CG #47 – Building Your Team as They Work

Building Your Team as They Work

Welcome, CG #47 – The Truth About Icebreakers, Part 2 readers!  Here are the specifics for meeting processes that build teams.  Let me know what you like and what else you’d like to see in the comments.


Getting information into the room
PRESENTATION, Q AND A  A presentation is a commonly used way to disseminate information in a meeting.  To qualify as useful, we must be clear about several points:  Will we take questions as we go or hold them until the end?  Will there be a discussion after?  What key points will the discussion focus on?  It’s important to separate the presentation from the discussion and to let members know what action will be expected of them as a result of the presentation.  That way they’ll know what to listen for.
BRAINSTORMING (BS) The complete rules for brainstorming are:  List quickly, Don’t evaluate, build on others ideas and list as many idea as possible.   Clarifying and then evaluating the ideas comes later.  Two keys to brainstorming are making sure that people have time to think before starting, and making sure to keep the listing separate from the clarifying and evaluating steps.  Brainstorming works best for generating new and creative ideas and directions.
INDIVIDUAL LISTING and ROUND ROBIN (ILRR)  Individuals silently list their ideas about a topic, then choose 1-3 to share with the group.  Set a 3-10 second time limit and keep moving around the circle.  Take one item per person until everyone has shared all their items. This process builds a team participation by giving everyone an equal voice.A variation of the process is to have small groups list ideas and ask for a round robin listing by group.


PROPOSAL When you need a suggestion, ask for proposals.  Use this after several ideas have been shot down by group members.  “If you oppose, you must propose” is a team-building ground rule.
LIKES and CONCERNS(and all other 2-part lists) Individuals (or groups) first list what they like about a document, proposal or plan.  When that list is complete, they list their concerns.  Next, clarify items on the “likes” list.  Clarify items on the “concerns” list, then pick the top 1-3.   Create an action plan for the top 1-3.This is how you work all 2-part lists:  Plus-Delta evaluations, Supports and barriers, Pros and cons, etc.
Narrowing to a Decision
STRUCTURED DISCUSSION This works best when your group is considering 5 or fewer options.  This is an Individual Listing and Round Robin technique, but each participant advocates for the option they believe is best.Specific instructions are under the consensus tools.  This process can be used outside a consensus process.



OPEN DISCUSSION This is the default process for meetings that are not structured. While it allows maximum spontaneity, it quickly becomes unwieldy and exhausting.Open discussion is not an effective way to get information into the room, to sort or clarify it, to evaluate it.  Trying to do all these tasks with open discussion is like chewing gum and eating peanuts at the same time: A confusing mess.


The best time for open discussion is after all the information has been brought into the open by other methods, and after it has been sorted and categorized by other methods


When open discussion spontaneously erupts after those processes, it’s electric, and moves quickly to closure.


NEGATIVE VOTE Use this to bring any conversation to a close more quickly and clearly.  Instead of asking “Is everyone OK if we move on?” ask, “Who has an objection to moving on?”  You’ll find out right away if someone does.
ACTION PLAN  Agenda items that end with an action plan build teams. An action plan has 4 parts:  1. The task, 2.  the deadline for completion, 3. the date it will be brought back to the group, and 4. the person responsible.  When more than one person is responsible, assign a convener, someone responsible for making sure the action plan gets done.
CONSENSUS Consensus is not a “decision everyone can live with.”  It’s a decision that everyone agrees to support with all their might, including upper management.  Consensus requires being affected by another’s thinking.  After generating a list ideas, options or solutions, several rounds of polling and sorting are help the group decide.  The number of items on your list determines which of the following you use.

Consensus-Building Processes


Use to narrow a list of more than 10 alternatives without lengthy discussion on alternatives no one in the group feels strongly about.


1. Establish Clarity and agreement about decision criteria.  (Criteria can be established by either the leader or the group.)
2. List on a flip chart the options to be considered.  Assign each option a letter of the alphabet.
3. Specify the number of options each member will vote for.  The rule of thumb here is 20-25% of the total number of options.  (Do not confuse the number of options members will vote for with the number of items that will remain after the conclusion of multi-voting.  They will be different!  Example:  For a list of 15 options, members may agree to vote for three.  After the vote is taken and tallied, the list may be reduced to 8-10 options.*)
4. Individuals silently write down their choices using their letter designations.
5. Survey the group and record votes on the flip chart.  It may be quicker to ask for raised hands to indicate the number who have voted for each item, rather than asking each member to individually announce their votes
6. Narrow the list by agreeing on which options will be considered further.  Use negative voting here and start by eliminating the options no one voted for.  Example:  “I see no one voted for options 3, 5 and 7.  Would anyone object if I eliminated those from our list?”  It’s important to ask and to retain any items that even one member feels strongly about.

(*You can use multi-voting several times to reduce a list of any size to 10 or fewer items.)

Rank Ordering

Rank ordering is best used when a group needs to narrow a list of 6-10 options.  Ideally, rank ordering will reduce the list to 5 or fewer items which is the amount of items needed to move to the next step, structured discussion.




  1. Establish clarity and agreement about decision criteria.
  2. List on a flip chart the options to be considered.  Assign each option a letter of the alphabet.
  3. Individuals assign each item a number from 1 to 5, with “1” indicating their first choice, and 5 their last choice.
  4. Use a round robin process to have members call out their rankings.  These numbers are recorded on the flip chart.  (an alternative is to have group members record their rankings on the flip charts themselves.)
  5. Add the rankings on the flip chart.  This work can be split up among the members.  Remember:  the lowest number indicates the highest ranking, or most preferred option.
  6. Review the results paying attention to both the totals for each number and the individual rankings.  For example, in a group of seven people, six members have given the option a 4 or 5, ranking and one has given it a 1 ranking.  The total number suggests that the option be eliminated from further consideration, but it is important to find out why even member made it their preferred option.
  7. Agree on which  options will be considered further.  Look for items that are easy to agree on, for example, eliminating items that have high totals and no individual rankings of 1 or 2, or retaining items that even one member feels strongly about.

Structured Discussion

Most of the time groups rely on unstructured (or open) discussion to express preferences and reach a decision.  Unstructured discussion is likely to limit the level of exploration of ideas  to a few people doing most of the talking and by a premature fixation on one or two options.  Structured discussion provides balanced participation and supports a deeper level of listening and thinking about the options being considered.  Structured discussion is appropriate when the group is trying to achieve consensus on a list of five or fewer options.


  1. Establish clarity and agreement about decision criteria.
  2. Establish the time limit for speaking each member will have.  (typical is 1-2 minutes)
  3. Silent individual reflection.  This is where people get to stop and think in silence before listening to others opinions.  A few minutes of silent thought now will increase the opportunity for active listening and deep thinking when opinions are being expressed.  (Did I mention that this is a time for silent reflection?)
  4. Round robin where one member expresses their opinion without discussion or rebuttal.  Have someone watching the time here.
  5. Summarize the themes and points of agreement after all members have spoken.
  6. Summarize the areas of disagreement and ask for ideas to resolve them.  Sometimes it is helpful to have another round robin response to the areas of disagreement because members may have changed their minds after hearing the opinions of others.  At some point the discussion will become an open discussion.  Summarizing agreements and resolving impasses are what’s needed to keep the discussion moving forward.