GROUP FACILITATION – An Action Plan for a Public Board

A couple of years ago, I was asked to facilitate a series of meetings involving the members of a public board appointed by a City Council in Colorado.  The Board was going through a period of transition, with a few new members having been appointed to the Board whose styles and values differed from their predecessors.  Furthermore, a new Board member was soon to become the chair, and the Director of the staff of the organization over which the Board had authority was soon to retire.  Many things were in flux, and Board meetings had become laden with conflict and less productive than in the past.  The goal of the meetings I was hired to facilitate was to develop an Action Plan to allow the Board to have more civil and productive deliberations and operations in the future.

After conducting a personal interview with each of the Board and staff members, I facilitated two planning meetings with the Board members, as a group.  After agreeing to a set of ground rules for their meetings (something I always help the members of any group to do at their first meeting), the group discussed the issues that had brought them to the table.  I was able to suggest an agenda with potential topics because I had already spoken one-on-one with everyone there.  Although the details of each interview were kept private, it was understood by everyone that I would produce proposed issues for discussion based on those interviews.  I made detailed notes at each group meeting, noting areas of agreement when they happened.

Finding the time for these special meetings had been a challenge for […]

By |June 19th, 2013|Group Facilitation Denver|Comments Off on GROUP FACILITATION – An Action Plan for a Public Board

GROUP FACILITATION – Reality Checking and “Tough Love” to Help Participants Find Their Way

Several years ago I assisted a fellow conflict resolution professional in facilitating a two-day retreat of federal government safety officers and their mid-level and upper-level managers.  They had come to Denver from all around the western United States.  Their goal was to exchange ideas among the entire group (management and field staff) about resolving:

  1.  historical communication issues (mistrust and animosity between field staff and management, too much paperwork – not enough resources, ignoring field input, etc.)
  2. structural issues (empowerment of field staff, clarification of roles/responsibilities)
  3. decision-making (bottom up or top down, collaboration) and
  4. other long-standing issues resulting in ill will among everyone present.

A two-day, timed agenda was created (including brainstorming, small group dialogue, making consensual decisions and then developing an implementation plan).  There seemed to be plenty of time on this well-planned agenda to accomplish the goals of the group.  This turned out not to be the case.

During the first day, the attendees spent their time airing old grievances and venting long stifled hostilities.  This tension between the safety officers and their managers was evidenced by either tepid participation in the scheduled teambuilding and communication activities, or active sabotage of them.  The parties continually brought up old grievances or slights (perceived or real) and made it clear that they thought that certain segments of management were incompetent or ineffectual.  No real progress happened that day – in fact, the relationship between staff and management seemed to be regressing.

My co-facilitator was an employee of the same federal agency as the participants and was somewhat reluctant to intervene in any overt way.  During our debrief of the first day’s events, I suggested that, as a true outside party, I be allowed to begin the second […]

By |June 19th, 2013|Group Facilitation Denver|Comments Off on GROUP FACILITATION – Reality Checking and “Tough Love” to Help Participants Find Their Way