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Posted: July 29th, 2014

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Posted: July 17th, 2014

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Using Facilitation to Drive Change

Posted: July 9th, 2014

In the everyday business setting, managers regularly suppress reflection and discussion in favour of action because the day-to-day pressures of work make it difficult to take anything other than the short term view. Team facilitation provides an opportunity for to break from the daily activity and reflect on the bigger issues .

Facilitation provides an opportunity for groups to develop shared mental models by integrating data, ultimately leading to a course of action. In their book Facilitating Groups to Drive Change Bettina Buchel and Ivan Moss have carried out valuable research on when facilitation is best used and how to ensure success from the intervention. They conclude that facilitation is best used when there is low perceived urgency for change and low organizational readiness. In this event facilitated events are a key tool for any change leader.

X Axis: Urgency for change, Y Axis: Organizational readiness

X Axis: Urgency for change, Y Axis: Organizational readiness

External v Internal Facilitator
Through their research Buchel and Moss have identified the situations where internal or external is most appropriate.

An internal facilitator is better when

  • Good knowledge of the group members, other people in the organization and organizational culture is important.
  • Detailed understanding of the business processes and technical issues is important
  • Transaction costs of planning and managing the facilitation need to be kept low
  • You consider these benefits to outweigh the risks of the internal facilitator having less independence and more preconceptions of the issues at hand (and of the group having preconceptions and influence over the internal facilitator.

An external facilitator is better when

  • The facilitators autonomy is important, enabling them to be seen as totally neutral
  • Providing a challenge to the organizations thinking is important
  • There is an inequality of power, status and position (or verbosity) among participants
  • You consider these benefits are more important than the risks of the external facilitator having less knowledge and understanding of the business

The Value of 360 to Enhance Performance

Posted: July 9th, 2014

360 feedback is a mechanism to provide Leaders with feedback from colleagues and often customers, that will help them understand their areas of strength and areas requiring development. We have reviewed how 360 has been used in organisations and the circumstances required for it to be an effective tool.

Our research has shown that 360 feedback is obtained in organisations through a number of mechanisms

  • The collection of quantitative data occurs through questionnaires, on line or paper. A feedback report is produced and given to the “subject”
  • At senior levels One to one or group facilitated interviews are often used and the feedback provided to the subject by an external facilitator
  • Most organizations use a combination of boss, peer, subordinate, and less occasionally external customer input.
  • Unfortunately most organisations use the process as a once off exercise and it is not integrated into a development plan or revisited to assess progress.

Why 360 can be ineffective

Through our research we have come across many organisations which have invested valuable resources into designing a system, implementing and then falling down on the follow up and measurement piece which negates the whole process. Our research indicates that the process can fail for the following reasons:

  • Lack of clarity in defining the purpose of the exercise
  • Lack of leadership buy in, no clear champion
  • Lack of robust discussion around the findings of the exercise
  • The exercise being perceived as a one off without any clear linkage between the feedback and career progression or performance improvement
  • Lack of relevant communication with the respondents acknowledging their input and the changes they will observe
  • Lack of flexibility in the data capturing tool

Steps for ensuring an effective 360 Project

  • Be clear about the purpose ensure people know the context, the potential benefits, what will be delivered and what happens next.
  • Get Leadership buy-in. Start at the top. Identify a champion at the most senior level who believes in the value and is prepared to participate themselves in the exercise.
  • Communicate with all stakeholders, especially respondents and explain the importance of the process. Receiving feedback can be difficult for many people so identify those people who are most likely to resist and attempt to question the output. Spend particular time with them explaining the value and above all ensure the integrity of your project
  • Facilitate understanding. Once the feedback reports are completed provide recipients with facilitated feedback with a professional who can help identify areas for concern, strengths and development zones.
  • Measure improvement. Decide a date for a re run of the 360 feedback process and compare results and perceived performance improvement
  • Integrate with your performance management system. The purpose of the 360 is to provide performance feedback, it should feed into performance discussions and the identification of development need through the creation of a structured development plan.
  • Ensure you data collection tool provides you with maximum flexibility. There are many 360 tools on the market. But remember the tool itself will only be part of the success. Communication, facilitation and follow up are the other important ingredients.

The Top 10 Leadership Traits

Posted: July 9th, 2014

I have spent many hours researching, meeting and thinking about great leaders in organisations. In December 2008 I reflected on what distinguished the leaders of our current generation in both public and corporate life and created a Top 10 list of attributes. In the context of todays climate I have revisited this list, and it has been an interesting exercise because the lists have changed very little. Strong Leadership skills are enduring in both the good and in the more difficult times too.

  1. Strong leaders have a vision. I see this as a critical factor. For me, it is the starting point and the really good people I know have a vision that they can articulate and more importantly are confident in delivering the message to their colleagues. Vision should be interpreted in its broadest sense. It’s not just about the end state, it’s about the vision for the team, how you will work together, how you will conduct your business, how you will inspire others and sharing your ambition.
  2. These same Leaders work tirelessly at communicating that vision and do so with absolute clarity.
  3. They also surround themselves with good people and are not afraid to tackle poor performance. But they ensure that feedback is an integral part of performance management. With them, you know what you are doing well and the areas on which you need to focus.
  4. Good Leaders have the ability to think strategically and translate it into operational excellence. They take time to consider the future and understand the impact of that likely future on their businesses.
  5. They’re not afraid to take risks and will provide people with opportunities to develop themselves through risk taking and innovation.
  6. They know their limitations and work to address these through building the skill in the team, or through self development activities. They are resilient and exhibit drive, energy, courage and integrity.
  7. They consider the options, make decisions and take responsibility for those decisions.
  8. They drive change continuously.
  9. Being in their company is exciting and interesting.
  10. They are aware that they are role models for others and act in a way that sets the right example.

Organising Super Productive Meetings

Posted: July 9th, 2014

Our research shows that a considerable period of executive time is spent in meetings. Their effectiveness is often questionable but the attributes of meetings that are effective provide a useful checklist for executives.

An effective chairperson will:

  • Keep things moving rapidly along:
  • Covers each point on the agenda in order and in the alotted time
  • Involves each of the participants
  • Brings things to a clear conclusion and gets the necessary decisions made
  • Circulates an agenda in advance
  • Appoints someone to create action points with target dates and circulate these quickly following the meeting. Makes sure progress is followed up.

Objectives are necessary:

  • Every meeting should have a reason behind it.
  • Make sure that this objective merits a meeting, and that its attainment is worthwhile.

A list of chosen participants:

  • Keep the list as short as possible
  • General participation should take place only under two conditions, a general information meeting or launching a new project


  • Don’t be afraid to organise Brainstorming meetings. Appoint someone to capture points on a flipchart.
  • Display each new idea separately
  • Don’t criticise or make evaluations at this point
  • Once the time limit for new ideas is up, proceed with the evaluation process and keep three or four best ideas for further investigation.

Meeting Checklist

  • Only organise a meeting when it is necessary to do so.
  • Only include people who are directly involved in the problems to be discussed
  • Avoid interruption
  • Prepare a systematic agenda and make sure the participants stick to the agenda
  • Assign responsibility for topic discussions in the agenda
  • Start the meeting on time end the meeting at the designated time
  • Choose a chairperson to keep the meeting moving according to plan
  • Stick to the essentials, cut short unnecessary discussion
  • If a problem cannot be resolved, appoint someone to conduct further investigations and put it on agenda for the next meeting.
  • If you have to attend a meeting you can ask to be present for the part of the discussion that affects you directly.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for written reports instead of calling meetings
  • Always end on a positive stimulating note.

It’s not how you fall, it’s how you pick yourself up!

Posted: June 29th, 2014

I heard this quote from champion Irish flat jockey Mick Kinnane during an interview where he reflected on his decision to retire, having just won the 2009 Epsom Derby on the wonderful horse Sea of Stars. Kinnane ended his career with almost 1,500 winners and a string of victories on great horses across the world. Amongst other things from his reflections, I was left with a reminder of the “leaving” process, whether it is sport or business and how it is often best done on a high. Unfortunately, not everybody has this luxury.

His recollections were positive as he considered his success rather than his disappointments. He reflected on the importance of teamwork and the great success he had achieved. More importantly he looked to his future and how he would focus on training horses. It made me think of the many people who leave organisations and often not by choice. Optimism and confidence are important in these situations. The ability to overcome initial disappointment and reflect on your past in a way that draws out the positives is a considerable strength. Taking the time to consider what you have learned, what you have achieved and the challenges you have overcome, can place you in the frame of mind for building a future rather than lamenting a past.

In his interview Mick Kinnane reflected on the highly competitive environment of the racing world, he recalled the physical effort and the dedication required to be successful. He also recalled the good luck and the great people he had met through his career. When asked by the interviewer how he dealt with the bad times, I was taken by his answer he said “it’s not how you fall it’s how you pick yourself up.” Such resilience is something that can be applied equally to our life in organisations. The resilience to maintain optimism, the resilience to push on through adversity. The ability to see the positives, move on from past mistakes and demonstrate resilience by our ability to overcome the bad times and look forward, not back.

Delegation – The RASCI Tool

Posted: June 25th, 2014

Delegation is not just a matter of handing out tasks. If you tell your people precisely how to carry out tasks and give them no freedom to use their initiative, you are not delegating. Think of delegating as entrusting someone with the authority to make decisions and to act on those decisions. A simple tool often used in delegating activities is the RASCI. This tool enables you to identify the key responsibilities for each team member or key stakeholder.

You will also find this an excellent tool when managing projects or leading change programmes.

Taking each item or task you define who is Responsible, Accountable, who can Support you, who needs to be Consulted and who needs to be Informed of the actions being taken. The definitions are as follows:

Responsible [R] – This is the person or group responsible for performing a task. Ensure that you only assign responsibility to those necessary.

Accountable [A] – This is the person who is held accountable for the task being complete. Ideally only one person should be accountable for a task being performed.

Support [S] – These are people or a group of people who provide resources required for a task to be completed.

Consulted [C] – These are the people you actively engage with prior to a task being completed as their input is highly valued and they are key stakeholders and can significantly impact on your success. Essentially, their input is sought and factored in prior to any action being completed.

Informed [I] – These are the parties who are notified about a task after it has been performed. Their input is not critical to the successful completion of the task.


Consider the actions in your inbox. Do you need to be the person who is responsible AND accountable for delivery of that task?

Who else could you engage in moving the project or action forward?

How could you use the RASCI process to ensure greater clarity and accountability of key activities in your business and in turn enhance your ability to deliver excellence in service to your clients?

Be Careful what you wish for!

Posted: January 25th, 2011

We live in challenging times. More than ever, Leaders must display vision, and understand the importance of harnessing the talent of their people to build sustainability. Real Leaders persevere and look for the opportunities. They provide absolute clarity around objectives. Leadership is not for the faint hearted. (more…)

Happy New Year!

Posted: January 7th, 2011

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