Organize your message


speechMany of us have heard about the power of three items or 3 key messages, but most people have not been shown how to use this in practice. While it is easy enough to make a list and restrict it to 3 items, picking 3 items that make sense from a logical perspective takes a little more thought. Our minds are highly responsive to patterns. Knowing that we will hear 3 key points and then having somebody deliver the 3 points in a logical fashion is something we are more likely to remember afterward. It comes across as more credible when we are able to recognize a pattern in the delivery of the key points.

Maybe you are coaching someone on how to deliver more impactful messages. Or perhaps you are preparing your own answers to questions in a group setting or you are planning a short speech on an important change initiative or project update? This resource can help you. It aids in formulating your thoughts in a logical way, which enables you to deliver a message that is easy for your audience to interpret and remember.

model org message

 

Click on this link to download the model and also some examples.

The three key ideas you wish to communicate or the three top reasons why you suggest a certain course of action cannot be random or they may still fail to be memorable. The 3 key concepts should be structured in a way that would make sense to others so that they can easily be recalled after people hear them.

Grouping the 3 points in a logical way:

  • Three linked ideas like quality, time, money/costs; good, bad and ugly (see the specific example in the downloaded document )
  • Forward or backward motion – tell the story sequentially either from the present into the past in 3 steps or from the past into the future in 3 steps. For example: in the past, we used one process which worked, but since then many things changed to where we are today (with challenges and in need for things to change) and in the future, we will have additional challenges which simply requires us to make changes now. (You can fill in the details of your own message to explain the situation when you choose a structure that moves forward or backward in time).
  • Perspective – the 3 concepts move from a big idea to a small idea or from small ideas to big ideas/reasons. For example (out of) from this small team which will be impacted by the change to the bigger team and then to an even bigger group of people who may be impacted. (see the specific example in the downloaded pages)

 

org message structures

Use the practice sheet or template to learn this approach. It helps you to become more familiar with using this way of organizing your message or your answer to a group of people. Once you get used to how it works you will no longer need the template and you should be able to organize your thoughts while you are in the meeting or in transit to the meeting.

organize your message template

Some ideas of where to use this approach:

  • You are in a meeting and they are going around the table collecting everyone’s thoughts on a proposal (You take a moment to quickly organize your own response using this method.)
  • You have been asked to provide an update at a meeting, which starts in a few minutes. (Remembering this approach you are able to jot down your initial thoughts, choose a structure and then revise your points to fit your chosen structure of 3 points to make.)
  • You are attending a conference and have to introduce yourself or someone else (Using the structured way of choosing 3 key aspects to mention, your answer is memorable to the conference attendees.)
  • During lunch, some colleagues ask you why you support a particular proposal. (You easily recall the structured options and formulate a response consisting of 3 key thoughts to share after you have swallowed the food.)

Listening to long unstructured answers in meetings or trying to make sense out of facts presented in a complicated way in a meeting can be a confusing experience. Using a simple structure with only (no more and no less than) 3 key points, makes it much easier for you to avoid the same mistake. Instead, you can use this approach to deliver a message that they will easily understand and remember.

Let me know how this approach works for you or the person that you are coaching!

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Team Exercise – This Picture Shows…


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This exercise is very popular with those who prefer working with images and pictures to express and represent their thoughts and feelings. While others may at first seem dubious about the exercise, my experience is that images and imagery often open up new ways of communicating, which could bring a creative element to your event and in the end everyone typically enjoys participating in this exercise.

The set-up is simple and the exercise does not take up a lot of time. It is also very versatile in the sense that you can use it in quite a number of different ways to get feedback and input from those you are working with in your event (training, meeting, workshop etc.)  I am sharing some specific options for you as facilitator to consider, but once you start getting creative with it, I am sure you will find many more applications for this exercise.

Tip: when it comes to selecting pictures read through my suggestions at the bottom of the instructions, but also get creative or brainstorm with a creative coworker or friend to create or find pictures that may “speak” to your participants given the context of the event or session(s) where this exercise is to be used. If you often facilitate sessions you will probably build up a good set of images to use for an exercise such as this one. More  “out of the box” (unusual) images could potentially lead to richer feedback from individuals to start group/team discussions. This could lead to vastly increased understanding of issues by participants.

The information you need for this group or team activity/exercise is shown below:

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Tips for new Facilitators


picture2Working with a group of people to accomplish structured outcomes previously agreed with a manager can be a daunting task. This is especially true when there are strong opposing views or a lack of communication (and listening!) in the group. I used to facilitate many sessions for a large global company and worked with a few colleagues who did similar work in other regions. The resource I am sharing contain tips received from my colleagues when I got started as a facilitator years ago. In turn, I have made it available to other new facilitators that I have encountered over the years. Now you can also benefit from this. (see inserts below)

Some assumptions made for these to be relevant:

  • As facilitator your workshop/session is part of a process. The session includes exercises designed to produce outcomes that would benefit the team. There is at least one (could be more) manager who have a vested interest in a successful outcome and who will also attend your session. These same managers are aware of the team and session process and have provided input to you in terms of their vision and needs from the process. Note: there may be more than one manager if you are facilitating a group process involving members of a client organization too and which may also be attended by the manager from the client organization.
  • Your role is to facilitate the agreed process and to re-agree next steps should the process somehow not be able to continue as planned or new information/changes trigger you to recognize that a change in timing/agenda should be considered.

TIPS for Facilitators:

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How to stimulate participation by session participants?

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Do a poll – where by raising hands people have to vote for one idea vs one or more other ideas
  • Count to 10 or more before you speak, let them bridge the silence with participation
  • When there is a question to you or a comment, defer it to the group – how does the group feel about this topic/question/statement?
  • Ask direct questions to specific participants whom you know (be sure) have experience in an area or on specific subject matters.
  • Summarize the points raised and ask the group to respond – agree or disagree? Correct or ..?
  • Divide them into pairs for a short discussion on a topic that pertains to what you just covered. (Gets them active after a period of perhaps monologue or exclusive dialogue.)
  • When the group seems lethargic consider an unscheduled short break
  • Do an impromptu energizing exercise (always have two or three of these in your back-pocket to employ when you see the need.
  • Expect some sluggishness in the period right after lunch for about an hour or so. Ensure your session design contains activities for this period – small groups etc.
  • Call it – sometimes a group is unresponsive, because everyone is thinking about an elephant in the room – some topic which should be discussed or settled which may not be on the agenda., but it is occupying the minds of everyone. If you know what it is, ask “Is ….. something we should discuss at this time?” if you do not know ask “Is there another issue that we should be covering at this time which may not be a scheduled topic?” [You would need to check in with the manager to ensure he wants to do it right away or later -schedule a specific date and time when he will deal with it. So call a short break if they tell you that something needs to be settled. To determine the”how” with the manager involved.)

These examples are not exhaustive, but they did help me out during those early years of facilitating sessions with groups and teams. I do trust they will do the same for you!

Cross Cultural Communication Exercise


colors-cultureCross cultural awareness and skills in the workplace are vital to companies striving to enter new geographical areas or aiming to build successful operations at international locations. Ineffective cross-cultural collaboration and communication in international teams have caused many global projects to under-perform and fail to reach desired outcomes. Luckily there are quite a number of tools and team interventions available by now to improve results in these areas. Today I am sharing an exercise with materials, which you can use to conduct a cross-cultural exercise with teams or groups of people.

This particular team exercise was developed in such a way that it could be used in many different ways and configurations. For example: you can use a simplified version of this as an ice-breaker during a team-building program or you can use it as a 2 hour-exercise in a full day training program on related topics.

In essence the objectives of using this exercise with teams or groups of people are:

  • To increase cross cultural understanding and awareness by providing experiences and discussions for team exercise participants
  • To prepare someone to enter or engage with another culture – such as those who will start to work with another culture, whereas the person/team previously worked mainly with homogeneous teams (you could make up a small group of people who are selected to receive cross cultural awareness training).
  • To help multi-cultural teams pay more attention to cultural differences which could make it hard to communicate and collaborate effectively.
  • To help team members understand where and how cross cultural communications could possibly end up with unintended outcomes.

Once you have reviewed how the exercise works, I am sure you will be able to come up with additional ways to use it with the teams/groups that you work with.

The exercise can be run with groups as small as 12 and you can also do this with groups of 30 people – should you have enough additional facilitators to support the coordination, support and debriefing portions of the exercise.

The materials needed include:

  • Culture-preparation sheets for different cultures – named after random colors (see below). These sheets are used by “foreigners” to this culture to prepare for interaction. This mimics information that one can typically find online or in books about another culture and which can be studied to prepare oneself before engaging with another culture for the first time.

manifest-culture-for-exercise

  • More comprehensive cultural sheets to help group members of a particular culture (as set up in this exercise) to understand their own culture. This means they are better able to act according to their own culture when they encounter another culture in this exercise. This material goes a bit deeper than surface-level behaviors to explain to some degree WHY this culture would do certain things and how their past beliefs and experiences have shaped them into the culture they present today.

GREEN CULTURE:

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RED CULTURE:

red-group-culture-exercise

BLUE CULTURE:

blue-group-culture-exercise

YELLOW CULTURE:

yellow-group-culture-exercise

  • Assignment to indicate to each cultural group what they are hoping to accomplish in the upcoming interaction/negotiation meeting with some members of another culture.

culture-exercise-instructions-1

culture-exercise-instructions-2

 

How to set this up:

With groups of less than 20 people I tend to just pick two cultures and not all 4. You may of course go with more than cultures – just remember to add more time to debriefing and discussion sessions after the exercise. Make sure that each cultural group has at least 6 members so that it is easy to divide into 2 cultural delegations of no less than 3 members. For example: If you have a group of 20. Split them into two cultural groups of 10 members each. Make sure each cultural group can meet uninterrupted in a dedicated space to discuss and prepare for their assignments. Imagine you pick the Red and the Blue cultures. Out of the 10 members of the Red culture, 5 will (after preparation) meet with 5 members (which is half of the members of the Blue culture) to work on their assignment. And the other 5 members of the Red culture will meet with the remaining 5 members of the Blue culture. You will have two intercultural meetings taking place between Red and Blue delegations with two different assignments. The Color name called out in the assignment information above refer to the traveling delegation. So in the case of Red and Blue – the delegation from the Red Culture traveling to meet at the Blue culture location will work on the assignment called “Red” and the delegation from the Blue culture that will travel to meet with the Red culture will prepare for the “Blue” assignment. Those remaining at the location to host the traveling delegation will prepare for the discussion that the other cultural team will want to have. (see graphic below for further illustration).

assignment-culture-exercise-example

Before starting the exercise I typically share some slides and have an overview discussion on the topic of how cultural differences can be viewed. There are quite a few models and slides posted online to help you with this part. (see two links below)

Cultural Differences links:

Trompenaar

Cultural Model

Use a basic framework of looking at cultures to set up the exercise portion, which comes next.

Share with the group: We will divide you into different cultures and we will provide materials to help you understand your own culture as well as other cultures that you may need to interact with. Each culture will gather in a different place to prepare for the assignments. When the preparation is done, each cultural group will divide into two parties. One party will “travel to” meet with a delegation from the other culture at their location while a delegation from their culture will “travel to” meet with the remainder of your cultural group at your own location. You will decide in your group who will go to the other location and who will host the visiting delegation at your own location.

  1. Divide the large group into an equal number of smaller cultural groups. (choose to work with two cultures or four cultures in each case pairing two specific cultures) Each culture group should have at least 6 members as they will need to select two small delegations to meet with one other culture. A delegation should have no less than 3 members.
  2. Having separated the different cultural groups (from the exercise) into different areas/corners in the large room or into separate breakout rooms, you hand out the comprehensive cultural sheets to each individual in a particular culture. Do not share this with other cultures. Only members of the group that represent for example the “Red” culture get to read the comprehensive sheet for the Red culture. Allow about 5 minutes for them to read through it.
  3. Now hand out the Culture sheet showing all of the cultures in summary form. Each member of each cultural group gets this handout. At the same time you verbally share with each culture what their assignments are in meeting with a delegation from the other culture. (see assignments above). They know which culture will interact with them. Give each cultural group about 15 minutes to study their assignments and what is shown on the Culture preparation sheets for all cultures vs their own culture in order to prepare how to approach interactions with them.
  4. Half of the first cultural group will “travel” to have a meeting with half of the second culture. Half of the second cultural group will travel to meet with the remainder of the first culture to engage in the assignment. Allow 15 minutes for delegations to engage and execute their assignments with the other culture.
  5. After 15 minutes ask everyone to come back to the large meeting room for a discussion and debriefing session on the exercise.
  6. Cultural group members sit together (both delegations) and discuss the following questions before reporting to the big group:
    1. In what ways did we encounter unexpected behaviors?
    2. How did their way of interacting make it harder for us to succeed?
    3. What would we do differently on this same assignment now that we have experienced the two interactions with the other culture?
  7. Each of the culture groups reports back on those questions to the larger group.
  8. In large group debrief further on learnings from the exercise and how team members may approach some team aspects differently when they are interacting with someone from a different culture then their own? Do they have tips and advice for others who have to regularly communicate or collaborate with those from other cultures?
  9. Bonus debrief points – if you have the time. How did the way women were perceived make a difference in the exercise? Do you think that it mattered whether the delegates were from a different generation? How would you advise others on how to take additional aspects into consideration when it comes to cross cultural communication and collaboration?
  10. Consider an add-on exercise where each participant is asked to jot down the areas where he/she may have had the most difficulty, questions or had the most insights during this exercise. Is there an area that he/she would like to explore further to improve own understanding or skills? This should be captured in the Personal Development Plan of each participant.

Tips

  • Do remember to mention stereotyping and how that can cause hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Avoid doing this trap while facilitating the exercise.
  • Be aware of showing any “funny” videos or clips that depict how cultures misunderstand each other. They are often based on stereotypes and can easily cause upsets. Humor is not universally interpreted in the same way by those from different cultures.
  • Define that in this case (Exercise) culture refers to national cultures, but clarify that there are several subcultures, which can also make collaboration and communication tough. i.e. operations and sales.
  • I recommend that you share the iceberg model, which helps teams appreciate the vast amount of cultural data which is not visible, but which can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations with others.

Some explanations:

Workshare – means that more than one office is working on the project. There is typically one office which is in the lead while other offices collaborate on the project. They all have to follow the same project protocols in order to avoid confusion and differences in end results produced.

Starting right – new manager/leader and team


new team leader

A new leader or manager has to quickly connect with the team and understand the objectives and issues around the team and their tasks if he or she wants to be effective in the shortest time possible. At times the team may know the person promoted to be the new leader or manager. The new leader or manager may also be a hire from outside the company or someone who joined the team from a remote part of the organization where there had previously been very little to no interaction with team members. In all cases the team members may have concerns and wonder how the new leader or manager will help the team and them as individuals succeed going forward.

The resource I am sharing is a series of slides which can be used to facilitate a group session with the new leader/manager and the existing team. The focus of the session is to help them accelerate the connection and learning that needs to take place for the team to maintain momentum and reach their goals under new leadership. The session helps the team get to know the new leader/manager and voice their concerns. The new manager/leader also gets to know quickly what the team issues are and how the team feels about progress and possible team obstacles to success, which enables him/her to more accurately set the team’s priorities and focus areas for the next few months.

Starting Right for new leaders/managers link here

The purpose of the group session is :

  • Clarify expectations of manager and expectations of the team
  • Clarify team vision and objectives
  • Identify highest priorities for action and assign owners to resolve and report back

The resource includes some instructions for setting up the activities and also some timing estimates. The slides contain a basic ice breaker/check-in exercise at the start of the session. Consider whether to change this activity for something that better fits with the group/team that you are working with.

Depending on how many issues the team has, the size of the team and how much they already know about the new leader/manager the entire session can take anything from 2 to 4 hours. If you are the facilitator you need to watch the time. Sometimes the first group discussion can take much longer than expected – when they share their answers. This means you need to plan up front : If they go over the planned timing for that portion of the agenda, will you let the discussion continue and defer the rest of the activities to a later date? Or what will you change to ensure you stay within the contracted time with the group while reaching the goals and objectives for the group session?

If time allows I strongly suggest that you include a team meal at the end of the session. This would allow for some informal social interaction between the new leader/manager and the team members, which further solidifies interpersonal relationships within the team and helps the new leader/manager have a good start with the team.

 

 

Checklist for Team Leader on International Project


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Leading and managing a group of people at a single location is not an easy task and managers often tell me it is the people-side that wears them down. When your team is very diverse and located at different remote locations instead of at one location, the challenges and risks of the team not reaching goals multiply. The resource I am sharing today is a checklist for team leaders or managers/supervisors of remote teams and it focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on the the people-side.

Checklist for Team Leaders link

The resource lists a number of items to consider when you are leading a dispersed team. This may be a useful check for team leads or project managers to ensure they are taking into account the additional challenges that remote teams bring and are taking the appropriate actions and precautions to manage the interpersonal and communications aspects on such a project.

The checklist items are grouped by the following main topics:

  1. Critical Skills for Supervising International Project teams
  2. Setting Goals and Expectations
  3. Giving Feedback and Coaching
  4. The team
  5. Communication
  6. Establishing a Good Start

Working with international team members can be very interesting and it can be fun to learn about other cultures and other perspectives. However, those same interesting differences can make teamwork frustrating and difficult. The checklist shared here can go a long way towards helping you, as the team leader, take advantage of leading a diverse team while successfully managing the harder part of leading teams.

 

Leadership and Trust : Training slides


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Trustworthiness is the undisputed main characteristic that we look for in a leader and frankly also in any other person we encounter on a daily basis.  Trust is a topic that is often discussed in a business context after employee satisfaction or engagement survey results are known in organizations. The topic also often comes up when leadership training or development is considered.

Trust and Leadership resource link

The resource that I am sharing here can be used in a few ways:

  • As a quick exercise (about 20 to 30 minutes) with meeting participants where Trust and Leadership is the topic of conversation or discussion. For example: in a meeting to discuss a recent employee survey where trust came up as an area to be addressed.
  • As a sub-section within a leadership training course where Trust and Leadership is an aspect of the course.
  • As a coaching discussion topic where it is important for someone to learn more about actions and behaviors that can contribute to being viewed as more trustworthy.

While these slides won’t teach someone all of the aspects of trust and leadership, they do provide a context for you to explore the topic and you may always choose to follow-up with more exercises or conversations about the topic in future.

(Note that the last “Slide” in the resource is not for display purposes, but for you to print out so that the small groups in the exercise have a way to capture their thoughts while going through the exercise.)

 

 

 

Team Activity – Defining Project Interfaces


Most projects are made up of several sub-groups of people. These sub-groups of people have interfaces with each other whereby they exchange and share information, documents and outcomes. They also provide and request support from other groups to start,complete and execute a project process. Most of the time project inefficiencies occur across the interfaces with other sub-groups on a project.

The best way to ensure efficiency and effectiveness across project interfaces is to increase transparency around assumptions that people within the various project sub-groups may be operating under and to test whether they are accurate and understood by others on the project.

Note that project interfaces can also refer to processes that involve others within the home office environment or the company structure. These “external” groups to the project may be setting high level processes and goals, which creates the environment that the project team needs to operate in. The diagram below shows how interfaces can be seen from a project perspective. The overlaps shown in the circles below indicate areas or processes where two or more project sub-groups have to participate in order to successfully complete the process.

team interfaces diagram

The Team-building activity that I am sharing helps various interfacing groups understand differences that may exist between how they think they should be interfacing with other groups and what the actual expectations from other groups are.

The Team-building activity to define project interfaces resource link.

This activity can be used in many different ways:

  • Clearing up interface issues among geographically dispersed groups working on the same processes or projects;
  • Clarifying how different functions should interface with other one another on a project, a work process or any other initiative/objective they are working towards;
  • Clarifying any differences in perspective among cultural groups or different shifts of people in the same function working on the same tasks as that function interfaces with other functions to complete specific work processes; (in this case it is a function checking itself for consistent execution of the same work processes performed at different locations or during different shifts.)
  • Getting clarity on how projects should interface with each other and/or the corporate groups they work with in order to successfully execute processes with multiple interfaces.

The reason that interfaces with other groups tend to be where delays and frustrations occur is because it is common for people to analyze and optimize processes only for the portion that they are responsible for. This perspective means they often overlook how their efforts impact others or how the efforts of others impact them and they fail to take the bigger picture into account. This activity will support efforts to improve the outcomes of inter-group processes as you work towards greater successes on your projects and initiatives.

Team-building Activity for non-homogeneous project teams


 

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Your project team is very diverse and you are concerned that this may impact how your project will be executed – will you be able to achieve your overall project goals or will there be a lot of internal strife, misunderstandings and disagreements? Will they work against each other and have the wrong assumptions about each other and the project goals and metrics? If so, this team-building activity may help.

The resource I am sharing is a team activity you can use to help project team members understand that different groups of people can have different views on the various aspects of running a project and also the relative importance of key project processes. This activity makes those possible disconnects transparent which helps you lead clarification discussions with the team/group. While the activity itself is quite simple, the discussion that comes after the initial assignment is where the value lies and that will take up most of your time.

The resource link for team-building activity, non-homogeneous teams.

Further tips and ideas:

  • You can segregate meeting participants in various ways related to the most important diversity aspects you wish to highlight within the team. As a variation you may choose to run the first part of the exercise more than once and each time segregating the group of participants in a different way. Options include: cultures, locations where they are from or live, level of life experience, function etc.
  • There are several topics listed for discussion towards the end and it would be wise to prioritize them for your own convenience, as a facilitator. If you are running out of time towards the end you can then ensure you are covering the most important topics during the time you have available after the initial portion of the exercise.
  • Be sure to stress that diversity is a plus for team creativity and finding new solutions. The objective of this activity is to help work out some of the downsides of diversity without marginalizing any one or group or impose judgement.

Non-homogeneous teams may be tougher to manage than homogeneous teams, but the pay-off in creating new and innovative team solutions coupled with individuals learning new skills and perspectives from other team members can be very rewarding. As a team leader or facilitator you just need to make sure you have the right tools, such as this activity, available to help non-homogeneous teams succeed.

Ice Breaker for international teams


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In our globalized world it is very common for employees to have regular contact with people from other cultures and at other international locations. When you are executing projects on a global scale it increases the importance of ensuring that communication and collaboration go as smoothly as possible in order to meet your project objectives. You may be surprised to learn that even seemingly basic project concepts could have different interpretations across cultures and sub-cultures. This exercise that I am sharing with you focuses on intercultural aspects of international teams and can help by clarifying assumptions and expectations at an early stage of your project.

The ice breaker for international teams resource link.

The ice breaker  can be a good item to include in a project kick-off meeting or when you are adding a few more people from a different office/location. This exercise also works well when you have team members who are from the same country, but participating from a different office. (It is not uncommon for offices/locations to have slightly different approaches). When I think of cultures I also include sub-cultures such as between different regions in the same country or different functional groups in the same company. (This link can provide context if you want to look at cultures more closely.)

The resource/ice breaker that I share lists several project-related scenarios which can be used to explore differences in approaches and mindsets within your project team. You may also choose to use the topic as an on-going exploration within your team where you could select one of the topics at each of your meetings instead of trying to cover all of them during a team-building event.

Early exploration of different mindsets and assumptions among team members can be a valuable foundation to ensure smoother relationships and better collaboration on your project.  Feel free to suggest additional important scenarios to consider for discussion after you have reviewed the attachment I shared in this post.