successful agile teams

Successful Collaborative Leadership

In some cultures, it’s a badge of honor to be participating in three virtual calls at the same time, or be multitasking during a meeting, or even be running between meetings.

Yet, behaviors such as these are a reflection of organizational flaws in the way we meet. When you’re trying to collaborate on a project, but you don’t quite have the time to be fully present, it can disrupt the whole group process and cost the team time.

There are many ways we can prevent and correct bad meeting habits, while simultaneously making effective use in the way we come together in an organization. It starts with setting the intention to collaborate. And the good news is that collaboration doesn’t have to take all that much time – it simply requires a little forethought by the Facilitator.

So what does successful collaborative leadership look like, exactly? Here are five things that a facilitator should know before going into a meeting.

Who Does The Meeting Serve?

A meeting should have at least one sponsor (a person or group of people who will be the primary beneficiaries of the outputs of the meeting). Sometimes, this may be the person who asked for the meeting. In a retrospective, the team is often the group who will benefit the most from the output, so they become the “sponsor” of the meeting.

What Does “Success” Look Like?

Before the meeting, interview the sponsor and ask them: What will we have accomplished at the end of this meeting that would make it successful? It’s hard to be successful if there isn’t an agreed upon definition about what success will look like.

In the case of a retrospective, talk with the team or survey them prior to the meeting to find out what they would like to achieve in the meeting. It can help focus your retrospectives and give you different topics to talk about, aside from the typical “what worked” and “what do we want to keep/change.”

Who is Needed At The Meeting?

Not everyone who attends each meeting needs to be there, and not everyone who needs to be there is always there. This can be a source of great frustration for meeting participants and facilitators, and it’s often a source of dysfunctional behavior in the meeting.

Get clear on who needs to attend and confirm their commitment to attend in advance. If these critical people can’t make it, then reschedule the meeting for a time when they can. If others are showing up just to hang out, politely ask them to go because they’re not needed.

How Will We Accomplish The Outcomes?

Successful group meetings don’t just happen. They require some level of process design, depending on the desired purpose and outcomes. If the meeting is a daily standup, then little to no design may be required because it’s a quickly facilitated dialogue.

However, a retrospective to address some challenging team dynamics during the last iteration may require 4-6 hours of planning and design time, on average. It includes:

  • interviewing the team
  • crafting an agenda (a series of questions that will be asked of the group)
  • designing the facilitator script
  • deciding the group process (brainstorming, mind mapping, facilitating dialogue, etc.) that you will use to reach each desired outcome

This level of planning gives the facilitator and the participants a clear focus on the purpose of the meeting and keeps everyone on track. Without a clear plan, meetings can quickly start to spin into details or unrelated topics and never reach an outcome or decision.

How Will The Plan Adapt to Change?

As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

The facilitator’s guide is an excellent tool, but oftentimes, the most valuable part is in the creation. Don’t be so tied to your plan that you can’t adapt to what’s happening real time with your team!

How do you create intentional collaborations? What are some ways you that would help you begin with an end in mind?

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