Need to make a demotivated team more positive? When you hold a meeting it can be important to let people discuss their work problems and frustrations. However, if a lot of people state their concerns to the whole group it can consume time and create a negative mood in the meeting.
How can you effectively let people vent their frustrations and create a positive mood…quickly? Here is a technique I have adapted from one called “Moan, Moan, Moan”. I call it the Constructive Rant.
I use it a great deal when I facilitate because it is enjoyable for participants and it works. Typically, I use it at the start of a meeting to create a “platform”, a starting point from which the group can move on. I have used it with group sizes from 5 to 90 and results have ranged from good to excellent. Without tempting fate, there is no down side that I have found, unless it rains.
In this example, based on a team building session, I pair people up into groups of two and brief them as follows. I recommend you write a summary of this on a flip chart to make it easier to follow.
- You are going to go for a walk. While you are walking, one of you will speak for three minutes about whatever irritates, annoys and frustrates you about working on this team. [It is important that you phrase your instructions carefully so that people rant about the correct topic].
- While one of you is speaking, the other person should not interrupt. They must listen and can say only, “What else?” if the speaker stops talking for longer than ten seconds. The listener will keep time and bring the rant gently to a halt after three minutes. Repeat the exercise with the second person speaking and return towards the meeting room (to reduce the walk back!)
- When you have finished speaking, come back in to the room and remain in your pair; we will instruct you on what to do. (When they return to the room, give each person a Post It Note and a flip chart marker, and brief them as follows.)
- I would like you now to ask your partner the question, “So what is it that you want to happen?” For example, your partner might say, “ I want people to talk face to face more”. If your partner wants more than one thing, ask them what is most important. [If you have fewer than eight people you can give them each two Post It notes]. Write down the answer on the Post It note using the marker pen. Give them five minutes to complete this.
- When they have finished, ask them to bring their notes and put them on a flip chart.
- Read aloud each note and ensure that all understand it. There is no need to categorize them, but it is useful to point out similarities, especially if there are a lot.
- Now explain: What we have done here is to have you discuss your issues, identify what it is that you want and share it with everybody. This provides us with a starting point for enhancing the team’s performance. Let’s move on to the next topic, which in Solutions Focus is normally the Future Perfect.
Insights I’ve obtained from doing this exercise many times
- The technique is quick and easy to use.
- Allowing people to vent their concerns puts most into a much better state
- Pairing people prevents the negative thoughts “contaminating” the whole group and is much quicker than a whole group discussion.
- Talking for three minutes enables people to order and articulate their thoughts, sometimes for the first time.
- Being listened to for three minutes, uninterrupted by another person, is rare in business. This can help people to feel they have been heard.
- Less assertive people often welcome the opportunity to have their say.
- A walk is not essential but I have found it is the most positive way to do this exercise, giving fresh air and privacy.
- Walking side by side is also less confrontational than a normal face to face conversation and seems to enable less assertive people to be more open.
- You can coach individuals with the technique.
About the Author: John Booker served in the RAF for eleven years. Subsequently, he joined Visa International, becoming a Senior Vice President, with experience at a senior level of creating new services and leading teams in diverse areas including the Visa International ATM network, business education, product development and European customer support. On leaving in April 2001, he established Yes! And… to become a professional facilitator. He facilitates teams to achieve their outcomes more effectively and efficiently by thinking more creatively, communicating more powerfully and creating agile action plans. John believes that with the pace of modern life, people need simple tools that they can apply immediately to achieve success. John works internationally on a regular basis in Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa and is an experienced multi-cultural facilitator. He facilitates workshops for innovation, strategy, business planning, process redesign, team development, induction and others. Contact John at [email protected] and view his website at www.yesand.biz
The next time you have the prospect of a negative meeting, consider trying this approach. We’d love to hear from you. Share your questions, feedback, or experience on this topic in the comments section below.