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.
27October 2016
These days I think it is generally acknowledged that collaborative planning is more effective than a leader locking herself in a room with a towel on her head and figuring out all the answers. However, there is more to collaborative planning than just getting a group of people together in a room, and hoping the magic of multiple perspectives will take place. Having spent 17 years facilitating group planning, here are some of my thoughts and ideas for those heading into the year end planning cycle.

Who and how to involve

It might sound obvious but getting the right people involved and being intentional about how we want to collaborate is key. Collaborative working doesn't necessarily mean consensual decision making with everyone involved. Sometimes it is best to pick a small team to co-create a plan with. Sometimes we consult with a wider audience as input to planning or we can test draft plans with a wider group after a small group has done some work. Alternatively, getting a large group together to do the whole thing in one go can be hugely effective, but be mindful this requires large group facilitation expertise. So, I find it helps to map out all the stakeholders and then look at them individually and think about how you want to engage with them. A kind of plan for how to plan!!


The pace that most businesses are moving at, combined with the pressure on many leaders and managers means that little time is made for reflection and learning in the workplace these days. The tendency is to do a cursory glance at the results from last year, before drawing conclusions and moving into future planning. This often leads to repeating patterns in businesses, which never get resolved. So, I would encourage anyone doing planning to make time to really explore the facts and data of what has happened, then look at how things happened and the different experiences of that, as a source of rich learning and hindsight that can dramatically inform future plans.


Insight is the bridge between the past and the future. Profound insight is rooted in data, but in the age of BIG DATA, we need to be choiceful about which data we pay attention to and how that is converted onto information, before knowledge and then wisdom can be formed. Insight development also benefits from using different modes of knowing. Most senior teams have a preference for the logical cognitive space, and leaders are usually highly developed in their thinking skills. But how often do we really leverage the amazing right brain capability of human beings. Our right hemisphere enables us to sense and notice patterns to bring insight that analysis of facts and figures can't.


Oh to have a crystal ball ! I know we are called Meeting Magic, but unfortunately my magical powers do not extend to being able to give groups 'Mystic Meg - like' qualities. So, instead we have to develop strategies that are rooted in foresight - this means extrapolating from insight into what might be. This work REALLY benefits from right brain work. By this I don't mean lying on bean bags coming up with crazy ideas, I mean creating an environment in which 'right answers' are not the goal, a more exploratory creative way of thinking... wondering why things are the way they are now, and what that means for how things might be. The art of great planning is to create a plan that is sufficiently grounded in reality that people can see it will work, and yet it has sufficient stretch that it creates a slight tension. The pulling together of plans which build on hindsight, anchor to insight and stretch into foresight is key. Then we need to think about how we sense and respond throughout the forthcoming year, so that we notice if those insights change and the strategies need to change with them. This approach is the art of agile planning - planning for the unplannable - knowing and working with the fact that we live in a changing world - behaving like an organic, living system, rather than a machine. So, I hope you find this useful thought provocation to enable you to think about howyou go about planning this year. Just remember, like any good cook, it's not just about having the right ingredients, it's also about how you combine them that determines whether your meal is a delight or a disaster!
18July 2016
Involving people affected by change and allowing them to provide input on issues that matter to them, for example, large scale strategic conversations, is more likely to result in people owning the change process and its outcomes’ This principle was used in our work with the University of Brighton recently, here’s what we did... Our challenge The University of Brighton may trace its history back to 1859, but its style of governance and the scope of its ambition for students and faculty is notably forward-looking. The institution serves 20,700 students across five campuses and  is a major university for the professions.  UniBrighton’s strategic leadership called us in to help drive a new approach to developing their future strategy: they wanted the initiative to be broad, inclusive and engaging, to harvest and build upon a wide and representative selection of ideas and suggestions. Our approach
  • Five 2½ hour meetings at each campus, supported by a website and informal drop-in sessions.
  • Journey-through-time meeting design, highlighting the assembled experience in the room by creating a physical circle of participants ordered by their length of employment at the university.
  • Creation of a large-display history map drawing on the wealth of experience in the room, supported by live graphic recording.
  • Graphic representation of influences impacting the university now and in the future, to spark off ideas for the future from each group. We used a large-display mind-map format to graphic record inputs.
  • Summaries of ideas generated at each meeting, in spreadsheet form, to make it easy for the strategic teams to assimilate quickly.
 Our results The meetings were attended by around 400 staff from all campuses, across the professorial, administrative and support dimensions. The concentrated ideas and insights will be used to create a strategy for UniBrighton. uobmetrics Our learning The physicality and psychology of people arranging themselves in order of their length of service was fascinating!
  • It wasn’t a pecking order – fresh thinking came from all parts
  • Passion isn’t based on length of service.
An awful lot can be achieved involving a lot of people in a very short space of time! What people said mm2
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.
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.
30June 2015
During a recent assignment for Scribing Magic, I was asked by #TripwireInc to graphically record* two Information Security events over the course of three days (#InfoSec15 and #BSidesLDN2015). *Graphic recording is the art of capturing the key thoughts, ideas and discussions that happen during meetings and events. This is achieved using hand-drawn images and text created live in real time to produce visual records that act as aide memoirs for participants and a way of understanding what happened for those that were unable to attend. (more…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
02February 2015
I f you think about the times in your life when something profoundly changed your view, I'll bet is was an experience that lead to your changing your mind. It is this philosophy that underpins our approach to the deployment of business direction and strategy. We create an experience that enables people to hear, see and feel the changes they need to be making. This is far more memorable, and likely to change individual behaviours, than the type of annual Kick Off meeting that's prevalent in businesses today. Traditional Kick Off meetings are usually a series of presentations. At best they allow for a bit of Question and Answers. This might mean people KNOW the strategy, but its unlikely to lead them into DOING anything.  
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…)
12March 2014
When I look at my schedule of client work, most of it falls into the category of strategy development and deployment, regardless of the type of organisation. For example, I am working with the board of a small charitable organisation who have reached a cross roads because of funding, this means they need to take a strategic look at their organisation and decide how they want to move forward; I am also working with a large global Aerospace client, who is needing to respond to market changes, which requires a change in direction, developed at board level and then executed through a workforce of thousands, worldwide. All organisations, big and small, need clarity of long term direction and strategy, to inform their short term planning and day to day action. (more…)
30January 2014
I was speaking this morning with Pete, a friend of mine who does personal fitness training. He told me about a swimming training programme he runs for adults, that is proving very successful. His approach is to focus on one aspect of swimming technique at a time. He trains this in a 1:1 session, then leaves the person  to get confident with this technique (usually for about two weeks), before adding the next technique. This process repeats itself about 6 times until the individual has all aspects of their technique working well for them, usually a step change in their performance as a swimmer. (more…)
11November 2013
A few weeks ago I had a bit of a rant about the myth of telling = understanding = action which unpicks most strategy deployment. (more…)
11October 2013
There seems to be a common misconception when it comes to the deployment of strategy in large organisations: "Telling = Understanding = Aligned action." If only it was that simple!!!! (more…)
06September 2013
Today I met with a couple of clients who are looking to use key business meetings as pivot points for organisational change. It was great to meet these kindred spirits. I have been having more and more of these kinds of conversations with clients. It seems there is a growing realisation in the Organisational Design and Change Management world that meetings are the key to getting traction for change in the workplace. (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…)
19May 2011
I am sitting in the lounge at Seattle Airport waiting for my flight home after three long days of facilitation. I smell, my feet are sore and my body clock has no idea what time it is... but I feel great. (more…)