Managing Up Tips for Millennials | Managing Up Training and Tips

Managing up tips for millennials can often be a key to success in the corporate jungle.  Managing up doesn’t mean telling your boss what to do (not unless you’re looking for a quick exit).  It means taking the time to analyze your boss (or other senior leadership), their personality, work style, interests, etc. to determine how you can make their life easier and help them be successful.

As Millennials are often considered the greenest employees in the workplace, the concept of “managing up” can be an intimidating if not complicated one.  Millennials are often walking a delicate tightrope trying to balance maintaining humility and teachability while demonstrating leadership and being proactive.  So, developing specific techniques and best practices for managing up effectively can be tricky.  As a corporate trainer who has worked with hundreds of teams and individuals, I’m sharing a few of my favorite managing up tips for millennials.

Managing Up Tips for Millennials

Turn statements into questions for delicate topics

One of the trickiest scenarios for any employee (and moreso for millennials) is pushing back on a manager’s ideas, decisions, or recommendations.  While it obviously may not be appropriate to outright “overrule” your boss, it is important that you voice valid concerns when you have them.  You may have more detailed information, a unique perspective, or just a better idea, and the best employees will find a way to share that with their boss so they can make the best decision for the organization.  A great technique for doing this is turning your statement into a question.  For example, if your boss is recommending an expensive series of focus groups for market research, you might suggest alternate ideas by asking a pointed question like this… “Jim, I definitely see the value of conducting focus groups, but it looks like that could consume almost half our budget and if there are any glitches with the focus group schedule, costs could run higher.  I’m just wondering if incorporating a social media campaign with a survey and random prizes might provide a higher response rate with lower costs?  It’s just a thought….what do you think?”

Don’t hide your talents

While it’s true that newer employees usually have less experience and may be learning quite a bit during the first few years, it’s also true that as recent graduates (or new hires transitioning from other companies or industries), they also often have unique skills or perspectives that can be very valuable in the workplace.  If you think Prezi would be a better platform for the new sales materials or you could really enhance the website using the Java/Photoshop skills that you acquired during your last internship, speak up!  Managers need to best utilize their bench of talent, and they simply can’t do that if they don’t know who can do what!  So, don’t brag, but certainly speak up and volunteer to help out where your talents can help move the team forward.  Don’t necessarily wait to be asked to pitch in to help.

Propose new big ideas

A huge benefit of being new is having a fresh perspective.  Newer employees see everything with fresh eyes and that’s immensely valuable.  Part of the reason why companies often pay the big bucks to consulting firms to help them analyze their business is that they bring an objective, fresh perspective having gained best practices from a wide variety of companies.  Believe it or not, millennials often possess some of these same qualities.  It’s so easy for senior leaders to fall into the rut of doing things the same ways, using the same tools, etc. and that can lead to substandard results.  If you see a process that’s broken or can recommend a new sales template or application that worked well at your last internship/company, it’s an opportunity for you to not just make a recommendation but also show some leadership.

Use the 3 Magic Questions of Delegation

Let’s face it – all managers aren’t great at delegating…or communicating for that matter.  So, a key element of managing up is helping them clarify communications to ensure you’re on the same page (particularly when you’re being assigned a task).  As a corporate trainer I often teach leaders to ask these 3 magic questions of delegation when they’re assigning a new task:

  1. What is Your Understanding of the Task?
  2. What Will Be Your First Few Steps to Begin Work to Complete the Task?
  3. What Will the Final Deliverable Actually Look Like?

Unfortunately, most managers won’t ask those specific questions so get in the habit of answering them proactively when you’re being assigned a new task (particularly if you have any level of confusion about the task or goals).  For example, you might say something like this as you conclude a meeting where you’ve ben assigned a new task.

  1. Just to clarify, do you mind if I summarize my understanding of the task just to be sure I understood you correctly?
  2. Just to be sure I’m on the right track, I wanted to share my first few steps. First, I’m planning to get copies of the previous RFPs, then I’ll schedule meeting rooms for the interviews, then I’ll draft an email to send to last year’s respondents to invite them to an information session.  Does that sound good?
  3. I have a good idea of what you’re looking for with this business plan, but just to be sure I’m not missing anything and I’m giving you exactly what you want, could I email you a sample template to show you what I’m planning to include and exclude in the business plan?

Of course, it’s always important to take time to proactively clarify the who, what, why, when, where, and how of any assignment, but these 3 specific questions truly help avoid possible misunderstandings and most importantly help your boss get what they want the FIRST time!

Tips for Managing Up with a Difficult Boss


Dana Brownlee is author of The Unwritten Rules of Managing Up: Project Management Techniques from the Trenches (to be published by Berrett-Koehler publishers January 2019).  President of Atlanta based Professionalism Matters, Inc., Dana is an acclaimed keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and team development consultant. She can be reached at Connect with her on Linked In or Twitter @DanaBrownlee. 

What is Managing Up Really? | Managing Up Defined

Managing up has become a trendy buzzword at all levels of the corporate ecosystem.  Certainly, we all understand the concept of traditional top down management, but what exactly is managing up?

While there are few certainties in the field of management and leadership, one truth that I’ve found over decades of experience is that all managers are not strong, effective leaders.  In fact, truth be told, most have significant flaws. What does that look like in the workplace?  Well…they don’t always make the best decisions.  They miss things.  Sometimes, they’re the barrier to success on a project.  Managers typically aren’t closest to the day to day work so they don’t always understand the details or have the best information.  They also frequently don’t know what people are really thinking or how team members really feel about a particular process, issue, or task.  Like anyone else, they also sometimes don’t know what they don’t know (unconscious incompetence), so they can have huge blind spots.

While this laundry list of flaws may sound somewhat scary, it also sounds pretty normal because managers are after all human, right? Yes, but unfortunately we’re conditioned to treat them like they’re somehow all knowing and all powerful superheroes with perfect decision making skills.  While managers often possess certain strengths and advantages that enable them to make sound decisions, they also often possess certain disadvantages or weaknesses either due to their own personal failings or due to inherent disadvantages in holding a higher level position.  Sometimes leaders are actually handicapped by their ivory tower position.  They may not be as close to the customer or have their ear to the ground in terms of what staff really think or which processes are truly broken.  Guess what – they also may not be perfect.  They may have their own weaknesses or shortfalls, and be so swamped with broader responsibilities that they may not have the bandwidth to pour over the details before every decision.  As such, the truth is that for teams to operate at maximum performance levels, it’s not just important for managers to manage (down), but it’s also important for staff to continuously manage up!

My personal definition of “Managing Up”…

“A subordinate customizing their work style/behaviors to better suit their manager, taking steps to make their manager’s job easier, and/or proactively striving to optimize success for all.”

Put another way…managing up is taking things off your bosses’ plate and helping them be more effective!

What Does “Managing Up” Look Like?

The employee who actively “manages up” is one who often….

  • Anticipates problems and actively works to prevent them
  • Adjusts their style and approach to better fit their manager’s preferences
  • Are particularly flexible and willing to take on the “dog” projects that no one wants
  • Speak truth to power when necessary (being the one willing to tell the boss the ugly truth when others won’t)
  • Learns to navigate prickly or difficult boss personalities

If you’re looking at that list thinking that’s a tall order, it is!  Managing up isn’t easy, and that’s precisely why it is so important and so effective.  Most employees don’t take the time to actively manage up, so the ones who do truly stand out from the crowd.  So how do you begin to start “managing up”?

Managing Up Best Practices

  • Always propose a recommendation or two when asking your boss for help with a problem
  • Look for opportunities to “take things off their plate” – simple acts like volunteering to schedule meeting invites, book meeting rooms, develop presentation templates, conduct vendor research, etc. can produce huge time savings for your boss (and make you seem like an invaluable resource in the process)
  • Adjust your communication style to fit their preferences (e.g. if they prefer face to face, try to stop by their office more often to discuss the big picture, then just send a follow up email as needed with details)
  • Get in the habit of brainstorming/analyzing potential risks for new projects and proactively sharing the risk analysis (including recommended mitigation strategies and back up plans) with senior leadership
  • Share good news soon and bad news sooner
  • Look for opportunities to propose process changes or new innovations, and volunteer to help lead the resultant work (as appropriate)

Tips for Managing Up with Difficult Bosses

Dana Brownlee is author of The Unwritten Rules of Managing Up: Project Management Techniques from the Trenches (to be published by Berrett-Koehler publishers January 2019).  President of Atlanta based Professionalism Matters, Inc., Dana is an acclaimed keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and team development consultant. She can be reached at Connect with her on Linked In or Twitter @DanaBrownlee. 

Managing Up Mistakes to Avoid | Managing Up Training

Managing Up Mistakes to Avoid

While managing up is a critical skill for success, managing up mistakes can be career debilitating. First, let’s define what we mean by “managing up”.  As a corporate trainer and team development consultant, I define managing up as follows:

“A subordinate customizing their work style/behaviors to better suit their manager, taking steps to make their manager’s job easier, and/or proactively striving to optimize success for all.”

Obviously, managing up can have a very positive impact on business results when done effectively, but it could also have a very negative effect when executed poorly.  The key to managing up the right way is avoiding a few classic managing up mistakes.
When Managing Up, an Employee Should NOT…
  • Try to “take over”.  Employees must recognize that managing up isn’t taking over.  Instead, they must always respect their manager’s legitimate authority.  Managing up doesn’t mean swapping roles or telling your manager what to do.  Instead, it’s seeing your manager’s weaknesses and making helpful suggestions and recommendations to improve likelihood for success
  • Offer unsolicited advice.  Offering unsolicited advice could be construed as lecturing your boss (which never goes over well).  Instead, ask them if they’d like feedback on a particular issue or wait until asked. An alternate to offering unsolicited advice could be asking pointed questions.  For example, if you think the project should not use a particular vendor, your thought bubble might be “Dude, are you crazy? We’ll never make our due date if we use Vendor X.  They’re notorious for delays!”   Instead, you might say “Jim, I can definitely give them a call and get the ball rolling, but before I call I just wanted to check to see how much buffer time we have with our due date.  I’m not sure if you’re aware, but Vendor X has been late shipping product at least three times that I’m aware of so I want to be sure you’re comfortable with the fact that there could be delays.  What do you think?”
  • Focus on the boss’ weaknesses or personality quirks. Understanding your manager’s vulnerability areas or quirks is really important, but obsessing on them can be not only futile but counterproductive as well.  The reality is that you’re not their therapist or their parent so stay in your lane!  Focus instead on the task or goal at hand. For example, if your boss is unorganized, role model the desired behavior by offering to develop a structured plan instead of calling them out on their deficiencies.
  • Use the same approach with everyone.  A key element of managing up is learning to customize your behavior to best fit your manager’s preferences.  This might mean opting for early morning meetings with your boss if you know that’s their preference or avoiding your natural temptation to chit chat about the weekend for the first few minutes of a meeting if you know that they have more of a BLUF (bottom line up front) personality.

A huge element of managing up is learning to customize your behavior/techniques to best fit your boss’ personality.  Techniques or habits that might work well with one type boss might not with another.  This video provides valuable tips and techniques for managing four specific varieties of the “difficult boss”.

Dana Brownlee is author of The Unwritten Rules of Managing Up: Project Management Techniques from the Trenches (to be published by Berrett-Koehler publishers January 2019).  President of Atlanta based Professionalism Matters, Inc., Dana is an acclaimed keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and team development consultant. She can be reached at Connect with her on Linked In or Twitter @DanaBrownlee. 

Team Building Activity | Team Building Facilitator Dana Brownlee

Team Building Activity

As a team retreat facilitator, I’m constantly working to identify new, innovative team building activities that are fun and engaging but also make a point.  Full disclosure admission….Even though I’m a corporate team retreat facilitator, I HATE those touchy feely team building activities that don’t seem to have a clear point or purpose. Sometimes, the point is to break up cliques on the team and/or enhance relationships (e.g. get to know each other better), and that’s fine, but it’s just important to me as a team retreat facilitator to understand the purpose for the retreat and identify (or customize) specific team building activities that support that purpose.

Potential Team Retreat Topics

Oftentimes teams identify other goals for their team retreat:

  • Conduct strategic planning
  • Clarify team mission/objectives
  • Identify metrics to support team objectives
  • Review key projects
  • Clarify team roles and responsibilities
  • Conduct training in a relevant area (e.g. project management, time management, working smarter, communication skills, improving meetings, etc.)
  • Analyze a pressing problem (conduct root cause analysis)
  • Analyze workflow processes
  • Enhance relationships and have fun!

Oftentimes, facilitators make the mistake of thinking they have to choose between conducting an activity that is work related and one that is fun.  The truth is that the best team building activities can be both?

Defining Team Mission

I often work with teams who want to either define their mission or review/refine it.  I typically caution against setting an expectation of defining a complete mission statement (from beginning to end) during a team retreat.  The truth is that the “word smithing” of mission statements can be both very important and time consuming and it can be counter productive (and overly ambitious) to assume it can (or should) be done in a single session.  More typically, the team retreat can be used to get a great “head start” by soliciting consensus on the key elements of the mission (including clarification of what might be considered out of scope).  The goal might be to conclude the retreat with one or more draft mission statements that will be assigned to one or more team members as an action item.  Their action item would be to develop a refined mission statement for review by the full team (at a later date).

Sample Team Building Activity | Defining Team Mission

As a team retreat facilitator, I often use an interactive team building activity as part of this Mission Definition agenda item.  The activity is conducted as follows:

  1. Give each group few rolls of pennies
  2. Ask them to design a team logo using the pennies
  3. Have each group present their logo and explain why they chose that design
  4. Ask the entire team to come up with a listing of key phrases they noticed several groups use.  These key phrases become elements for a potential mission statement.

For additional tips on designing an effective team retreat, watch this video.

Leadership Skills Training | Corporate Trainer and Keynote Speaker Dana Brownlee

Leadership Skills Training Tips and Best Practices   

As a corporate trainer and keynote speaker who has worked with many leaders, I’ve learned that leadership deficiencies often boil down to a lack of balance in the leader’s focus on task and relationship.  Here are a few key tips that I share in my leadership skills training:

  • Figure out your “Leadership DNA”.  Just like being left or right handed, most of us have a natural tendency towards either the task or relationship end of the Task-Relationship Continuum (see below).  The key to maximizing your leadership effectiveness starts with first understanding what your natural style is so that you can better understand its strengths/weaknesses and take steps to make improvements.

  • Work to strengthen your weaker area.  If you’re naturally a more task focused leader, work on strengthening the relationship side and if you’re a more relationship focused leader, work on strengthening the task side.  This might sounds simple, but it’s definitely easier said than done.  If you’re naturally right handed, learning to write with your left hand is possible, but it’s difficult (and will likely feel very awkward and produce poor results for quite awhile).  The question becomes…how do you do that?  Let’s say, you’re naturally a more task driven leader.  You might consciously take 15 minutes every morning to walk around to cubicles to greet team members and chat about non task related topics.  Consider planning a team building event or team retreat focused on relationship building.  Start a monthly or weekly team lunch offsite with the rule – no shop talk! Consider seeking out a mentor who might be naturally much more relationship focused so you can serve as a bit of a role model.
  • Solicit candid feedback from your team and peers.  The truth is that you can’t fix what you don’t know about so ask others to provide honest, anonymous feedback on your performance and effectiveness as a leader.  Oftentimes, our perception of ourselves is quite different from how others perceive us so take the time to get an accurate view of your strengths/weaknesses as perceived by those around you.

For more information on the 3 basic leadership styles, watch this video that share tips included in our leadership skills training:

For more tips on how to enhance your leadership style, watch this video that share tips included in our leadership skills training:

Organizational Change Training | Change Management Best Practices

Organizational Change Training – Change Management Tips and Best Practices 

Most organizations are constantly undergoing some sort of change and too many struggle with it.  Managing teams in the midst of change can be a challenge so here are a few tips and best practices that I share during my organizational change training events.

Increase communication during times of change.  Most leaders make the mistake of canceling meeting and letting the rumor mill run rampant during times of pending change and transition.  Do just the opposite! Provide more opportunities for staff to ask questions, share opinions, make recommendations, or even vent about potential changes.

Don’t change what doesn’t need to be changed.  Too much change is stressful for anyone so don’t change what doesn’t need to be changed! Sometimes small things (like keeping the same payment process or the same building location or the same meeting time) can make a big difference so only change those elements that really require change.

Explain the why behind the change.  In my experience working with teams I’ve found that even if people don’t agree with the rationale for the change, it helps them process and accept the change if they understand why the change is happening.  Don’t just tell staff what is changing but also explain why.

Take time to listen. It’s critically important to listen to staff to hear their concerns, fears, and anxiety about the change.  Talking about these issues can be a critical part of helping staff move through that anxious period and move towards fully embracing the changes.  Listening to staff feedback can also provide a great opportunity to incorporate their suggestions and recommendations.  It’s dangerous for leaders to make decisions in a vacuum.  Incorporating staff suggestions not only often improves the end product but it also makes staff feel valued and involved in the process.

For more information, watch 3 Key Leadership Mistakes Leaders Make During Organizational Change

Learn about the stages of change acceptance:

Project Management Training for Non Project Managers

Project Management Training Isn’t Just for Project Managers!

As a corporate trainer and keynote speaker, I’m amazed by how often I’m asked to provide project management training or present project management focused talks for non project management audiences.  I really shouldn’t be though because my decades of experience as a project management practitioner and instructor has certainly taught me that EVERYONE needs project management skills because virtually everyone is a project manager.  No, you may not have ever held the title, but you’ve certainly managed many projects in your personal and processional life.  If you’ve planned a kid’s birthday party or a family event, you’ve managed a project!

So here are a few of my favorite project management skills/tips that virtually everyone can use to enhance their effectiveness.

  • Conduct kickoff meetings to start new projects.  Although it doesn’t have to be terribly formal, it’s so helpful to begin new projects by bringing key participants together to discuss key elements, define goals and scope, and clarify any areas of confusion.  This video provides tips for designing an effective project kickoff meeting.

  • Manage the project with a project schedule.  Again, it doesn’t have to be the most sophisticated MS Office Gantt Chart.  I managed complex projected using a spreadsheet just fine so the tool isn’t what’s important.  Instead, the focus should be on identifying chronological phases, key tasks, milestones, time estimates and owners.  Once those are documented, use that single document to serve as a focal point to help manage subsequent project related meetings and discussions.  Track actual timing against estimates to keep track of whether you project is behind/on/ahead of schedule.
  • Periodically check in with the team to debrief what’s working/what’s not.  Don’t make the classic mistake of waiting until the project is over and conducting a 5 minute drive by debrief.  Take the time periodically to check in to ask key questions:
    • What’s working?
    • What should we do differently?
    • Are we behind/ahead of schedule? Why?
    • Are we having any resource issues?
    • Are our meetings effective?  If not, what do we need to change?
    • Are any processes broken? What can we do to fix them?

More important than asking the questions is taking action to               continuously improve the project.

For more information watch 5 Common Project Management Mistakes…


Team Building Tips | Motivating the Team During Meetings

Team Building Tips…

Dear Genie,

I’m leading a team of six and our motivation seems to be dwindling quickly.  Even my best team members seem to be running out of steam these days.  We’ve got about three more months to go and a lot of meetings during that time.  What should I do?

Shaun in Atlanta

Dear Shaun,

Your team sounds like their motivation tanks are running on “E”, and they need a fill up!  If you can’t identify a significant structural problem with the team (e.g. unclear charter, difficult client, faulty product, etc.), they may just need a bit more acknowledgement and motivation.  Step back and think about how you can best motivate the team to finish the work with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and purpose!

Tips for increasing motivation in your team meetings…

  • Let the team know that you’re sensing a drop in morale and ask for feedback. One of the best ways to gather this feedback is to conduct a meeting debrief.  Simply conduct a round robin asking each person to share one thing that’s working well on the team and one thing that could be changed to enhance the team environment or performance levels.  Simply record all responses on a whiteboard or flip chart and discuss how the team can make changes to incorporate the team’s feedback.  If you’re concerned about team members not being candid, ask team members to record their comments on cards anonymously and drop them into a basket on their way out the meeting room.
  • Embed acknowledgment into your meeting agendas by creating an agenda item for peer recognition. Spend 5-10 minutes at the end of the meeting to allow (and encourage) team members to recognize anyone on the team (or outside the team) who has gone above and beyond and deserves recognition.
  • Ask each team member how they would prefer to be rewarded and attempt to customize rewards as much as possible. Some team members want additional visibility, leadership, and responsibility while others would prefer to have more time off, ability to work from home, or training opportunities.  Make sure you understand what type of reward would be most meaningful to an individual team member and don’t assume everyone is similarly motivated.
  • Jazz up your meetings! If you’ve been meeting onsite, try meeting offsite.  Bring some exotic coffees and pastries and have a “Name that Country” contest at the end of the meeting (with a gag prize awarded to the winner).  Close each meeting by asking each team member to share the best idea they heard that wasn’t theirs.
  • Recognize that the tendency on most teams is to punish the team stars by giving them more and more work. Remember that your team stars need (and deserve) timely acknowledgment and rewards.

Another great tip is applying best practices to avoid team miscommunications

Conducting team retreats are another way to discourage cliques and build the team

See our video clip for more information on motivating team stars.

Effectively Managing Meeting Time | Meeting Facilitation Training Tips

Tips for effectively managing meeting time:

The Problem:

Let’s face it – one of the reasons why many people hate attending meetings is that they too often drag ON and ON and ON with no end in sight!  We’re all frustrated by the meeting leader who drifts casually from one topic to another during the meeting with very little regard for time.  Not only does this waste everyone’s time but it also irritates participants (who may become turned off and hesitant to participate in future meetings).  You don’t want to be one of those meeting leaders.  Let’s explore a few tips you can use to better manage time during your meetings…

Consider these suggestions….

  • Include specific timings for each agenda topic (not just for the overall meeting). This enables you to determine more realistic time limits for the entire meeting and also positions you to better monitor timing throughout the meeting.
  • Set realistic agendas! Some leaders’ meetings always run late because the agendas aren’t realistic at all.
  • Ensure you have identified a process (or facilitation method) to use for each agenda topic. In other words think through how you’re going to manage each section before you get there!
  • As the meeting leader, you should role model timeliness by starting on time (even if all participants aren’t present), ending on time, and keeping to specified time breaks.
  • Establish an odd start time (e.g. 9:10 instead of 9:00). This slight adjustment sends a signal that you’re serious about time.
  • Ask someone to act as the timekeeper (and rotate this role). This gets participants involved in the meeting management and also sends a clear signal to everyone that you respect their time and intend to stick to the predetermined time limits.
  • For conference calls, empower all participants to help keep the group focused (and on time) by hitting the # key anytime they feel the discussion is becoming too protracted. This works particularly well because it’s anonymous – no one knows who hit the # sign!
  • Actively use the parking lot to “park” off topic issues and questions
  • Ensure you assign time consuming tasks as homework to be completed prior to the meeting. Don’t try to use meeting time to conduct these types of tasks (e.g. reviewing documents, doing research, conducting detailed analysis, etc.)  Check out next month’s Monthly Tip for more information on how to do it!
  • Use timers to help manage the agenda or a particular discussion (as needed). Sometimes just having a timer in the center of the room can act as a powerful visual cue that the leader is serious about managing time effectively.
  • Suggest that everyone stand (and keep standing) if the discussion becomes too long winded.
  • Place sensitive issues towards the end of the agenda (as long as that placement makes logical sense). If there’s an explosive issue that might generate a lot of discussion, it’s better to tackle it near the end of the meeting.
  • Actively manage rambling discussion (see the 9/09 monthly tip for detailed suggestions on how to do it!)

This video provides insight into how to improve your status meetings…

Facilitating Group Consensus | Meeting Facilitation Training Tips

Tips for Facilitating Group Consensus

The Problem:

Do you ever feel that you’re herding a group of feisty cats instead of leading a meeting because your team members simply can’t agree?  Well, take comfort in knowing that this common problem plagues most meeting facilitators at one point or another.  Indeed, if your group is disagreeing vehemently (but respectfully), that’s a sign of healthy conflict…congratulations, you’re likely on your way to some great ideas and solutions!  Unfortunately as meeting facilitators, we often need to guide the group towards a consensus decision and oftentimes that just doesn’t seem possible.  The good news is that reaching a consensus decision does not mean that a two hour session must turn into a two week session…or worse, a real knock down drag out.  Let’s explore a few tips you can use the next time you’re faced with this situation…

Consider these suggestions….

  • Remember first that consensus does NOT mean everyone gets exactly what they want. It does mean that everyone can live with the decision and support it outside the team.
  • Develop a ground rule with the team about how the group will make decisions BEFORE you need to make those decisions. If the group has already reached agreement on the decision process, making those subsequent decisions becomes much easier (and less emotionally charged).  For example, if the group has already agreed on the decision criteria and selection process before initiating the discussion of which employee gets the “Employee of the Year” award, this decision suddenly becomes much easier.
  • When you get bogged down in disagreement, separate areas of agreement and disagreement. Clearly identify and document areas of agreement to continue to move the group forward.  For areas of disagreement, clarify the range of disagreement.  (e.g. Mike, it sounds like you and Beth both agree that the current cycle time of 5 days is too long.  It sounds like the area of disagreement is around just how much that should be reduced.  Mike proposes 2 days while Beth thinks 1 day is a better target, so we have a difference of opinion of 1 day.  Is that correct?)
  • Sometimes we can’t agree because we don’t have enough information and we’re operating based on poorly informed assumptions. Inviting key stakeholders to participate in the discussion (e.g. IT experts, members of the leadership team, HR or Finance subject matter experts, etc.) can often shed light on critical issues and help the group more easily expose the best alternative.
  • If you have a tendency to think the group may be quibbling over trivial differences, consider suggesting that they conduct the remainder of the meeting standing (until a decision is reached). This technique is sometimes used as an “out of the box” method for encouraging brevity and a spirit of compromise.
  • Use a facilitation technique that encourages collaborative decision making (e.g. affinity diagramming, dot voting, etc.) These techniques typically offer each participant a certain number of votes; then participants vote simultaneously and the option(s) receiving the highest numbers of votes overall is typically selected.
  • If you sense that the disagreements may be driven by personality conflicts or other personal reasons, address those issues offline in a more private setting with the individuals involved.

Part of facilitating group consensus effectively is learning to manage difficult personalities in your meetings.  This video share helpful tips that we teach in our meeting facilitation training.