Ideas and Insights

Mind games: speaking to large groups

This week I’ve been working with a great group of people and a recurring theme has come up, something I come across often: fear and anxiety speaking in front of a large group of people.

Many people were confident speaking in front of a group early in their careers or as young adults, yet as their careers have progressed, despite their increasing capabilities in their roles, they find now themselves becoming increasingly anxious at the thought of having to deliver a presentation or speak to a large group.

Read more…

The sphinx

The airline attendant greets you at the door of the aircraft, with a warm smile and says welcome aboard. Throughout the flight s/he is pleasant, attentive and responsive. As a passenger you have no idea of their trials and tribulations, nor for that matter do many of their airline colleagues.

Nor would you expect to know such things.  The person is “in role”, as are each of their colleagues and the flight crew together operate as a team. They have a job to do. So it is with teamwork. When you are a member of a team you contribute not only to the joint task but you do so in role as a team member. And you do this no matter your personal temperament or the life issues with which you may be dealing.

High performing teams in manufacturing plants, mine sites, hospitals, professional service firms are no different. Invariably they are well formed and high functioning, they have the relationships and ways of working that allow them to be so. And well-formed teams have certain characteristics including active participation and contribution from all members with one another and to the task. But teams can’t form without this participation. Read more…


Well-formed groups

Good facilitators or team leaders often make managing groups look easy!

To those less experienced who find themselves in a role or position to manage a group to get an outcome – whether this is in a meeting, workshop or joint problem-solving activity, they quickly find how easily things can go off the rails. For example, the group can “take control”, particular individuals by their behavior can distract or annoy the whole group, and alignment or achieving decisions seem less possible at the end of a meeting than at the start.

Our colleague Michael Grinder, has provided us and all people responsible for managing groups some very useful and practical approaches to this common dilemma (Interactive Managing Groups: The Fast Track 2nd Ed, M. Grinder with M.Yenik -2011). All Michael’s work on groups is under-pinned by the concept that there are n+1 entities in any group, where n=number of people in the group. The group itself is an entity in itself and when working with groups it is best to manage at the group level, rather than attempt to manage the individuals.

The group – is it formed or unformed?

There are some observable behaviors in a group that tell a facilitator or leader if the group is formed or unformed. It is important to establish this because different tools are required to manage the group, depending on the answer to this.

The more well formed a group, the easier they are to manage.  It takes less energy to facilitate of a formed group because,

  • The group owns whatever problems arise.
  • The members rely on one other
  • When a disagreement arises, the people tend to assign positive intentions to those they disagree with

Grinder’s 6 signs of group formation are,

Observable behaviors UnformedFormed
Where the group lookAt the facilitator
At each other

Speed of transition of group into activities or sub-group workSlowFast
Speed of transition of group from activities back to focus on facilitatorFastSlow
How well individuals in group know each otherNot wellWell
Who is providing psychological safety in the groupFacilitatorThe group itself
Whether they respond together and in unison to a request by facilitator
Patchy responsesIn unison – as a whole

It is therefore in the interest of the facilitator to speed up group formation if it is needed.

The way to speed group formation: it is EASY!


  • Any activity that has everyone doing something at the same time (eg – getting the group to stretch together or read a key word or two off the board)


  • A group, especially an un-formed group, feels safe when the person-in-charge is competent. For example, the facilitator acknowledges that they know what is going to happen before it happens, or that the group, its history or its type of work is well known to the facilitator


  • The facilitator demonstrates they are comfortable with silence. And since “comfortable silence” suggests a high level of familiarity, it subliminally conveys that the group is already formed.

Y—Your Hands

  • When the facilitator represents the diverse sub-groups by using hands. Bringing hands together as she talks about the sub-groups, she symbolically blends the groups together.


Jill Tideman




Tips for improving contributions in meetings

Click here for a copy of some tips to help you make better contributions in meetings, enhancing the overall quality, effectiveness and efficiency of  meetings in which you participate.

Related Ideas and Insights articles are Breathing 101 and Go Visual!


The key – knowing what outcomes you want




In framing work with an individual, team or meeting it is always critical to know your outcomes first. This is especially important if you are engaged in repetitive social activity with a purpose in which the sheer repetition can, at times, cause you to lose sight of fundamental purpose. Realizing that the majority of work we do in organizations is with, and through, people it is important to recognize that there are three broad types of outcomes: rational, emotional and social.

Read more…


To be a Cat or to be a Dog?

Ideas_and_Insights_700px_cats-and-dogs2A useful frame to help us understand people, and their behavior, is the analogy of people as household pets – namely cats or dogs.


When you call a dog it comes; when you call a cat it has an answering machine and might get back to you later. People can be like that also. Other names for  a cat style of  behavior is referred to as being credible (think of a pilot voice); for a dog – approachable  (like the flight attendant). Read more…


Nailing It: Commitment to follow through


We have probably all been there…


Two weeks have elapsed since the group or team had their last meeting.  It had all ended on a bit of a high and there was energy in the room  to take action on the issues discussed during the meeting. But today you notice as your colleagues walk through the door, they are hurriedly scanning the minutes of the last meeting that they have just grabbed off the printer.  

As the meeting unfolds, yet again, the whole group is let down, and energy palls as the promised follow-up and action made at the last meeting, and documented in the Minutes that were emailed to all the same day – have not been done.


There are some absolutely simple steps you can take as a meeting facilitator to ensure that this doesn’t happen again! Read more…


Better conversations with your team – Part 4



So far in this series of short articles, which give guidance on how to improve the quality and effectiveness of your conversations with your team, I have covered 3 of the 4 steps,

  1. Preparation
  2. Starting the conversation
  3. Guiding the conversation

Now the conversation needs to be brought to a close. Read more…


Better conversations with your teams – Part 3


This is the third part in a series of 4 articles on a step by step guide to improving conversations with your team. After you have thoroughly prepared and got the conversation underway there are 4 important aspects to actually guiding conversations with your team.  Read more…


Better conversations with your team – Step 2

Master-for-Ideas_and_Insights_700px_group_of_3In the last newsletter I introduced a 4-step process for improving the quality of your conversations with your teams. I then covered the first, and perhaps most important step, PREPARATION.

But once that is done and you are about to get underway how do you start the conversation?

Step 2 – Starting the conversation

  1.   Welcome
  2.   Setting context and expectations
  3.   Check-in Read more…

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