team development

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!
27October 2016
There is a conundrum about virtual working in the business world at the moment... Most people need to work virtually in their jobs now and companies have invested millions in technology to support this. We all 'get' the commercial benefits of working virtually (saving the expense and time of travel) and the benefits of collaborating with colleagues and partners, to progress work with 'many heads' involved, not just one. We all feel we 'should' know how to do this, and yet it feels like wading through treacle. Even the more tech-savvy younger generation, for whom the technology isn't a boundary, are not getting the productivity benefits promised by the tech platform producers. Why is this?... In my humble opinion... it's because the technology does not understand group dynamics, and how to foster effective collaboration between human beings. In fact, I will go as far as saying, you can achieve great collaboration and productivity with quite crappy technology, when you know how to work with people in groups. Last week we ran another one of our virtual working sessions - a series of three interactive webinars for people who want to collaborate more effectively in dispersed groups. The group members came from different companies and different countries, and all reported similar troubles in virtual meetings: difficulty in managing engagement of diverse groups; trouble converging on robust decisions; struggling to resolve conflicts and differences of opinion in these spaces; not to mention all the technical difficulties with varied broadband capabilities, and audio problems.

So, what's the answer?...

A key step, when a group decide to come together, is to get really clear on what level of collaboration is needed, and therefore how much trust is needed in the group. For example if a group come together to just share ideas, and don't need to converge on decisions together, then lower levels of trust are fine for this quality of work, and therefore it is possible to get away with less attention to group development. However, if a group are going to be involved in making strategic decisions and driving action, then higher levels of trust are needed, and more attention needs to be invested in getting the group through the stages of group development, so that they can collaborate effectively. If a group are going to be involved in effecting change, then real attention needs to be given to developing high performance in the group, otherwise their group dynamic is likely to prevent them being able to effect any shifts in the organisation.

What is group development?

There are many models for group development. Probably the most well-known in the business world is the Tuckman model - Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. However, regardless of the theoretical lens you use to look at a group, at the heart is a focus on the human system, in service of the results they need to achieve. In organisations these days groups of people are often thrown together and expected to collaborate, as if the magic of the whole becoming greater than the sum of the parts will happen automatically. The downside I see of the virtual space is that it seems to focus attention on the work flow, without considering the human flow, and this means that many groups are not getting the results they could when working remotely.

Supporting group development - start with small things?

Considering the human dynamic in any work done in groups is important and small things can make a big difference. For example, whenever I work with a group I will take time to check-in and check-out of the work. This doesn't need to take long - in our team calls each week we just go around each person asking for one thing that 'sucks' and one thing that 'rocks' ; yesterday we did a check-in and check-out that involved each person sharing one word about how they were feeling. For many groups this can feel counter-cultural at the start, but the huge benefit of check-ins is that they give a sense of how each person is before launching into the work. Check-outs help us understand what people are taking away from a session, rather than assuming. We are all human, not robots, and therefore the things happening within the context of our lives affect how we think and feel about things. Being transparent about what is going on for us is the first step towards building trust and respect in a group, and is particularly important in virtual working where we don't have some of the visual cues about what might be going on. So, next time you connect in a virtual meeting, take time to consider the humans on the other side of the screens. What could you be doing to foster greater trust and inclusion in the way you work?
09March 2016
More and more companies, and teams within organisations, are struggling to communicate well, with leaders challenged to keep their local teams aligned to the overall organisational goals, strategies and agreed actions. (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…)
25November 2015

Creating a mutual relationship with outsourced suppliers

There has been a theme in the conversations I have had this week. The theme is about customers, outsourced suppliers and how we go about buying services into organisations. This has got me thinking about the the paradigms and pitfalls of B2B services buying that I have experienced as both customer and supplier. Organisations place a big emphasis on the management of suppliers of raw goods and products. There is a clear link between these tangible suppliers and a company’s ability to deliver. However, I think there is a lot more ambiguity in the area of services buying and I see the need to shift, as organisations evolve into new ways of working. (more…)
17November 2015
We've been doing virtual meetings with our clients for some time. Recently, we've also been seeing a trend to 'blend' virtual within face-to-face (f2f) meetings. This plays out when a global team or group has remote portions of the team not able to join them in the room. (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.
01July 2015
We like this quote because it supports our thinking on how to approach meetings with openness to ideas. Holding our own ideas loosely so we are ready to change when we learn from others.
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…)
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…)

16March 2015
Impact-Actions Image 14-10-14How to grow the business sustainably and profitably? That's the question most leaders are wrestling with at the moment. But we live in a fast changing, complex world in which no one person has all the answers. Last month, as part of our conversation about the 5C's of facilitation, I talked about the need for Connection to enable breadth of perspective. Connections only add value when the connected people collaborate effectively so that decisions harness the collective wisdom of the group. (more…)
06March 2015
I continue to be amazed at the distracting thinking that happens around meetings. The latest doozie I'm seeing pandered about is that meetings should be banned or ban meetings one day a week. Seriously. Ban meetings. (more…)
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…)
10February 2014
I am enjoying reading Simon Sinek's new book, 'Leaders Eat last - why some teams pull together and others don't'. His observations and insights resonate with my experience, both as a facilitator, and the leader of a business. In particular I am struck by what he says about the need to create safety in the workplace, that this enables people to be the best they can be. (more…)
14June 2013
Oh my goodness! I have just caught up with last week's episode of The Apprentice. This is a UK TV show in which Alan Sugar, aka Lord Sugar, gives a group of young business people, Apprentices, a series of tasks. The programme series culminates in Lord Sugar choosing an Apprentice whose business he will invest in. (more…)
19September 2012
There seems to be a remarkable amount of churn or reorganisation going on amongst our clients at the moment, and, at the same time, we enter a new a academic year. All this leads to many people  being in new groups, both as leaders and participants. (more…)
31July 2012
In Meeting Magic we like to practice what we preach. All our team meetings are well prepared, participants are involved in the preparation, and we have well defined OARRs. However, I recently found myself being rather bored in our board meeting! (more…)
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…)
02March 2012
Today is National Doodle Day. As the visual information revolution continues, there are is increasing interest in the benefits of Doodling in the workplace. (more…)
01July 2011
My 8 year old daughter came home from a school trip very excited on Thursday. Her class had been to the local park to do a project. First they had to create a map of the park and then they had to draw ideas for improvement on the map. (more…)
19January 2011
At this time of year many of us are involved in reviews and planning for the forthcoming year. This also tends to be a time when people pay attention to reviewing themselves and their personal development. (more…)
06December 2007
It never ceases to amaze me how much lost opportunity there is in the introductions at the start of meetings. A few weeks ago I lead a meeting in which the meeting owner said she would lead the introductions. She said that the group knew each other and that they only needed to share their names and roles for my sake. The result was a session in which each person introduced themselves at high speed round the room. It really was a waste of time, they already knew each others names and I could not recall them well after such a quick wizz round. (more…)