What if, in the middle of your meeting, two people start whispering, someone is continually signing purchase orders, someone verbally attacks another, or a person gets up, storms out of the room, and slams the door behind her?
Dysfunctional behavior can take many forms in a meeting. Skilled facilitators recognize that dysfunctional behavior is “a symptom that masks the real issue, which is typically a problem with the information generated by the session (the content), the way in which the session is being run (the process), or some outside factor unrelated to the session.”
How should you respond to a dysfunction? Of course, your response depends on the dysfunction and other factors, including when it occurs, the number of people affected, and the probable root cause. However, consider the following general formula:
The General Formula
1. Approach privately or generally.
Either speak with the people one-on-one during a break, or address the behaviors generally to the group without singling out any individuals. At times, however, singling out an individual during the meeting may be unavoidable.
2. Empathize with the symptom.
Praise an appropriate aspect of their behavior or express concern about the situation they find themselves in.
3. Address the root cause.
Make an effort to get at the real issue by asking a question that will yield a response that confirms the issue.
4. Get agreement on the solution.
Get agreement on how the situation will be handled going forward. Be sure that the solution addresses the root cause and not just the symptom.
Below is a description of a common dysfunction, its likely causes, strategies to take to prevent the dysfunction, what to do “in the moment” when the dysfunction occurs, and what to do “after the moment” to further address the dysfunction.
|Description||The person does other work during the meeting.|
|In the |
|If a private conversation is possible:
If a private conversation is not possible:
Adapted from The Secrets of Facilitation
Learn more ways to address and manage group dysfunction in Facilitating Masterful Meetings. This two-day course provides a structured framework for leading groups toward effective outcomes in every meeting – through highly-engaging, highly-collaborative facilitation techniques.
About the Author
Michael Wilkinson is the CEO and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies, the largest provider of professional facilitators and facilitation training in the country. Michael is a much sought after trainer, facilitator and speaker. He is a Certified Master Facilitator and a Certified Professional Facilitator. As a past president of the Southeast Association of Facilitators, the creator of the FindaFacilitator.com database and a board member of the International Institute of Facilitation, Michael is a national leader in the facilitation industry. You can get more tips from Michael’s books, including The Executive Guide to Facilitating Strategy, The Secrets of Facilitation, The Secrets to Masterful Meetings, and CLICK: The Virtual Meetings Book.