Should facilitators make suggestions?

Excerpt from this video: “There are times when I think it’s perfectly appropriate and in fact extremely helpful to the group if the facilitator makes suggestions, makes proposals.”

What times? Craig explains in the video.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.

There’s a school of thought out there that a neutral facilitator should never make any kind of suggestion when facilitating a group; that all proposals, all ideas, should come from members of the group and the facilitator just manages and, well, facilitates that. I don’t subscribe to that school of thought.

First of all, let’s take a look. I think there are three types of suggestions.

One type of suggestion is purely content. “Oh, you guys are talking about where to have your annual meeting? I know this place. It’s really great. And blah blah blah.” That is a content suggestion. I think that content suggestions, by and large, are off limits for neutral facilitators.

But there are two other kinds.

Another kind is what I would call a process suggestion. So maybe we’ve designed an agenda, we are working through a decision making process, and I have an idea of a process that might serve the group better. Process suggestions, I think, are perfectly fine for a group facilitator to make. That’s what the facilitator has been hired to do; manage the process. The facilitator should be always thinking about better processes and should make suggestions accordingly that will help the group.

There’s a third kind that’s kind of in the middle.

Maybe it’s a suggestion about content but it is based not on my personal knowledge, but on what I have learned from you just now in the meeting. And I tend to think that those types of suggestions are also okay if the facilitator is being absolutely truly neutral and if that suggestion is being made based on what he or she thinks will serve the group well. “Look, I’ve been listening to you talk for an hour; I have an idea for a solution that I think might serve you well.” I think that might be okay because the solution is based on what I’ve heard you say from my neutral point of view.

There are no hard and fast rules about this. Mostly it depends on the group culture and your agreement with that group on how you’ll behave as a neutral facilitator. But I am just pointing out that there are times when I think it’s perfectly appropriate and in fact extremely helpful to the group if the facilitator makes suggestions, makes proposals.

Thanks for listening everybody. I hope this helps your group make good group decisions.

How to call on people

Is it best to call on hands in the order that they are raised? Maybe not.

In this video Craig explains the downsides of doing that and encourages alternatives.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody! Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.

There’s a presumption in almost all meetings that the leader should call on people in the order that hands are raised. I’m here to tell you that is not necessarily the best way and that is certainly not the only way.

Here’s another way. Some groups have a rule; everybody gets a chance to speak once before anybody speaks twice. If that’s the case, I might not call on the first hand that I see. If that person has already spoken, I’m going to skip over them and I’m going to always be looking for new hands.

Another way is that I am intentionally looking for diversity of perspectives. This is over simplified but: a man speaks, the next hand I’m looking for is a woman. If three women in a row speak, the next hand that I’m looking for is a man. And even if two or three women put their hands up first, I might call on a man. As the leader I am actively managing the discussion and deliberately calling on people in a way different than whoever puts their hand up first.

Another way is: I might actually really know the people in my group. I know them pretty well. I can guess the kinds of things they’re likely to say and I intentionally call on people to build a thread; to build us toward a conclusion.

If you have an ethic of calling on hands in the order that they are raised no matter what, you are going to hear from the fastest thinkers and the boldest people. You are not necessarily going to hear the best ideas or a huge diversity of opinion.

So it depends on what you want. I’m simply reminding you that it doesn’t have to be just one way. Check that presumption — that we should absolutely call on hands in the order that they’re raised — and give yourself permission to do it differently.

Thanks for listening everybody. I hope this helps your group make good decisions.

How to Determine Value

In this video Craig talks about a dent in his car and tells the story of the consultant and the red X. How do YOU determine how much you should pay for something?
Craig’s answer might surprise you.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody!

Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.

This is my work vehicle. I got tables, easels, projectors, a screen. But I want to talk about the outside, right here.

I had a dent; a pretty big dent. I took it to my buddy Glenn who runs an auto body shop. I’ve been doing business with Glenn for 20 years and I asked him, “What’s it going to take to fix this dent?” He looked at it and he talked about how he was going to have to drill rivets and pull it out and sand and repaint. “Well,” he said, ‘two or three hundred maybe.”

And then he said, “Well, wait a minute. Sometimes….” and then he looked real careful here. He looked from the other side. And then he whammed it with his hand and the dent popped out! Just like it is right now. Fixed. Boom. Good as brand new in about five seconds.

It reminds me of the story of the consultant and the red X. Big manufacturing plant; one of their machines went down. It was costing thousands; tens of thousands of dollars a day in lost production. They were trying to get this machine fixed but couldn’t. Finally they called in a consultant who looked at it real careful. And then he pulled out a can of red spray paint and put a big X on the side of the machine. And then he pulled out a sledge hammer and he whammed that red ‘X’ right in the middle. And the machine started working! He sent them an invoice: $10,000. Well the folks that hired him were like, “What do you mean $10,000? You were only here for like, twenty minutes! Can you at least send us an itemized bill?” He said, “Ok, I can send you an itemized bill.” The bill came. Spray paint: $20. Sledgehammer: $80. Knowing where to put the X: $9,900.

That was the value; just like Glenn’s value was knowing exactly where and how hard to hit the back of my car to fix that dent in an instance.

If you’re part of a group having to make decisions about how to spend money, it’s tempting to want to base those decisions on hourly rates or cost of materials. Those are tried and true methods. But if some solution is going to come along which seems to have little baring on cost of materials or an hourly rate but gets you a fix in a hurry, that’s worth considering.

One way to access value is NOT looking at cost of material or hours spent but look at the alternative cost. In the case of that factory, the alternative was costing tens of thousands of dollars a day. In the case of this dent on the back of my car, the alternative was to spend two or three hundred dollars on Glenn and be without my car for a few days. So I whipped out my wallet and I offered to pay Glenn a hundred dollars on the spot because for me, that was good value even though it only took him five to ten seconds to fix it.

I’m just offering that there are different ways to think about value and don’t be tethered to the old fashioned ways. If you’ve got a solution that’s going to get the job done cheaper and more effective than any other solution, that’s all you need to know. Go for it.

I hope this helps you and your group make good decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody.

Oh, one more thing. A little plug for Glenn’s Auto Body, Route 125, Durham, Maine.