forgotten and they become forums in which people present at each other and the dialogue gets lost. (more…)