In my executive coaching groups, I’ve proposed the question, “What is a Visionary Leader?”
The responses vary. Some describe leadership in terms of spatial orientation (“first through the door,” “stand with,” or “servant leader”) while others describe a leadership that is visceral and relational, having more to do with presence than position.
Below are some examples of each. It’s possible that, as a leader, you feel more than one of these, or some combination. Regardless, it’s clear that when people describe Visionary Leadership, they think of something greater than themselves -- something that is expansive, inclusive and multi-dimensional.
What makes a leader visionary may be their ability to switch between these styles depending on the situation, organization or project.
1. Leading from above
You may be tempted to think of “leading from above” as implying hierarchy (or worse yet, patriarchy). You may think of the traditional, top-down, “command and control” leadership roles of corporations past. However, what I hear when people describe this orientation is that the leader is put on a platform or pedestal by the team. This gives them someone to look up to and also gives the leader line of sight across organizational divides (see Vision below).
2. Leading from below
The best CEOs lead from the bottom of the pyramid. They know that they will get the results and outcomes they need through other people. This “servant leader” knows their role is to clear blocks and obstacles for the team in order to keep them motivated and productive.
3. I go first
Some leaders want to be the first through the door. They are willing to take the bullet or the hit to prove something to the team. These kinds of leaders might be described as pioneers or trailblazers. They might be the kind of leader who will show the team instead of tell them. These executives -- those leading from the front -- need to occasionally look behind them and make sure the team is still there.
4. Leading from behind
The rarest of these is someone who leads from behind. This is the pack-leader wolf who leads her group from the rear, monitoring those at the front, watching for attack from all sides. This type of leader makes sure they have a clear line of sight into the team, its interdependencies, weaknesses and threats. They make it a priority to have the right people in the right seats.
5. Standing with (or alongside)
This kind of leadership looks more like advocacy or mentorship. It may be described by others as “handholding” or “propping up” but this orientation puts the leader and team member on equal footing. Don’t confuse this type of leadership with the manager who would rather be your friend than your boss. These leaders show up as a thinking partner, collaborator or a coach. They bring a coaching mindset to bear on each problem, asking the right questions and allowing the team member to be responsible and accountable.
This type of leadership looks like a circle (or a dance) where the spatial dynamics shift and change with the phases of growth of the group. Traditionally, a circle or council is considered to be a more “feminine” (read: marginalized) model, though movements like Holacracy are attempting to bring these models into the mainstream -- and make the old new again.
1. Vision (Seeing)
These leaders are the eyes of the organization, seeing what others can’t. They have an ability to perceive and process large amounts of information, which gives them a birds-eye-view of the business and insight into team dynamics. (See “Leading from above”)
2. Heart (Hearing)
These leaders are said to have their “finger on the pulse” of the business. They spend time listening and responding intuitively to subtle changes. They are also said to be the “heartbeat” at the center of the organization that keeps the blood (energy) pumping.
3. Empathy (Feeling)
These leaders are described as highly empathetic. They occupy the interpersonal “we space.” They value language and human interaction. Their style is highly relational, emotionally intelligent and communicative. (See “Collaboration”)
Drop us a line to pre-register for Joran’s Visionary Leadership online course - launching Fall 2021
I’d love to know what Visionary Leadership looks and feels like to you. Please leave your thoughts or insights in the comments.
According to the Wall Street Journal, WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani recently said that remote workers are less-than-engaged with the companies they work for. Mathrani’s conflict of interest here is staggering as his business model clearly depends on people leaving their homes.
Then, Morgan Chase & Co.'s Jamie Dimon said remote work doesn’t work well “for those who want to hustle.” This contradicts a recent SHRM article which stated that:
You cannot tell me that remote workers don't have "hustle" or that they aren't committed. As I see it, there are only two downsides to an all-remote team. The first is losing physical touch and biofeedback loops created by being in the presence of others. The second is losing the opportunity for leadership's shitty ideas to go sour around the water cooler. Having that side conversation in the hallway or throwing some over-the-cubicle shade can be a necessary ingredient to determine viability and feasibility or to create stable bonds in the culture.
CEOs leading in remote environments risk fabricating grim fairy tales of how work is going unless they are surrounded by the inputs and outputs of the team.
I've seen CEOs make confident and horrible decisions despite the cost to culture and strategy.
I've seen leaders get caught up in their own bubble and believe their own bullshit because no one would push back.
I've seen entrepreneurs endlessly chase new and novel ideas, calling it "innovation."
I've seen too many bosses mistake faith, loyalty or acquiescence for buy-in.
Real alignment – real wisdom – is a matrix of legacy, mindset, certainty and inclusion. This is the mythical Zone of Genius. If you aren't leading from this place, you may very well destroy what you're building.
The Leadership Line (Uncertainty → Certainty)
Certainty in this case does not mean your personal confidence or optimism about your vision or the business’s prospects. On the flip side, I'm not talking about uncertainty in terms of futures, foresight or plausibility. I’m not saying that you should claim to know things you don’t.
I'm talking about organizational uncertainty -- a lack of vision or transparency, poor communication, no line of sight into or across divisions, low team morale/confidence, lack of alignment around (or commitment to) OKRs, etc.
Uncertainty in this sense is deeply felt and unmistakable. It makes the business (and those inside it) feel like they are floating on a loosely-bound raft, sure to drown at any moment.
Leading with certainty lowers resistance to change because everyone has enough information, there is transparency in the planning and they are confident that you’re the leader that will take them there.
The Culture Line (Exclusion → Inclusion)
On one end of the culture line, team members are excluded, left out of rooms or conversations they feel are important, and kept in silos.
An inclusive culture convenes the right voices around the table, puts the right people in the right seats, creates openness and psychological safety, and facilitates meaningful and productive dialogue among team members. An inclusive culture might look diverse or include different opinions or communication styles, but it always respects the individual and treats conflict as an opportunity for growth.
The Mindset Line (Fixed → Growth)
In her 2008 book, Mindset, Carol Dweck wrote that people with a fixed mindset avoid challenges, give up easily, see effort as fruitless, ignore feedback and are threatened by the success of others. Those with a growth mindset embrace challenges, persist in the face of obstacles, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism and find inspiration in others’ success.
Great leaders view themselves and others with a growth mindset. An individual’s mindset varies wildly depending on what their mind is fixed upon. Being able to spot a fixed mindset is the key to loosening it up and allowing for growth. Notice when your beliefs are telling you that something or someone is “impossible.” Possibilities emerge when you quickly reframe negativity.
The Legacy Line (Immediate → Generational)
This line indicates the depth or complexity of your decision-making. On one end, we find immediate and short-term benefits to yourself, your reputation, or business. These are quick wins that yield small- to medium-sized returns.
On the other end, we see decisions that take into consideration and may benefit the seventh generation and beyond. These decisions might be described as visionary, ethical, sustainable, or having a “long tail.” These require patience and deliver longer-term results, sometimes even beyond the lifespan of the founder.
From updating your strategy to scaling your team, growth is change and change is hard.
Visual Consulting (sometimes called Process Consulting)* is when a consultant is hired to visually “facilitate the organization to perceive, understand, and develop the organization’s business and human processes, in order for the client to improve the situation themselves, as they define it.”
This differs from “Expert Consulting,” where the client has a perceived and predetermined need and a consultant is brought in to share their expertise related to that specific need.
It is also different from “Pair-of-Hands Consulting” (or staff augmentation) where the consultant (or consulting team) is brought in to fulfill work that the client lacks the time or resources to deliver.
Visual Consulting is about teaching the client to fish, not fishing for them, or selling them fancy fishing equipment.
If you are experiencing the following, you may need someone to consult with on your vision, culture, story or strategy.
There are four things to look for when hiring a process consultant.
1. They are Process-Agnostic
If a consultant tells you they have an out-of-the-box solution, don’t believe them. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy. There is no killer app in consulting. It is dynamic, empathy-based work that requires deep listening and should include the wisdom (and the elements that work) from different maps, models and methods. A good consultant should have a belief in human potential and a passion for building capacity on your team, regardless of what book they’re reading.
2. They Understand the Process of Change
Look for a consultant that understands the positive and negative effects of change, what resistance to change looks like in individuals and groups, how to ease or work through that resistance, and ultimately, how to empower teams to lead themselves through change. If the change work (or creativity, or innovation) ends when the consultant leaves the room, they are not the right consultant for you. A good consultant strives to develop resilient, emotionally intelligent teams that are well-versed in the language of change and fire-tested in the crucible of transformation.
3. How They Do Anything is How They Do Everything
Take notes on the sales/discovery call and their approach to setting boundaries and expectations. Notice the way they organize information and their attention to detail. This is exactly how they will engage with you (and possibly your clients). If they are late, rushing, scattered, forgetting things, their tone is too negative (or jarringly upbeat and positive) this is not a good sign. A good consultant matches your energy, makes you feel at ease, asks great questions, and sometimes provides clarity and answers before you can form the questions.
4. The Proof is in the Artifact
They are a visual consultant, so look at their visuals. Are the final deliverables something that will be ready to share or distribute with your team/organization? Do they have visual impact? Will they be memorable or just another “dumb” report? The efforts and summary of your work should not only live on and easily shake hands with your implementation lead or strategic plan, but they should inform (or change) the way you tell your story -- internally and externally.
If you still have questions, let’s set up a Discovery Call to discuss what’s happening in your business.
* Source: Visual Consulting: Designing and Leading Change, David Sibbet and Gisela Wendling, PhD.
Guest post by Geoffrey Nelson, M Ed.
As virtual events and meetings evolve, we are discovering new uses for our tools. Murals, it turns out, can work more like game boards than whiteboards. Map-based murals look like rooms in a virtual space, each one with its own function and theme. These murals can look like chocolate factories or alpine mountains (check out the highly-stylized work of Benjamin Dehant). They can evoke a series of clearings in a dense, yeti-haunted forest. They can mimic a museum floor plan, complete with galleries of client work.
Map-based murals use spatial cues to deepen participants' engagement and focus.
Map-based murals support high-quality, high-value work. Like good architecture, their design invites action, directs attention, and fosters emotion. Architectural affordances like signs, corridors, and kiosks guide us through the mural’s virtual space. Implied geometry tells us that there is even more interesting work ahead. Sub-maps linked to the main mural create private workrooms. These nested workspaces are perfect for gamified activities. They heighten the excitement of competition we miss from live events.
To make a map-based mural, consider employing a designer or modifying a map or image in Photoshop. This fundamental image should be saved as a .JPG and locked down. Rooms in the design need plenty of space for your participants’ emerging content. Each room should give visual cues about its purpose.
Consider covering sections of the mural to build suspense and to hold attention to the task at hand. You can add an intriguing image or message to the covering element: a locked door or “No peeking!” Lock these down too. When you’re ready to reveal the next section of the map, delete the covering element or send it to the background. Alternatively, you may add elements (or backgrounds of entire sections) to the outline using the “Add to Outline” feature and toggle the visibility using the eye symbol in the outline.
This focuses participants on the visible content and unburdens their working memory.
Refer to the theme of a map-based mural only as much as it facilitates the work. People need to know how the theme relates to their objectives, strategy, or lines of business. Everyone wants respect even while they’re brainstorming in the forest clearing or slaloming the Alps.
As playful and fantastic as these map-style murals can be, we’ve never run into a credibility issue. We used map-style murals with Fortune 100 execs who loved the experience.
No one complained about the yetis.
Geoffrey Nelson, M Ed. is a people-builder, manager and trainer of creatives, and a conscientious process refiner. He leads talented people beyond their definition of possible.
Guest blog post by Geoffrey Nelson, M Ed.
When I discovered Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) in the fifth grade, I fell hard in love. The funky box art, the spooky dice, the idea of a story lived and a world discovered through the power of pure imagination, all took me in and never let go. Through Dungeons and Dragons, people like me began creating outstanding virtual experiences for their friends long before Zoom, the internet, and even personal computers were part of daily life.
Dungeons and Dragons was first published in 1974. It disrupted the toy and game space and became the best-selling toy of 1978, despite having no board, no pieces, and no winner. It also flew in the face of the emerging trend in video games. Pong had just arrived and it seemed that digital games tethered to TV sets were the future. D&D wasn’t about winning or losing or technology. It was about fellowship and story-making. It was VR before VR was cool.
A shared virtual experience doesn’t live on a screen or a cloud server; it lives in the minds of the participants. They cast visions together with their super-power of conceptualizing the unknown and unseen. Their ability to collectively imagine creates unique interactive and problem-solving opportunities.
Truly virtual experiences provide a sense of agency. When participants cannot affect change through meaningful choices, their experience is passive and vicarious, not virtual. Engagement, investment, and synthesis characterize optimal virtual experiences. In D&D, the participants’ choices shape their outcomes. The Dungeon Master (DM) describes the setting and situations, but the players decide the actions of their player characters (PC’s). What emerges is a memorable, enjoyable, virtual adventure.
A good D&D session is a highly curated experience. The DM considers lighting, sound, and insists on the all-in presence of the players. Everything the DM does is intentional and aimed at immersing everyone deeply in the virtual world. Distractions must be minimized; table rules for players’ behavior are as important as the rules of the game. Cell phones in a basket, people! There’s no texting in the Fever Swamp.
To be a good DM, you must be a rules expert, a compelling narrator, and a master of description. As the rules expert, you need to know how the game works: what the characters can reasonably do, what they absolutely cannot do, and how to determine the outcomes of their decisions. What makes D&D a game as opposed to a cooperative storytelling exercise is the welcome element of uncertain outcomes. Just as in facilitation, the DM knows the rules of the game but not how it will turn out. The more a DM invests in a particular outcome, the less meaningful players’ choices are. Without the skill and courage to manage agency and uncertainty, virtual experiences are boring at best and destructive or divisive at worst.
To help the participants make the most of their agency, the DM must master skillful narration. Good DMs optimize the pace and momentum of the game through their narration of action, reaction, and consequences. Players lose focus and act silly or nihilistic when they are out of the spotlight for too long or the narration feels irrelevant. The DM solves this by keeping narrations short and vivid. Once a players’ turn is resolved, the DM focuses on the next player. Quick summaries, frequent reminders of critical information, and occasional over-cuing are tools DM’s use to keep the game moving forward.
Just because the DM doesn’t know what the players will do, she must imagine what they might do. DMs should visualize various outcomes before the gaming session to anticipate what the players may need next. The RPG luminary Hankerin Ferinale creates binary nodes at critical decision points: if A, then B happens; if C, then D happens. Thinking ahead and planning for both success and failure won’t provide an exact answer for whatever the players choose. It will provide a set of options that combines and synthesizes with new information to create the next adventure node.
Finally, the DM must master the art of succinct, evocative description. This isn’t action-focused narration or storytelling, which resolves a question. Resolving questions is for the players; The DM’s job is to evoke a shared story-space full of meaningful choices. The story emerges as the participants engage with these choices. With the focus on surfacing critical content, the DM must make situations as clear as possible: what are the stakes, what are the dangers, and what resources are available? By describing just the right details to bring the environment and situations to life, DMs enhance essential player agency.
The quality of a D&D session can be measured by how vividly and fondly the players remember it. They will carry the experience with them, reminiscing about defeating the red dragon or the zombie invasion. They may make art or write stories about their adventures. Their real-life behavior may reflect something they’ve learned through play. These are responses to deeply engaging and impactful experiences.
Learn the lessons of great DMs to shape your facilitation clients’ online experiences:
Follow these guidelines and your clients will be able to bravely and mindfully engage their challenges, and their virtual experience will be memorable and valuable. They will be heroes in a shared story and enjoy the riches of the highest outcomes.
All coaching is the same no matter what you call it.
Whether you call it life coaching, executive coaching, purpose coaching, or creativity coaching, coaches identify growth and development opportunities. With executive coaching, sometimes the only difference is that the company is paying for it.
A coach is not a therapist. A therapist is concerned with things like safety, story, and setting. They are willing to focus on the past, listen to the client talk about their wounding and provide or prescribe tools to help the client manage the process of healing.
A coach is focused on the future self (or state) and accountability to the client’s vision of that future. The role of the coach is to see the nascent potential — the glowing ember at the heart of the individual and to breathe air onto it, fanning the flames of growth and becoming.
The goal of any coach should be to provide feedback on behavior, strengthen client performance, and nurture underdeveloped skills.
One former coaching client had scheduled a Walk and Talk session with me at a local park. She was in a horrible living situation, had been offered a great opportunity out of state, and was conflicted on whether or not to pack up her family and move — or stay put where she had laid down some roots and made some friends. We hadn’t gotten more than five yards when I needed to challenge some of her beliefs. She told me that my language was “triggering” for her and that she felt like I was telling her what to do (I wasn’t).
I stopped walking and told her we could not move forward until she understood two things:
I gave her a choice: Stop now, get your money back and find a different coach or we move forward and I continue with what you’re paying me to do — provide coaching.
She chose to move forward. She also chose to move. Her family is now thriving in their new home.
Sometimes, a coaching client will be dealing with blocks or obstacles. The most common tendency is for the client to see these obstacles as external to themselves — somewhere out in their environment, or maybe in the form of other people. In the rarest cases, like when a person is in prison, this is true. Most of the time, though, these blocks are internal. They are psychological. The aim of coaching is to gain clarity around these obstacles, getting objectivity or distance from them until they seem small and insignificant.
The highest outcome is that the client surrounds themselves with people (mentors) that are skilled at navigating these obstacles, and ultimately sees themself as someone who is skilled at navigating, confronting or avoiding these blocks altogether.
This is not the same as doing mindset work. Mindset is focused on the science of neuroplasticity and describes how the brain and mind respond to things like effort, criticism, challenges or the success of others. Carol Dweck has written extensively about the difference between Fixed and Growth mindset.
But, if we are not oriented to a North Star, performing our Noble Commitment in the world, fulfilling our sacred calling or vocation, or living out our purpose, why would we ever be motivated for growth? Why would we ever bloom where we are planted?
Coaching is the act of helping others identify that purpose and take control of their life in order to move toward that purpose. It is the art of helping others become the lotus and rise from the mud.
Most of the executives I coach want to feel like they are making meaning in the world. They believe there is “something more” to their work than the meetings, budgets, and bottom line.
They care deeply about legacy and are concerned about who or what is next. In the best cases, they have two people lined up behind them and are focused on teaching them everything they know. Some are lost — overwhelmed by strategy, mastery, empathy, or power. They know that if they are not in control of their lives or business, someone else will be.
Hiring the right coach helps you realize you are exactly where you need to be, that you are equipped with everything you need and that you can take control of your life or business. Simply being seen as someone who drives strategy, walks the path of mastery, fosters empathy and stands in your power is sometimes all we need to make it so.
Are you ready to be seen or acknowledged in this way?
Who better to be in control of your life than you?
From world-traveling author and musician to founder of a global interfaith movement to innovation consultant, Joran Slane Oppelt has blazed a creative and uncompromising trail. In addition to coaching and consulting CEOs at some of the world’s largest organizations, Joran (and his wife Jennifer) have started and sold two businesses of their own. If you are wanting to boost your accountability, work your growth edges, and really step up as the leader and CEO of your business, schedule a Discovery Call today and see if Executive Coaching is right for you.
Join Amplified -- Joran's free Executive Coaching group -- here.
Do I miss being in the room?
Yes, as a facilitator, coach and consultant, I miss being with people.
I miss the awkward silences, the reading of body language, the laughter reverberating off the walls, the high-fives after a big win. I miss the hugs after a really great breakthrough session. I miss struggling with the oversized Post-it Sheets, spilling the Sharpies and hanging the 30x40 engineering prints with blue painter’s tape.
I miss the side conversations. I miss the snacks.
And, I love the problems we’ve been able to solve as well as the solutions we’ve been able to build together using virtual tools like Zoom and MURAL.
MURAL is a digital workspace that enables innovative teams to collaborate visually and remotely. And, it’s fun. It taps into the part of my brain that loves graphic design (bringing harmony and emotion to a compelling composition), information design (where should my eye go next?) and even the 10-year-old part of me that would sit at the dining table and design board games.
Here are some of the different ways I use MURAL:
And, here are the top 10 Murals I created in 2020-2021 (and their outcomes).
10. OBJECTIVES and KEY RESULTS
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a goal-setting framework for defining and tracking objectives (aspirations) and their highly-measurable, time-bound outcomes at every level of your organization.
9. CUSTOMER JOURNEY MAP
For organizations with an emerging or reimagined line of business, the Customer Journey Map is a half-day virtual session that helps you make decisions that fit consumer and buyer needs in an environment that’s lively and productive.
8. STRATEGIC VISIONING
This academy needed to pivot all of their students and clients from in-person classes to virtual sessions - all while moving their offices within two months! We led a Strategic Visioning session for their leadership team using templates from The Grove Consultants, International. We also provided Executive Coaching for six weeks post-retreat in order to stabilize the operational plan.
StoryBrand is a marketing messaging tool that allows organizations to clarify their message using a seven-part process that leverages the power of story. Used correctly, this powerful tool can help your business become a valuable asset in the lives of your customers.
6. VISION BOARD WORKSHOP
Forget the magazines and glue sticks! In this fun and interactive workshop, we took inventory of our wins and accomplishments and set a bold trajectory for our big 2021 milestones.
5. VISION AND VALUES
For a quickly-growing team, this session included the creation of a Vision Statement, Mission Statement and the definition of Core Values. Using a basic Design Criteria (must, should, could, won’t) we identified key aspects of the Mission as well as themes that would later become the OKRs.
4. DiSC WORKSHOP
Using the DiSC Assessment, teams separated by style to discuss the do’s and don’ts of communication and leadership. A final roundtable invited the teams to share insights about the easy and magical ways they might work better together.
3. DESIGN SPRINT
This was a fast-paced, fun and interactive multi-mural event for the internal RIDG team. During the challenge, the participants received the resources and toolkit required to create a digital prototype, refine it, make their pitch and declare one team the innovation champions!
2. MY PERSONAL PROJECT BOARD
From sketching out high-level concepts and project planning to tracking my sales pipeline and outlining blog posts, MURAL has become my primary playground for problem-solving.
1. WILDERNESS RETREAT
This wilderness-themed retreat features a labyrinth, breakout sessions, dangerous animals, river rapids, a campfire session, gallery walk, and a hidden Bigfoot!
Do you need help building an amazing Mural of your own? Schedule a Discovery Call today. Call Joran at (727) 771-5656 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's the most important thing I learned in 5 years working at a consultancy.
It was hinted at when I became a non-smoker, it slapped me in the face when I became a parent, it was drilled into me when I became a coach and a chaplain, and as a consultant working with executives, it became so far cemented into my understanding that I now take it for granted.
It remains true across the board -- for CEOs, salespeople, accountants, administrators, artists, doctors, cashiers, students -- anyone who receives information daily through their senses and is tasked with integrating it into their attitude, outlook, strategy or worldview.
It is true for individuals as well as organizations.
It is true for teams, tribes and nations.
So, today, for whoever needs to hear it:
YOU MUST LET GO THE IMAGE OF WHO YOU ARE BEFORE YOU CAN BEGIN THE WORK OF BECOMING SOMEONE NEW.
You’re probably thinking, “that’s great, but how.”
Here’s the how:
You currently have an image or an idea of yourself.
Burn it, scream at an empty chair, write it out, sweat it out, but get rid of it until it stops showing up. Then grieve it -- cry, laugh, tell stories about it.
“Remember that time I …”
In my studies as a chaplain, I learned that before you can affirm, you must deny. Clear the hovel, tear out the weeds, scorch the earth, only then can you till and plant and build.
You must say (out loud):
Then, remove those environmental triggers or the people in your life who don't see your potential (the smokers or quicksanders who are angry and jealous that you've left them behind), those who would judge, ridicule, diminish or minimize your efforts to evolve and grow.
Surround yourself with those people (and voices) who are succeeding and making the change look easy. Organizationally, this may look like onboarding (or removing) the people who can't grok the new vision.
All the while, affirming:
It all begins with screaming out loud for all to hear (and sometimes destroying something).
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
- Stephen R. Covey
For as long as I have been around salespeople or sales teams, they have lived by (or been force-fed) the idea that they should listen more than they should speak.
The idea is to get the customer talking about their pains and needs. The more a customer talks about their pains, the more they reveal or confirm their emotional experience, including vital details about potential solutions. The more a customer talks about potential solutions, the higher the probability that your solution becomes part of the conversation. The more these words come out of their mouth (and not yours) the more they are involved and included in the act of selling themselves on the idea of your product, service or solution.
As Jeffrey Gitomer said, “People don't like to be sold -- but they love to buy.”
The same principle applies in coaching. From life coaching to executive coaching, successful coaches ask questions that get their clients talking about pains, blocks, limiting beliefs and bad habits. Coaches rarely give direct advice. You’ll hardly ever hear a coach say the words “you should.” The more the coaching client speaks, the more they externalize their inner dialogue. The more the client speaks, the more they are involved in “trying on the language.”
It’s a principle we see in Motivational Interviewing and “Positive Psychology” coaching. The more the client talks about what doesn’t work, the more a coach can respond with questions like “Is that true?” or “What do you really want?”
The more clients speak about things like change, potential, possibility and self-image, the easier it is for them to envision their desired outcome. Once again, feeling the words come out of their own mouth is them trying on these beliefs to see how they feel. The better these beliefs feel, the more the coaching client sells themself the idea of change.
I believe we can widen this analogy to include the art of facilitation. Facilitators are also tasked with asking questions (mostly to groups) and waiting for them to respond. The facilitator is in the business of selling – not solutions or ideas, but consensus or alignment.
If a facilitator were to present a group with a list of 20 vendors to evaluate, the group would be resentful and inevitably tell the facilitator where to stick his list. However, if the facilitator gently and repeatedly asked the questions, “How many names do we need?” “Who else might we reach out to?” “Who else might we include?” and “Who have we forgotten?” then the group will produce a list of their own. The group is then able to point to the list, feel good about the outcome and agree on the work at hand.
THE 80/20 RULE
The Pareto Principle (or 80/20 Rule) is named after economist Vilfredo Pareto. It specifies that “80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes,” disrupting what we think we know about inputs and outputs. It is a concept that cuts across many industries and theories of distribution. (As early as 1896, Pareto had observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.)
We now regard this as an unwritten law in business and leadership development. Where you exert 20% of your energy (or spend 20% of your time) will yield 80% of your results.
It shows up in nutrition and weight loss plans – eat healthy foods 80% of the time, and 20% of the time, treat yourself to a serving of something you love.
We see it in relationships – give 80% of your energy to your partner, keep 20% for yourself (and your personal, self-fulfilling activities).
We even see it in music production and content creation – spend 20% of your time reading other’s work, listening to reference tracks, etc. and 80% of your time writing or creating your own.
There’s no reason to believe the 80/20 Rule isn’t the golden ratio for speaking and listening – in fact (to use another auditory example), if you lower the volume on the background music at any cocktail party to 20%, you leave the perfect amount of headroom for lively conversation. It is an indication of our brain’s ability to filter signal from noise.
The same can be applied directly to selling, coaching and facilitation.
We should be listening (with the intent to understand) 80% of the time and with the other 20% we should be speaking (with empathy) and asking better questions.
The first 30 minutes of any virtual session are critical. It is where you greet your participants at the door, make a first impression, establish necessary ground rules, set the tone, begin to build trust and empathy, and get them familiar with any new technology.
Ensuring that your participants have an easy time with this new tech -- before the session begins -- can go a long way to make them feel included and significantly boost their engagement later in the session.
Here is how we begin every virtual session when using MURAL as our collaborative workspace.
1. Soundcheck/Set-Up (15 min)
2. Welcome/OARRs (10 min)
3. Tools Review (5 min)
4. Icebreaker, Check-in (15 min)
Now, you’re off and running. Finish out your agenda as you normally would. And, if you need help or have any further questions about facilitation, don’t hesitate to contact us at illustri.us.
Order Joran's latest book, The Visual Meetings Field Guide: How to Facilitate Great Meetings for Amazing Teams on Amazon or wherever books are sold.
ABOUT THE Author
Joran Slane Oppelt is an international speaker, author and consultant with certifications in coaching, storytelling, design thinking and virtual facilitation.