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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 podcast@agilethought.com, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Mar 19, 2021

Today, Dan Neumann is joined by Kristen Belcher, an Agile Coach who is saving the world, one retrospective at a time!

 

Kristen’s focus is all around developing genuine human connections and relentlessly pursuing improvement. She enjoys working with technical people to solve business problems and thrives on helping people find ways to make their jobs — and lives — easier and more fulfilling via better communication and technology. And more than anyone else, Kristen knows that facilitation can be fun, challenging, and incredibly rewarding — which is the topic of today’s episode!

 

In this conversation, Kristen shares her insights on how to effectively facilitate remotely. As someone incredibly knowledgeable on all things facilitation, Kristen shares how to make facilitation impactful and memorable, techniques for effective remote facilitation, what not to do when facilitating, and all of the other things you need to consider with remote facilitation!

 

Key Takeaways

The importance of good facilitation:

It can make exercises incredibly impactful and memorable

It can help a group’s ability to collaborate effectively

Challenges of doing good facilitation:

Reading the room (especially virtually in this COVID-19 era) can be difficult (you can’t tell when people are getting tired or losing focus, getting confused, etc.)

Solution: A virtual indicator that is available to your audience that they may need to take a break which can help revamp the energy

Collaboration can be difficult virtually

Solution: Implement virtual collaboration tools (such as Whiteboard or Miro)

Solution: Create different opportunities to interact with the space (whether that’s through audio, video, text, or an online whiteboard) — this makes for a rich environment and can simulate similar engagement that you would get in a physical space

Solution: With larger groups, have a shared visual to help keep the focus

Tip: Consider exercises — they can be super helpful for engagement and collaboration

Techniques that are effective for remote facilitation:

Check-in at the beginning

Create a comfortable, safe space

Ensure that the meeting will run smoothly by making sure people have access to the online session beforehand

For engagement, you can send participants physical materials (handouts, sticky notes, sharpies, etc.) that you would have in a physical space

Nurture human connection (this is important in a physical space but it is even more crucial in a virtual space)

Utilize breakout rooms

Create a safe environment by giving people the ability to be autonomous, have mobility, and leave when/if they need to (AKA the “law of two clicks”)

After you are done facilitating (or participating in facilitation) it is important to signal to your brain that work is done (i.e. by changing out of your “work” clothes, closing your blinds, shutting your computer down, etc.)

Finishing your meeting and closing the space is really important not only for you but for everyone in attendance as well

How not to facilitate:

If the space is virtual, do not force people to get on video (instead, extend the invite to get on video)

Don’t assign a heavy amount of “pre-work” or homework to do before the session (i.e. read an entire paper, fill out a large form, etc.)

Don’t surprise someone by asking them to facilitate on the spot (i.e. don’t invite a coach to a retrospective and ask them to facilitate when they arrive) — be sure to ask them in advance!

What to consider with remote facilitation:

Be prepared and make sure it’s accessible

Have security with your company in place

Master your remote facilitation tools

Remote facilitation takes more preparation than physical facilitation so make sure to set it up beforehand so it all goes smoothly

Does everything need to be facilitated?

Not every conversation needs to be facilitated

If you’re already familiar and comfortable with the group you’re speaking with, you don’t always need to

 

Mentioned in this Episode:

Kristen Belcher’s LinkedIn

Rock Central

Vertafore
Whiteboard

Miro

Enabling breakout rooms on Zoom

Use breakout rooms in Google Meet

Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen

Microsoft Teams

The Remote Facilitator’s Pocket Guide, by Jay-Allen Morris and Kirsten Clacey

The Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, by Sam Kaner

 

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