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Deni Lyall Designs and Delivers Leadership and Team Development Programmes

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Deni Lyall

Deni Lyall designs and delivers leadership and team development programmes, to which she brings over 15 years experience in the corporate, public and third sectors. Deni works with clients to develop influencing and leadership skills; build self belief; enhance leadership gravitas; and tackle the ever-present performance and stakeholder management issues.

Deni was for 14 years at the Mars Corporation in operational and managerial roles. A graduate in Electrical Engineering from Imperial College, London, she is a Chartered Engineer and a member of the IET. An accredited executive coach with a diploma in Business Performance Coaching, she is also a Coaching Supervisor, trains managers as coaches and is qualified as an NLP Master Practitioner. Her straight-forward style is inspirational and challenging. Deni has written for Training Journal.

FACILITATION ... more than a process

Have you ever been in the situation where you see a new facilitation technique (e.g. clustering) that gets really good results? Quickly you note down the methodology and the steps taken. However, when you use it, the results are much less dramatic. This is because we usually focus on the mechanics of the application and not the way it was facilitated.

When either facilitating or training facilitators, I focus on five key aspects (See Figure 1).

Regardless of the application itself, these five aspects make a real difference in the overall quality of the results.


Make it work for the group. Does it look like a room of action or just another meeting room?

You can improve rooms by putting up:

* Posters with key messages on them. Create them yourself.

* Copies of articles or documents relevant to the group, e.g. objectives, brochures.

* Appeal to different personalities by ensuring there is a lot of colour, words, pictures, and diagrams.

* Stick posters upside down, on the ceiling and around corners - Make people curious and they will absorb more of the content.

A tidy room creates a clean environment and leads to positive attitudes in the participants. Before a session, I make the effort to arrange the layout of the room and hide unwanted furniture. Then at each break I quickly tidy up empty cups and sweet papers.

I find that a 'U' shaped table layout restricts people and they tend to stay seated in one place. This layout also stifles break-out sessions because people tend to work just with those next to them. Getting people to move around keeps the blood flowing to the brain and also means they mix with the other participants. Therefore, I tend to arrange tables into little islands at the edge of the room. Then the group has enough space to be together in the centre with no physical barriers. When tables are needed they can work at the table islands or in nearby areas. Finally, getting a group out of the room can keep them fresh and alert.

Putting pens, paper, soft balls, etc on the tables gives the final touches in creating a flexible and dynamic working environment.


There are lots of theories on group dynamics and everyone has their favourites. You need to know enough to realise what's happening within the group and how to handle different situations. Therefore, you may want to read up on some of the theory or ask colleagues for advice on working in harmony with your company's culture.

Breakout groups are a great way to improve group dynamics. Quiet or shy people are happier to contribute in smaller groups whilst dominant people are tempered by having a smaller sphere of influence. In addition, small groups tend to cover ground faster so the overall session can progress more quickly so long as each breakout group shares their learning points.

In the early stages, I normally choose who is in which breakout group. Once the team dynamics are working well, I let the group decide.

For new topics, split the group into pairs for 2-3 minute introductory discussions. This helps people to both structure their thoughts and test out a few ideas. Participants are then keener to listen to others and more willing to give their views.

In a group, keep the discussion flowing by obtaining contributions from people in a random order rather than a specific sequence. Letting people input when, and if they want to, also means that they are contributing only when they feel they have got something useful to say.

If you would like everyone to contribute to a discussion, keep count on your fingers so that you know when everyone has spoken.

A good dose of curiosity is helpful. As a facilitator, I am curious about how other people see the world. It helps me to think: "What would I have to be feeling to act like that?" This allows me to avoid the emotion and focus calmly on the situation. It also puts me in an information gathering mindset so I start wondering or asking why things are happening instead of putting my own judgement on it. This helps to focus me firmly on the group's views rather than my own.

I try to keep in mind the following list of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) presuppositions:

* A person is more than their behaviour.

* Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have.

* All behaviour has a good intention.

* Lack of co-operation is a sign of a lack of rapport.

These presuppositions really changed my perspective on people and enhanced my ability to my facilitate.


Good information flow can lead to substantial improvements in output and ownership and yet it is often neglected.

Flipcharts are very useful so long as everyone can see them and write on them. I stick completed charts on the walls so that they are visible all the time. It's a great advantage to use lower case letters because it makes the chart less stressful



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