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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Jul 5, 2019

This week, Rebecca Sutherns is joining your host, Dan Neumann, on the Agile Coaches’ Corner Podcast! Rebecca Sutherns is a strong strategic analyst and Certified Professional Facilitator, trained in numerous facilitation methodologies. She has conducted community consultations, strategic planning, research and evaluation exercises for a range of clients in Canada and internationally. She is an Instructor of a Facilitation Skills course within the Conflict Management Diploma program at the University of Waterloo, the CEO of Sage Solutions (where she bring her expertise as a professional facilitator to help purpose-driven leaders align what’s important to them with what they actually do), and the author of her new book, Nimble: A Coaching Guide for Responsive Facilitation.


In this episode, Rebecca and Dan are focusing on all things related to nimble facilitation! Though her background is not in Agility, her insights around nimble facilitation greatly align with the Agile value of “responding to change over following a plan,” and apply to what Agile coaches do daily.


Tune in to get Rebecca’s insights on what facilitation is, what separates a good facilitator from an average one, how to bring a meeting back on track through nimble facilitation, what facilitation should look like after a meeting, her tips for creating psychological safety, and all about her new book, Nimble, and the key lessons about facilitation from there as well!


Key Takeaways

What is facilitation?

  • Giving people a structure by which to get things done as a group

What separates a good facilitator from an average one?

  • A good facilitator is someone who can adjust in real time to what’s going on in the room
  • The ability to respond to change over following a plan
  • Knowing yourself well and knowing how you work under pressure
  • By not being the “Oblivious Facilitator” (Example: If you’re not going to adjust based on the feedback that the group is giving you, don’t ask for the feedback)

How to bring a meeting back on track through nimble facilitation:

  • Set expectations at the beginning (both in your own head and for the group) about what constitutes being on and off track
  • Understand that things will go differently than you thought
  • Give people starting and end times but not detailed agendas (because that can stress some people out)
  • Plan for multiple scenarios
  • Break down your main objective into smaller objectives

What should facilitation look like after a meeting?

  • Ask yourself how it went and how do you know how it went
  • Follow-up with people whose opinion matter to you
  • Become a reflective practitioner and update your plans

In Rebecca’s book, Nimble, facilitation is broken down into these three phases:

  • In advance: Anticipation
  • In the room: Agility
  • Afterward: Absorption
  • And below that, there are four facets to each of those phases: People, Purpose, Place, and Process

Rebecca’s pro facilitation tips:

  • Good process and good facilitation is the best antidote to a heckler or nay-sayer
  • Part of skillful facilitation is self-regulation and having the mental discipline to not let distractions bother you
  • Always have your plan A, B, C, D, etc. ready to go
  • Do whatever prepping you need prior to the meeting to make yourself the most relaxed that you can possibly be

Rebecca’s tips for establishing psychological safety:

  • As a facilitator, give roughly equal airtime (because if only one or two people dominate, others may feel like they don’t have space)
  • Set norms for respectful behavior
  • Make your shared purpose very explicit
  • Let people put their own thoughts up on the board or ask for clarification; don’t edit their words


Mentioned in this Episode:

Rebecca Sutherns

Sage Solutions

Nimble: A Coaching Guide for Responsive Facilitation, by Rebecca Sutherns

The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, by Amy C. Edmondson


Rebecca Sutherns’ Book Pick:

New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World — and How to Make It Work for You, by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms


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