There will be times when a meeting is not going well, but the meeting leader is not taking action. If you’re not the one leading, should you step in? Yes, you can, and you should try to fix a meeting gone wrong – even when you’re not the facilitator.
“Guerrilla Facilitation” is a set of techniques designed to help manage a meeting when you are not the meeting leader. The key to Guerrilla Facilitation is to ask questions that lead the group to take the action that is needed. Here are six specific Guerrilla Facilitation tricks to fix a meeting gone wrong.
1. Meeting Gone Wrong: When the Meeting Starts Without a Clear Purpose
The agenda of a meeting, and the discussion that occurs, should all be tied to the purpose of the meeting and the products to be created. Yet, often times, leaders start a meeting by either going over the agenda or diving straight into the first agenda item. If the meeting leader starts the meeting without stating the meeting’s purpose, you might say the following
“Excuse me. I may have missed it. Could you take a second to go over the overall purpose of this meeting and what we need to have when we are done? This will help me stay focused and make sure I don’t go off on unimportant topics. What’s our overall purpose for this meeting?”
Note that a Guerrilla Facilitator never accuses (e.g., “You didn’t state the purpose”). Instead, a Guerrilla Facilitator asks a question to help gain clarity.
2. Meeting Gone Wrong: When the Discussion is Getting Off Track
A facilitator uses redirection questions to keep a group on topic. Likewise, if the discussion seems to be getting off track, but you are not the meeting leader, you can say the following.
“These are excellent points we are discussing. I know we have to get back to our main topic, but I don’t want to lose these points. Can we record them on an ‘issues list’ or something, so we can discuss them later and then get back to our main topic?”
Once more, asking the question can help take some of the sting out of the redirection.
3. Meeting Gone Wrong: When One Person is Dominating
A facilitator uses specific techniques for addressing dysfunctional behavior, including a situation in which one person is dominating the discussion. These same techniques can be quite effective as a Guerrilla Facilitator as well. If the meeting leader permits a person to dominate the discussion, consider saying the following.
“This is an important point we are discussing, and Joe has openly shared his views. It would be great to hear everyone else’s opinion on this. Can we go around the room and have everyone give their view on this idea?”
4. Meeting Gone Wrong: When One or More Participants Have Dropped Out
The round-robin technique that is used when one person is dominating the discussion will also work when you sense that one or more people are not participating.
“This is an important issue we are discussing. It would be great to hear everyone else’s opinion on this. Can we go around the room and have everyone give their view on this idea? I’ll be glad to start…”
5. Meeting Gone Wrong: When Decisions or Actions are Not Being Documented
Facilitators know the importance of documenting all decisions made during the session and any actions that need to be taken. Sometimes, however, a decision can be made or an action is assigned, and the meeting leader might fail to record it. If this happens, consider saying the following:
“It sounds like we just made an important decision. Can we have someone repeat it so that the decision can be accurately recorded, and we will have documentation of it?”
6. Meeting Gone Wrong: When the Meeting is About to End Without a Review
Facilitators know that a proper ending for a meeting includes reviewing decisions made and actions to be taken. If a leader is about to end the meeting without a review, consider saying the following.
“After such a productive meeting, I would hate to leave without being clear on what we decided or what is going to happen next. Could we take a minute to review the decisions we’ve made and the actions that need to occur once we leave?”
As you can see, Guerrilla Facilitation can be quite effective in guiding a meeting – especially meetings that go awry when one of the above scenarios happens. These techniques provide proactive strategies to help guide the discussion when the meeting leader is not providing strong facilitation.
Want to learn other empowering group management skills to resolve (and avoid) meetings that go awry? Get trained in these two facilitation courses – The Effective Facilitator is for you and your team if you lead complex, large-group sessions that require in-depth facilitation training and practice. Facilitating Masterful Meetings is for you and your team if you regularly lead standard group meetings that require fundamental skills building.
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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.