The sound you hear when asking meeting participants what they think about a proposal someone has just made.
It’s possible the room isn’t completely quiet. Maybe one person makes a suggestion and another voices support. Based on actual sounds made, the ayes have it. But should they?
Weak facilitators apply the “hearing no objections…” rule and announce the group’s agreement with the idea. Granted, some proposals are common sense, and it’s obvious everyone would support it. So obvious, in fact, that they can’t be bothered to voice their support.
So let’s reserve the word weak for situations when the facilitator senses a lack of support, but goes with it anyway because nobody spoke up. A lack of disagreement does not equal agreement.
A strong facilitator, i.e. Meeting Hero, takes a different approach. He or she solicits feedback on the proposal from everyone.
One simple way to accomplish this task is to run a quick poll. I like to use a tool called fist-to-five. It’s fast, easy, and fun. Here’s how it works.
Let’s say Meg makes a suggestion. You hear it as a proposal, and say to the group immediately, “Meg has just suggested we invite HR into our process at this point. Let’s fist-to-five the proposal.”
The first time using the tool with a new group will require some explanation. After doing it once, they’ll catch on.
Invite everyone in the room, on the count of three, to throw out a hand with a certain number of fingers extended as an indicator of their support for the proposal.
- Five fingers: Love this idea so much that I wish I had suggested it.
- No fingers (fist): Hate this idea and am prepared to fight to the death to keep it from happening.
- One through four indicates increasing levels of support.
Some have suggested that one finger can be an even stronger statement of disagreement than a fist, depending on which finger is used. If that’s the kind of meeting you typically lead, I wish you all the best.
Here’s how to read the results. If I see mostly fours and fives with maybe a couple of threes sprinkled in, I interpret that as support for the proposal.
If I see mostly twos, threes, and fours, I point out the lack of strong support for the idea and ask the group to talk it through some more.
If I see any fists or ones, I ask those folks to share their thinking with the group. They may have thought of something others haven’t. It’s important to find out what is behind their strong objection.
Give it a try
The tool’s goal is to prevent the group from agreeing to do something that most people don’t want to do. Without it, or a similar process, you will be stuck with false agreement, and that almost always leads to problems after the meeting.
Have you tried this? How did it work?