Moving from Ideas to Action: Nine Simple Ways for Workshops

In author Daniel Pink's most recent "infrequent and irreverent" enewsletter (you should subscribe), he highlighted six book recommendations in a simple, but powerful way: sharing a core idea from the book's content and his take (or one from the book) on how to put it in action. By making these takeaways explicit, Pink helped me determine if I might wish to read the book itself.

Moving from ideas to action is a goal for many (if not most) learning experiences and content in all forms.  Yet often we leave this up to readers or learners to do for themselves. Nothing is wrong with doing so, but in our information-overloaded world, we may wish to emulate Pink's approach to increase the value of the content we share.

Let me model doing so with this post.  The Idea: using an Ideas+Action summary to increase the value of a learning experience and to facilitate insight sharing among workshop participants.

The Actions: Here are ways to use this format and tool during an in-person session.
  1. Create a workshop handout with multiple Idea+Action spaces. Throughout your program (after major content blocks, before a change in topic, or at other logical intervals) invite participants to reflect on the session and to complete one or more Idea+Action blocks to capture their learning. Here's a PDF of a takeaway sheet I used for a recent masterclass that is similar in spirit.
  2. In the workshop outline/schedule shared with participants list the core idea for each content segment and provide a blank action space for participants to complete as the session progresses.
  3. Make Idea+Action cards. Have learners complete and post during a session. Invite people to browse others' learning during breaks or schedule a "Gallery Walk" for them to do so as a part of your actual session content. Scan all cards and distribute a PDF of them post-session.
  4. Or do a rapid "read and pass" of all the completed Idea+Action cards. Have people pass their card to another, read the one they are given, and then repeat until time is called and cards are returned to their creators (make sure to add names to cards to facilitate this).  To add a bit of physical energy you could have people stand during the exercise.  People also could dot vote on ideas they really like and top vote-getters could then verbally expand on their thinking.
  5. You could pair people for a Think-Pair-Share. Individuals note an idea on a card and then trades cards with
    their partner who then completes the action section. Cards are swapped back and the ideas are discussed. Pairs could join together, swap cards, note additional possible actions, return cards, and discuss.
  6. Mindmap the ideas+actions. Provide a mindmap with all of the ideas noted. Participants branch off the ideas noted and add actions associated with each one. The mindmaps could be personal size, poster size for tables to complete as a small group, or mural size to decorate a wall in your meeting room.
  7. Do an Ideas+Action Drawing. Have participants complete cards and place in a box or bowl when instructed.  Periodically during your session draw a few completed cards, give a prize to the people who submitted them, and invite them to expand in their takeaway.
  8. Display a core idea as a slide and invite participants to Tweet corresponding actions using a specific hashtag to facilitate post-session searching.
  9. Engage small groups in moving from ideas to actions. Provide a few cards to small groups and have each group's reflect on a content segment and note one core theme/idea per card. Have groups swap their cards with another group. Each group now notes possible actions related to the ideas on each card. Repeat this swapping process as desired.  
    What are other simple ways you find effective to facilitate workshop participants capturing core ideas and identifying useful actions?

Five Tips for Giving "Good Interview"


Three interviews in seven days. That hasn't happened to me in a long time. But in the past week, I was interviewed for a one-hour podcast and two magazine articles. In reflecting on these three experiences, a couple of takeaways surfaced that may be of use to you. The podcast, which focus on intentional professional development/learning and much more is available for free in the iTunes store.

1. Prepare to Be Present

Each interviewer shared 4-6 advance questions to help me prepare. Particularly for folks who are detail oriented, the challenge is to not overprepare. For a podcast interview that should sound conversational, this is especially important.

My preparation standard for each interview was the one I use when designing a workshop: prepare to be present.  The question to ask yourself is: What preparation (including reference notes) will allow me to be present, to be actively engaged in the conversation as it unfolds in real-time?

Maybe you need to think through every possible piece of information you will share. If that gives you confidence, have at it. Do overprepare, but just underpresent during the actual interview.

My notes were a single sheet divided into two columns: (1) key points and (2) stories or examples. For each advance question, I noted one or two key points and a practical illustration or two for each point. ProTip: I typed and printed this out in a large font for easier reference during the interview rather than rely on my increasingly poor handwriting. 

2. Pace Yourself

One interview danger is giving rambling answers that make it difficult to follow your main point.  But it also is unhelpful if you are so concise that your comment lacks color or fails to offer a good follow-up prompt for the interviewer. The sweet spot is somewhere in between. In face-to-face conversations, an interviewer's nonverbals can help us with that calibration.

Lacking those cues in a telephone discussion, I create a feedback loop for myself. Every time I start to answer a question, I initiate the stopwatch on my phone. This gives me a real-time indicator for how long I have been speaking and helps me keep my answers thorough, but not excessively long.

3, Get Comfortable and Conversational

Vocal inflection and speaking rhythm make a podcast interview come alive. Who wants to listen to a one-hour recording that sounds like a dry doctoral dissertation defense? The podcasts I find most compelling make me feel like I'm eavesdropping on a conversation among passionate people eager to learn from each other. To project that to a listener, it is important to get comfortable so you can be conversational.

When interviewed for the podcast, I was in relaxed clothing, with a cup of my favorite coffee blend, and seated in the most comfortable chair in my house: I was in my element.  For this interview I had printed out my two-column notes in an extra large font and taped it on an adjacent wall easily seen from my chair. Why? I wanted my hands free so that I could gesture just as I would in an actual conversation. For part of the recording, I even stood while talking to bring even more energy into my voice and responses.

4. Provide Implications and Applications

You want to convey both your personality and the content or insights that readers or listeners can use. To ensure the latter, make an effort to include the so what (implications) and now what (applications) for any ideas or trends you share. Readers and listeners are bombarded with content. Help them to see the relevance of your key points and how they can use your information. Here's an example from a question I was asked for one article: What is one of the best investments an organization can make to enhance the participant experience at its conferences?
My key point (the what): Too many presenters lack training in how to present. Better speaker preparation can yield great returns for a relatively low investment

Implication (the so what): Subject matter experts often lead conference sessions. While they may possess content mastery, they often are less confident and capable in designing meaningful ways to engage participants with it. Session quality is uneven and participants don't get the knowledge they seek.

Application (the now what): I recommend at minimum three simple speaker support resources: (1) teach the fundamentals of great session design and facilitation in a live webinar and/or on demand video clips, (2) provide "before and after" outlines showing transforming traditional session designs into more engaging learning experiences, and (3) gather and publish practical tips from your top-rated volunteer speakers.
5. Offer a Memorable Shareable

No pressure, right? But just as a conference speaker tries to create at least one catchy takeaway that participants share on social media, so does a good interview subject proffer at least one interesting sound byte that an editor jumps to use as an article pull quote.  Help them out by crafting a memorable way to express one of the points you hope has staying power with the audience.

What else have you found helpful to make yourself a better interview?



When Honesty Seems Too Risky

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“I’m not sure people are going to be honest here. It’s too risky.”

I’ve lost count how many times this comment surfaces on advance surveys and in real-time conversations. People perceive speaking their mind in the presence of others to be risky.

Sure. We’ve probably all done that risk/return on investment calculation in our minds.

How will I be perceived if I say this?
Everyone else seems to be OK with this, so should I just keep quiet?
I don’t want to be the only one advocating a different path.
I have to be careful since my boss (or other power party) is in the room. 

But what about the risk individuals and group assume when perspectives aren’t shared, yet decisions are still made? What about the long-term consequences of people learning to keep silent when they really want to speak? We pay a very real price if we do not create a culture where a lack of honesty is also seen as risky.

When I’m facilitating a meeting or workshop, I don't question people who say they fear speaking out. It is their truth.

But if people don’t feel they can speak honestly in a discussion, this then becomes the focus of the discussion I first facilitate. 

Here are some of the questions I ask of both the participants, as well as myself.  In some cases, the lack of trust present does not allow for a particular question to be discussed openly, so I have participants note responses anonymously which I then read them aloud to the group.

These questions are not listed in a particular order. I select the sequence in real-time that matches the participants’ needs, our purpose for convening, and how the subsequent discussion unfolds. I welcome your suggestions for other questions in the comments.

  • If one or two people express that honest opinions are unlikely to be shared, do others feel the same? If not, what causes this difference in perceived level of safety and willingness to speak freely?
  • For whom might it be risky to speak honestly and why?
  • Is the challenge with this issue only or others as well?
  • What is the group’s experience with honest discussions on difficult issues? Are there positive examples we can draw learning and strength from for this discussion?
  • What margin of safety would enable greater honesty?
  • How can we create this margin of safety? What is required of individuals? Me as facilitator? The group collectively?
  • Is this a question/topic that participants value enough to challenge themselves, to speak more freely than they might normally do or initially feel comfortable doing? In other words, do people see progress on the issue meriting the potentially high stakes conversation and perceived personal risk?

This last question is an important one. When people want progress to happen and that the issue truly matters, they often are more willing to speak more freely than they initially feel comfortable doing. Absent feeling that the question matters, people often remain more silent even after other adjustments are made to the group process to increase perceived safety and comfort.

Unsurprisingly, members of a group often have different perceptions on how risky it is for them to contribute freely. Tenure, title, and trust are just three of the factors associated with these differences.  

To move group members beyond debating whether or not it is too risky to speak up, I often ask each participant to finish the following: 

"To speak open and honestly, I need _________." 

With responses phrased as a personal expression of need, it seems to help people accept that individuals are in different places and that risk is not perceived equally. They can they support their colleagues as requested.

Trading Cards for Trading Tips

Illustration Copyright: kibsri / 123RF Stock Photo


What do restaurant servers and conference participants have in common?  They love coming home with lots of tips! 

Here is a ridiculously simple way you can enable a greater exchange of ideas at your next meeting, conference or event ... along with some variations to help you achieve other objectives: trading cards with topical tips from peers.

The Benefits
  • Facilitates informal interaction among both introverted and extroverted participants.
  • Enables wisdom sharing from experienced leaders in your profession and organization, as well as individual participants.
  • Offers a fun activity (collecting tips trading cards) that can be sustained throughout a multiple-day event.
  • Serves as a possible annual activity that can turn into a popular tradition.
  • Is an easy way to widely collect individuals' practical knowledge by issuing an open call online.
  • Captures content that can be repurposed in other forms after the conference ends.
The Process
Tips Card from the 2016 ABA Bar Leadership Institute

  • Brainstorm the long-term and short-term possibilities for trading tips cards to generate member value in the areas of community-building, networking, idea-sharing, and learning goals.
  • As with any project, set appropriate goals and objectives, identify evaluation metrics, and craft the action plan to achieve your goals and objectives including specific tasks, timelines, and resource personnel.
  • Collect tips that will support your overall goals and objectives. Craft appeals to possible audiences from which to solicit tips: open call, individuals who have served or are serving in leadership positions, subject matter experts, young leaders or student members, underrepresented voices, award winners, et al. 
  • Create a simple multi-purpose card design for individual tips, one that will look good in print, online, and in slides.
  • If desired, sort and/or tag tips by audience, topic, type, or other relevant search criteria.
  • Plan for how, to whom, and in what quantity you will distribute hard copy tip cards. Design any activities that will use the cards and prepare facilitators to lead the activities.
  • Prepare tip cards in final form(s) for production. Print appropriate number of hard copies. An affordable way to produce high quality four-color tips cards is to use one of the many online postcard printing sites.
The Engagement Options
  • Engage your community (online or at a conference) in selecting favorite tips using judging criteria you offer.  Think broadly about possible recognition categories. Recognize this selection by noting it on tip cards prior to printing or by adding a ribbon or notation in a tips display at a conference.
  • Use tip cards as a business partner sponsorship opportunity. Let sponsors select a tip they'd like to sponsor and pay for the printing of that tip card. Let them add their logo, and space permitting, a tip from their own experience. Sponsors handing out tips cards at their exhibit hall booth might help increase traffic.
  • Print tips in various quantities, so that certain tips are limited edition, making them more desirable for people to obtain. Think of pin collecting/swapping at conferences or reunions.
  • Include special tip cards from your current award winners and distribute those only at the awards ceremony helping spotlight the value award winners offer to people in the room who may not know them.
  • Use swapping tips cards as part of a community-building exercise early in your conference. Have blank cards available and ask participants to note a tip of their own to share. My Power Prospecting format would work well here.
  • Print up a complete set of tip cards on a higher quality cardstock and sell them as a limited edition fundraiser for your philanthropy or foundation and/or offer as a recognition gift to donors at a certain level.
  • Leverage the value of the tips cards at both the start and end of a conference. At the start, have participants form small groups and share the tips they most seek: "I need ideas on how to ... " Then engage the entire room in swapping tips cards, challenging participants to seek tips that their small group colleagues might value before returning to their small group to share the tips they collect.  At the end of the conference, have individuals look though all the tips cards they collected during the event and select the 2-3 they first plan to implement. Then engage them in sharing those tips with other participants.

How else could you (or have you) used simple tips trading cards to help your members, colleagues, or conference participants obtain the ideas and insights they seek?


Avoid Unforced Errors



On March 26, I received a direct mail promotional postcard inviting me to "Register Now" for a special promotion with the hotel chain I most frequent. Always eager to rack up extra points, I immediately went online to the registration page specified on the postcard.

404 Error The page you requested cannot be found.

Ugh. I fired up a second web browser and tried the link. Same result. Fingers crossed, I tried again with the third browser on my laptop, but to no avail.

On Twitter I reached out to the hotel chain's social media staff to inquire why I was unable to access the promotion they had enticed me to pursue.  To their credit, they responded fairly quickly:

"You cannot register for this promotion until April 1. Please try the web link at that time."

I imagine hundreds (if not thousands) of loyalty program members went through this same frustrating experience. 

The brand committed an unforced error.

As a young tennis player, my instructors railed about the evils of unforced errors.  What is an unforced error? The common dictionary definition is:
"a missed shot or lost point (as in tennis) that is entirely a result of the player's own blunder and not because of the opponent's skill or effort"
Forced errors are understandable because an opponent plays a shot so good that your return goes out of bounds or you are unable to get to the ball. Your opponent earns the point. Unforced errors are our own fault and should be minimized at all costs. They give away points. We frequently can anticipate them ... and plan to avoid them.

A common unforced error in tennis is the double fault. You hit your first serve hard and miss. Rather than take the same risk on the second serve and lose the point, you opt for a higher percentage serve, one with a greater margin of safety. Doing so gets the ball in play and makes your opponent win the point by hitting a better shot that is a clear winner or forces an error on your part.

The hotel chain committed a major unforced error by inviting us to join a promotion not yet open. Perhaps the bulk rate postcard mailing arrived sooner than planned, but smart organizations anticipate unforced errors and act to avoid them.  To avoid the unforced error, the company could have increased the promotional launch's margin of safety by:
  • Indicating on the promotional postcard that registration would be live on April 1, possibly playing off the April Fools Day connection: "No joke. On April 1, you can start earning bonus points for all your stays through June 30."
  • Instead of producing a 404 web page error for people trying to access the registration page prior to April 1, a more welcoming temporary placeholder could have appeared: "Oops. You got here a bit early. We can't wait to register you for this promotion on April 1. We welcome you to return at that time."
I hate to lose.  But I really hate losing when I essentially beat myself because of unforced errors. We want to make other people beat us, losing because we encountered an opponent with superior skill.

Action item: at an upcoming staff or board meeting, take time to discuss the idea of unforced errors, brainstorm some your organization may be making now,  and then put systems in place to eliminate or minimize them.

Conference Design: Focus on Function, Not Just Form


“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains or the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”
—Steve Jobs, Founder and CEO, Apple

It used to be that most American homes came with a formal dining room, a room designated for a specific purpose, but rarely used beyond it.  It was a waste of space.

More contemporary home design begins with an understanding of the way the homeowners live and the activities their space must support: eating, socializing, consuming media, sleeping, working, exercising, gardening, and many more.  Just because you will be eating doesn't mean you need (or want) a room for that purpose alone.  The same is true for the home office.  At one time, you may have wanted a specific room for office purposes because you needed the designated space for a desk, a desktop computer, a printer, a filing cabinet, and much more.  Now you can get by with just a few shelves or a small closet given our adoption of laptops and tablets.

Just as this trend in home design can inform the design or remodel of office space, so can it inform our design efforts for multiple-day leadership and learning experiences.  Begin with gaining some clarity around the activities/functions people will want to engage in as a part of your event and the value those activities presumably create.  Then identify ways to infuse and integrate the activities and the throughout the experience, not just in an isolated timeblock specific to one purpose.  Having a networking reception is nice, but creating multiple networking opportunities in general sessions, breakouts, and at meals is even nice. 

Once that is accomplished, dig deeper into the value being sought behind the activities that attendees will want to engage it at the event.  Networking, for example, embraces multiple value propositions: finding someone who can give me a job, finding a business partner for a service my organization needs, diversifying my professional network in general, et al.  Once possible value propositions for any specific function/activity have been identified, look at all the various forms you can leverage to help attendees acquire that value beyond your usual defaults.

In addition to this general emphasis on functions, the value behind them, and diversifying the forms you consider in your design, the following more tactical design questions can help develop a more valuable conference and learning experience.
  1. What are the "must includes" in the gathering?  Think from both a content and a people standpoint: we need to cover this information/these topics, provide these types of learning opportunities, make sure these people have visibility in front of the entire group, involve these folks as presenters, etc.
  2. What are the "it would be nice to includes"?  Example: 10-minutes of comments from the organization's president.
  3. What are the logistics constraints we need to operate under (start and finish times each day, meals, budget, etc.)?
  4. What would you most like people to be saying about their conference experience after it concludes and how they feel about the organization and their role within it?
  5. What might be possible/desirable to do before the event and as a follow-up to strengthen the experience and the overall results you'd like to achieve?
  6. What are your overall desired learning outcomes, the knowledge you want people to leave with, and the actions you want them to feel capable of taking?
  7. Are there any "wild ideas" you've been thinking about that we should introduce into the mix?
  8. What are the unique characteristics of your attendees that should inform the design and delivery of the leadership conference experience?
  9. How can we maximize the interaction among participants, support any collaborative endeavors, and increase their retention, sharing, and application of the content covered? 
  10. How can technologies (both electronic and in other forms) be used to help participants connect to each other, the conversations they value, and the insights they seek?
 What are some other conference design questions you find most helpful?

Threads Unravel If We Don't Build On Them


A recurring frustration with online communities is when people start new discussion threads for a question or conversation when one already exists.

Doing so takes up valuable space on the main web page of discussions, as well as in the limited "attention space" of community members.

Actively moderated communities sometimes merge duplicate threads, but this seems to be more the exception than the rule. Until web designers create sites that detect duplicate posts ("It looks like you're about to start a discussion that already exists here ...", the change needs to happen at the user level.

In other words, before starting a new conversation thread, I need to search and determine if one already exists. If I locate one and take the time to review previous comments in it, I can make a more informed contribution to an existing conversation.

While particularly relevant for online discussions, the same general principle holds true for face-to-face discussions. It can be challenging when people step into an ongoing discussion and share an opinion or raise a question that pulls the conversation back to a place from which it has already progressed.

So what to do? As participants in conversations, be they online or in person, we have an opportunity to engage responsibly.  Here are a few approaches I use:
  • Search online for existing conversation threads/posts to see if my topic already exists before I start a new thread. This often requires scanning beyond the main page of discussions and/or trying multiple terms in a search field. Organizations can help by using more robust search engines and by merging duplicate discussion threads.
  • When joining a group that has been operating for some time (i.e., a staff team, a volunteer committee or board), make sure I read appropriate background materials (meeting minutes, strategic plans, et al) and/or talk to existing members to build my understanding of past efforts and present context. Organizations can help with more effective new member orientations and easy access to relevant documents.
  • When unsure if what I want to add to a conversation is appropriate or helpful, I often preface my remark with "I wonder if ... " Doing so can make it easier for others to point out if my point was addressed in a previous meeting or otherwise redirect the conversation. Organizations can help by capturing key conversation themes in real-time and visually noting them for all group participants to see.
Stephen Covey is well-known for his valuable advice to Seek First to Understand. Then to Be UnderstoodIn the world of online communities and transient in-person conversations, a slightly modified corollary is Search First to Understand (what has already been discussed). We are more likely to be understood when our contributions to a conversation demonstrate that we have done so.

P.S.  When facilitating, I often encourage groups to adopt "Build on others' contributions" as one of their shared agreements for conversation.

Better Conversations: Inviting Others to Contribute

 

The invitation was extended, and she accepted.

And when she offered her previously unspoken opinion, the entire conversation temporarily shifted.  Some echoed her sentiments, building on them from their own perspectives.  Others gently probed to learn more. In the end, the insight she shared produced a new action item for the group.

How did this happen?

It began with a simple invitation, one I extended as the facilitator, but it could have come from anyone in the discussion: "Before anyone else responds, I'd love to hear from some individuals whose voices have yet to be heard in our large group conversations."

Inviting others to contribute is a gift, one that any individual in a group can extend. Used strategically, such invitations can ensure diverse voices and perspectives are heard and decision-making discussions are more robust. 

Here are some of the invitations I often find myself extending in my facilitation work, frequently prefaced with "I'd love to hear from anyone who ... "
  • might see things a bit differently.
  • hasn't spoken much yet today.
  • can offer relevant historical perspective on this topic.
  • has a perspective we haven't considered yet.
  • can offer a specific example of this concept.
  • can distill our discussions to this point.
  • has some data to contribute to this discussion.
  • knows how others might have handled a similar situation.
Extending invitations to others, either to individuals by name or open to all, can help bring into a discussion whatever an individual feels would help make it better.

As I have written before, effective facilitation helps make it easier for a group to do its work.  Anyone can, and everyone should, see doing so as a part of their responsibility ... regardless of their role or tenure in a group.

Like any invitation, those invited retain the right to RSVP "No, thank you." Accepted invitations, however, often bring forth new thinking and feelings that shift conversations in very beneficial ways.

In your next meeting or discussion think about what invitation (and to whom) you might extend to improve the quality of the conversation.

Loyalty: Do you understand the tie that binds?


Image source: Starbucks.com

Starbucks is changing its longstanding rewards program.

Some people are upset, even very upset. Other people don't get why.

I think the change—and the subsequent negative reaction—provide a useful reminder about loyalty and relationships.

Image source: Starbucks.com
Not familiar with the change? Here are the basics.  Previously My Starbucks Rewards card members (a free membership) earned a free food or beverage option after every 12 visits or purchases … regardless of the amount of purchase during each visit.

The new system taking effect in April requires 125 stars for the same benefit. Customers earn stars at the rate of two stars for every $1 spent during a visit. Starbucks says a visit's avg. purchase amount is $5 so only an additional visit or slightly larger purchase is required.

While people are complaining about the mechanics of the new structure, I think the underlying issue is the one worth noting.

The previous system fostered loyalty through interaction regardless of what happened in that interaction. It also offered both tangible and intangible benefits: Visit your Starbucks fairly regularly and not only do you get a concrete reward (food or drink free), but you also become a recognized guest, one more likely to receive a familiar greeting from your regular barista.  In this sense, Starbucks really can feel a bit like a Third Place.

By shifting to a monetary-based system, Starbucks has knowingly created a transaction-based exchange … even though this was an underlying premise of the previous system.  Even if we receive the same benefit for about the same number of visits, the terms of our loyalty relationship is one now based on dollars.  Starbucks will be loyal to you so long as you express your loyalty via appropriate financial thresholds. Starbucks has always wanted to make as much money off of us as it can, but that unstated truth is now front and center.
Rightly or wrongly, people feel cheated: "I've been loyal all this time and this is how you treat our relationship?
The change in metric really is a change in meaning: in how the value of our relationship is defined and the terms of the loyalty "contract."  Every organization needs to understand the agreements (explicit or implicit) it makes with those with whom it hopes to create loyalty. Does yours?

Interesting to note that the new program is simply called Starbucks Rewards versus the original name, My Starbucks Rewards. It perhaps unintentionally reflects the shift (real or perceived) in the power dynamics of our relationship with the company.






Two Questions to Make You a More Valuable Contributor



Master keys unlock every door. They are incredibly powerful.

When thinking about how to unlock the potential that rests within a group of people coming together to collaborate, I'd like to suggest two questions you can ask yourself, ones that function as personal master keys:
  • What contribution can I make in this conversation to advance our collective work?
  • What factors do I need to consider to successfully make that contribution?
In my experience, individuals who thoughtfully consider these questions and then act on their answers are more vital contributors to group work regardless of the group composition, its purpose, or the individual's prescribed role in it. Like a Master Key, the questions are universal in value. Let's dig a bit deeper into each one.

What contribution can I make in this conversation to advance our collective work?

Answering this question requires mentally stepping outside the group and assessing its current reality without judgment, much as a facilitator might:
  • What is happening? 
  • What is being said? 
  • How are people interacting? 
  • What is the mix of participation (both extroverted and introverted)?
  • Whose voices are not being heard? 
  • What perspectives are not present among the actual participants? 
  • Where does agreement or disagreement exist? 
  • Where is there understanding and where might confusion exist?
  • What's absent from the discussions?
Answers to these questions (and others you might generate) will help you identify what the group may need to make progress. You can then consider what contribution you might make to what you've identified as being needed.  This transitions you to the second Master Key question.

What factors should I consider to successfully make my identified contribution?

Your contribution will occur within a context and culture. Think about the action you've identified in relation to the following question in order the shape the manner in which you might the contribute:
  • What is the culture in which this group operates, as well as the culture of the group itself?  
  • What trust and social capital have you built with groups members and which ones?  
  • How alike or different is the contribution you want to make from how you normally act in this group?  How might this affect how it will be perceived or received?
  • How might your default style help or inhibit you successfully making the contribution you've identified?
  • How might you modify your tone, expression, language, et al in order to have people hear the value you are trying to contribute? 
  • What observable behavior and understood data can you link your contribution to and how might you build on what others have shared?
At first, working with these two Master Key questions may require great focus, perhaps even jotting down your thoughts.  But as you consistently do so with both intention and attention, the less perspiration they will require over time.

Postscript

When all else fails, consider consulting a "locksmith", someone whose personal qualities and/or experience with the group might help with a stubborn lock.