Discussion Toolkit

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Pat has just shared? " Follow up with, " Would someone like to share a different viewpoint? " In this fashion, you can make sure that others have a say as well.

Is this discussion helping us achieve our purpose?

All good facilitators ask this question in meetings when the conversation around a topic seems to be spinning. Help your team members achieve some traction by reminding them of the goal of the meeting. If the consensus is that the conversation is directly related to achieving the purpose, then make sure it can be resolved by asking additional questions, such as: Can we solve this problem right now?; Is this the right group to make this decision?; How much more time do you want to spend discussing this topic?

What else?

This question keeps a brainstorming session going in a meeting and can also be asked to make sure that an individual has really gotten everything off his chest. When the brainstorming seems to be winding down-or your watch says you're running out of time-end this portion of the discussion by asking, " Anything else? " It's a subtle shift, but the effect is to shut down the discussion. It indicates that it's time to move on.

Miscellaneous

I appreciate . . .

Here's a phrase we don't use enough. Let people know when you are grateful for something they've said or done. Being recognized is a great reward, and training yourself to look for the positive things and not just the problems will make your management style well-rounded. If someone is appreciating you, don't forget to say, " Thank you. "

That sounds hard.

Remember that you don't have to solve every problem brought to you. Sometimes people just need to talk and be heard. They need someone to bear witness to what they are going through. Dr. Alan Wolfelt calls this "companioning," which means you are there to listen with your heart and not analyze with your head. Also, reflective listening is always appropriate: " This is what I heard you say . . . "

Yes, and . . .

Use this phrase instead of "Yes, but . . ." It might be difficult to do at first and takes some practice, but this is a beneficial phrase for allowing a conversation to continue. By saying "Yes, but . . . " you are effectively telling the other person that you are discarding everything she just said and presenting your idea as the only real option. This can create frustration in the other person, who may feel like you've just dismissed her instead of acknowledging and exploring her idea. Responding with "Yes, and . . . " says, "I've heard you, and I'm willing to continue this discussion with you," without agreeing with her statement. For example, you can say "Yes, giving everyone Friday off would be nice, and I'd be concerned about how we'd meet our deadline if we did that." This gives the other person the opportunity to respond with an alternative; and the conversation continues. Of course, you could simply take the next option.

No.

This is such a hard word to say for so many of us! Yet I've found this should often be at the top of one's discussion toolkit. William Ury, author of The Power of a Positive No , said in his book tour that Warren Buffet, investment manager and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has said that he says no all day to the investment proposals that pile up on his desk. "I only have to say yes four or

About the author

Michele Sliger's picture Michele Sliger

Michele Sliger has extensive experience in agile software development, having worked in both XP and Scrum teams before becoming a consultant. As a self-described "bridge builder," her passion lies in helping those in traditional software development environments cross the bridge to agility. Along with co-author Stacia Broderick, their book The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility focuses on the topic, helping PMI-trained project managers make the transition. Michele is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). If you have a question, or would like help with your agile adoption, Michele can be reached at michele@sligerconsulting.com.

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