The team is the center of creative and powerful action. Grounded in practical methods and tools, teams are the energy carrying out the vision and mission of a group. The team provides structural care, and demonstrates effective action. The team embodies equity and justice which cuts across economic class, race, culture and sexual orientation.
It is important to meet regularly. Do as much reporting as possible on email. Team members then come to the meetings informed and up-to-date on arena and task force work. One person needs to manage the communication, collect data, synthesize, and report to the team. For example, a conference planning team agenda is created with input from everyone on the conference team. Then sub-teams can go to work with agreement. Give team members an opportunity to facilitate the meetings and rotate facilitation of meetings. Use electronic meeting formats for additional or more frequent team check-ins.
A helpful pattern to follow for both in-person and electronic meetings:
Process suggestion: For small team meetings, work on a flip (or electronic equivalent) page divided into task sections. Each person comes to the meeting with post-its made up for Decisions and Discussion items for each of the tasks and places their post-its on the page. Begin with questions of clarity. Cluster items/decisions to be discussed together, prioritize them and start right in.
Pay attention to team communication styles. If you run into difficulty communicating it is helpful to stop and work to clarify where you are; determine what needs to happen to move forward; and either find a way to handle the issue right then or get clear who is going to work it through.
Dr. William Bridges, author of Transitions among other publications, makes a point about the critical nature of having a beginning, a middle, and an end. Keith Ryall, a Certified Professional Facilitator from Australia talks about SOT’s – Start On Time, Stay On Time, Stay on Track, and Stop On Time – in his training for “The Highly Effective Facilitator.” A team’s opening can become a ritual, always using a relevant and inspiring quote or an opening conversation that gets everyone engaged or singing something meaningful. The same can be true of the closing. The Institute often closed meetings with what was called a Send Out. It might be simply the leader or facilitator saying “I send you out into the next two weeks to complete your assignments and have fun!” Or they would use a ritual call and response such as saying with gusto “These are the times!” and the team responding (also with gusto) “We are the people!”
Caring for the Team on the Way Methods used in Global Research Assembly (GRA), 1979
Leadership for Social Cohesion Neighborhood Caretakers by Elizabeth Dyson & Burton Dyson, Chapter 3, pp 62-85
Notes on Teams from the files of Joseph Wesley Mathews, Institute Founder
The Team, A House Church Witness, Global Priors Council, ICA Chicago,1980
Teamhood, Global Priors Council, ICA Chicago, July 1980
T.E.A.M.S for Effective Action. Time/Eventfulness/Accomplishments/Methods/Space diagram, 1994 ToP Facilitation Methods Manual. Also referred to as S.T.E.P.S Space/Time/Eventfulness/Product/Style, this is a chart that includes questions to ask to ensure the S.T.E.P.S. are covered in your session.
Team Leaders Manual Global Research Assembly 1980. This document was put together as a guide for leadership of the Global Research Assembly of The Institute of Cultural Affairs
The Staff as Team Carol Walters (see also the Imaginal Education Collection)
HDTS (Human Development Training School) Curriculum: The Team, 1977-1980
The Team 4x4x4 Chart & key prose points of a talk by Dr. Ronnie Lessem
Taking control of refreshments or having team agreements on what they need to be and who provides them is often an overlooked key to team meeting success. Healthy options vs. junk food, plenty of water, nothing heavy (and sleep-inducing) for lunch, downplaying sugar – all are things that can support rather than derail a team meeting.
There are many ways of planning an event and people today with whole careers as event planners. In the ICA’s history were many events from weekly “Ecclesiolas” that gathered local colleagues around a meal and study to Global Research Assemblies for a month every summer followed by a “Global Order” gathering of representatives from staffed locations around the world. Each was carefully planned and carried out with deep intentions. The same applied to any curriculum that was taught as well as the resulting Technology of Participation courses now offered around the world. The following archival material touches on many of the pieces that go into such careful event planning.
Westside Leadership Institute Facilitators Manual – Facilitators Manual Overall Meeting Design 1983
Symphony Worksheet blank template
Lesson Plan Format Similar to the Symphony Worksheet above, from the days of pedagogy.
The Session Planning Worksheet – illustrated below, is similar to the Lesson Plan Format but reformulated for facilitation.
Understanding being able to design for different learning styles among your participants is critical to engaging everyone in a session. The ToP Facilitation Methods have some of this built-in. In the Focused Conversation, the different levels of questions appeal to different dominant thinking styles. In a Consensus Workshop, just the placing and then clustering of ideas on the sticky wall will engage participants’ right and left brains.
For the audio learners, background music and CLEAR verbal instructions are critical. For the Kinesthetics, something for them to DO is more engaging, having them come up to the wall and place their own cards in a second or third round in the Consensus Workshop or asking someone to take notes on something or create a flip chart in a small group. For visual learners, it is important to have the verbal instructions mirrored in writing on a flip chart. Also, use of color, posters with images, and referring to a handout or manual so they can see and read about what’s going on helps the visual learner.
In the Imaginal Education collection, there will be more on the use of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. The more types of intelligence you can plan for in a session, the stronger the participation from those of different styles. There are assessment tools to determine participants’ propensities, comfort zones, or strengths. Gregorc Mind Styles work more with types of thinking, Myers Briggs and Insight Discovery touch deeply on personality, while DiSC is a similar simpler but widely-used instrument. StrengthFinders is particularly useful for intact teams or any group that works together with some frequency.
While many do not consider these assessments necessary for good facilitation, using them can be useful to a group. Using them with the group, having individuals gather with others who are the same “type,” and letting them analyze what describes them plus what describes the others and where they get triggered by other styles can be a powerful exercise in learning how to work with those who are not like you. Sharing the write-ups from each different group releases understanding, laughter, and a greater appreciation of the differences.
The space in which you work subconsciously affects everyone in the room. Design and decor turn neutral and negative space into an ally. Decor steadily sends messages that affect the images of everyone in the room. The way space is treated helps to create an environment of intentionality and success.
The Architecture of Participation
This article is one of the finest and comprehensive explanations of the importance of space to an effective facilitated session. Patricia Tuecke, 2004. This article was adapted as Chapter 5 in the IAF Handbook of Facilitation, Sandy Schumann, editor, Jossey-Bass, 2005
Taking care of space is an essential part of caring for people. If possible arrange the chairs or table and chairs so people are able to see each other and the front of the room. When setting up an open square arrangement, place a table in the center with an arrangement of objects to capture the attention of the group.
“At ToP training courses, my partner and I often placed a 3-4’ table in the center of an open square arrangement. The objects on the table were placed so no matter where a participant sat, the setting looked quite different. Only once did a trainee get up and walk around the table to get a look.”
On the wall was a quote: “You can see an art object from 360 degrees. I just forgot to do that with my life.”
Another quote: “Each person’s view is a unique perspective on a larger reality. If I can “look out” through your view and you through mine, we will each see something we might not have seen all alone.” ~ Peter Senge
See also “Word Pictures” below for additional quotes.
The use of Workshop Visuals, Decor, Graphics, Photographs, Pictorial Images, Posters, Sticky Walls, and Table Decor claims space for a given purpose and sets the context for work to be done. Place decor at a level easily seen by participants. Symbolic decor relates in some way to the work at hand. You can create your own decor. See sample at right.
You can learn to make beautiful flip chart images. Take a course and get a lot of practice! Facilitation Graphics
By using a combination of poster board, colored paper, eye-catching fonts, color, and imagination along with relevant and inspiring quotations, you will be able to create wall decor to support facilitation training events, community gatherings, and meetings of all kinds. Following are several examples of quotations ICA has used in the past.
Suggested reading for facilitators who want to understand ICA’s philosophy around the use of symbols.
Symbolic Power and Cultural Dynamics, David Morton talk, no date