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.
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.
"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.
Part 1: The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter (1996)
If you were in a facilitation led by me this past year, chances are high that while you brainstormed or wrote silently or sorted and posted up your stickies in MURAL you heard some retro–tiki, instrumental lounge music playing in the background.
That album is The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter and I played it so much in my sessions this year that, according to Apple Music, the album (along with killer releases by Hailey Williams and Moses Sumney) is one of my top 5 albums of 2020.
Most of the people I worked with this year were innovation teams, executives and leadership teams, Chief Innovation Officers and CEOs looking to manage the growth phase of their business or train innovation thinking and best practices throughout their organization.
The work we do together usually spans multiple half-day sessions where we are using collaborative workspaces (like MURAL) to gain clarity or consensus, cast a big vision, work on culture and communication, prioritize initiatives and outcomes, develop a strategic plan or stay accountable to the process.
When facilitating, especially during visioning or brainstorming, I usually build in plenty of time to work silently or write and reflect. And I’m always on a search for music without lyrics to distract from the thinking process.
Sometimes jazz is what I'm after. But, if it’s too busy (like bop or free jazz) it can feel distracting and chaotic, and if it’s too mellow (like smooth jazz) it can feel hokey. 70s–era Miles Davis is greatly atmospheric (i.e. In a Silent Way) and a personal favorite, but the tone of his trumpet can end up sounding grating or tinny when run through Zoom’s compressors or played through tiny laptop speakers.
Sometimes down–tempo electronic or dance can serve to keep the energy steady throughout a session. Goa (a blend of trance and techno) can work for high-energy activities. Minimalist electronic music with blips and washes of sound works great for quieter sessions (think Brian Eno or Bill Laswell). You may also find various playlists, designed for reading or studying, that fit the mood.
For whatever reason, The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter was the album that I played in the most sessions this year and it took a well-deserved spot in my top 5. I suppose it provided the right balance of tension/adventure (like standing in the line at Disney Land) as well as the non-threatening and nostalgic sounds you may find in your grandparents' living room.
I'd love to go through my library and feature some other music that I facilitate and work to. But I’m dying to know -- what is your go-to instrumental music for facilitation, working, studying or reading?
Please sound off in the comments below.
If you want to inspire the innovation spirit in your meeting, begin with one simple ground rule: “Yes, and...”
Here is why it’s important:
BONUS: It even works when used sarcastically.
To save time and maximize your collective intelligence, use the phrase “Yes, and...” instead of “no” or “yes, but …”
Here’s how to set this up for success:
1. At the beginning of your meeting, establish your objective by answering “At the end of this meeting, what will we have accomplished?” Make the outcome crystal clear. You don’t even have to use the word “innovation.”
2. Next, establish “Yes, and…” as one of the rules.
Here’s what you might tell your team: “Many times, when we are in team meetings, we use the words “no” or “yes, but ...” to make our points. Those powerful words can cut off the flow of ideas and solutions. They stop forward movement. “Yes, and” can eliminate negating words and attitudes. Think of volleyball, where the goal is to keep the ball in the air. Just as we would pass the ball to a teammate to get it over the net, we need to trust others with our ideas and know that they have the potential to improve.”
3. Encourage your team to try the sarcastic use. It breaks the ice and allows everyone to understand it really does work. (See “Yes, and…” in Action, below)
4. Proceed through your meeting as normal. And have fun.
A small shift in language (and attitude) can provide exponential impact in your team. These simple tools are ways to accelerate your innovation potential into a hard-wired reality.
“YES, AND …” IN ACTION
Facilitator: "Our vision for 2025 is bold."
Person 1: "Yes, and it will take all of us performing at our best."
Person 2: "Yes, and I know this team is capable."
Person 3: "Yes, and I'm glad we are discussing strategy today."
Person 4: "Yes, and I'm excited about my new role!"
Facilitator: “The weather is really bad today.”
Person 1: “Yes, and it’ll probably get better.”
Person 2: “Yes, and the sun always comes out.”
Person 3: “Yes, and when it does, maybe I’ll leave early and go to the beach.”
Person 4: “Yes, and maybe I’ll go with you.”
Person 5: “Yes, and I’ll bring the sandwiches!”
This conversation (or something like it) has been replicated many times by practicing “Yes, and …” as an ice breaker. Notice how it doesn’t take long to turn a complaint about the weather into a beach party.
It just takes two simple words.
This is an excerpt from The Visual Meetings Field Guide: How to Facilitate Great Meetings for Amazing Teams - the fully-illustrated master playbook for turning your meetings into engines of productivity and culture.
Get your copy on Amazon now.
In my latest book, The Visual Meetings Field Guide: How to Facilitate Great Meetings for Amazing Teams, I laid out the following roles that we have found vital in any virtual meeting or session.
Great virtual facilitation is a team effort. Like the DJ and producer on radio programs, the core duo of facilitator and conductor are at the heart of the virtual experience. Other presenters may add color or interest, and graphic recorders bring their own jaw-dropping magic.
The facilitator is the pied piper of the session. They design and deliver the attendee experience, guiding the participants through the work effort and into application. The facilitator determines the outcomes and then helps carry them through. They keep the expedition on track (and on time) and leads them through virtual space.
The conductor engineers the session. They act as a director or broadcast engineer, changing sets, switching cameras, and acting as hype-man for the facilitator. The conductor helps to build the virtual architecture the participants will move through. They primarily keep their head down, with one eye on the script or field guide and the other eye on the timer. They may also act as DJ, link paster, breakout facilitator and announcer. Even more than the facilitator, the conductor is meticulously aware of the agenda and the details of delivery.
3. Graphic Recorder
The graphic recorder is a scribe, capturing content and reflecting it back in real time. The facilitator needs to mindfully guide participant attention to the graphic recorder. Through constant telepresence, moments of screen share or “gallery walks” the facilitator can share the graphic recorder’s work. The reveal can act as a leg stretch, a Q&A (What do you see? What did we miss?), a wow moment, an energy barometer, or a magic trick.
Presenters are the special attraction. They are invited into a session as a guest. The facilitator transfers esteem to the presenter through their introduction. A presenter’s main job is to deliver content. Presenters are subject matter experts and usually come with their own slides. Just as in face-to-face facilitations, presenters may need additional information about the meeting or the participants in advance (How many people? Who are they? What are their roles in the company? What are their needs/big wishes?).
A consultant is a high-performance thinking partner. In meetings, they post up, brainstorm, listen, reflect, and make recommendations. Consultants are sometimes experts in specialty areas (entrepreneurship, manufacturing, non-profits, marketing, etc.). They aim to deliver supreme value as temporary team members. Consultants may facilitate or co-facilitate, but they never act as the conductor.
The first thing to ask yourself (or your team) is: will our meetings help us reach our goals?
Consider this: If you don’t have goals and you are in a meeting to evaluate and make decisions about vendors or a specific technology, the meeting is pointless. You won’t know what technology or partners you’ll need if you don’t know what you want to achieve. A better beginning would be a goal-setting session to determine the purpose and outcomes of any future meetings.
Here are some initial questions to determine whether a meeting is even necessary:
Successful meetings always further your team’s goals and always require their collective genius to make progress. If these criteria aren’t met, you have no reason to meet.
Here are the Top 10 signs your meetings are unnecessary or need to radically change:
This is just the tip of a very boring and painful iceberg. If you have experienced any of these symptoms, my latest book, The Visual Meetings Field Guide was written to help you design meetings that are fun, energizing and prime your team for action. From now on, your meetings will galvanize culture and get things done.
ABOUT THE Author
Joran Slane Oppelt is an international speaker, author and consultant with certifications in coaching, storytelling, design thinking and virtual facilitation.