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How to Get the Most Out of Collaborative Work Sessions: Show Notes & Transcript

Post | Aug 23, 2022

Welcome back to Marketing Smarts! From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini (that’s us) comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. We deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from our combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. We tell it how it is so whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.

This is Episode #108 and we’re talking making the most of collaborative work sessions. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and your other favorite podcast spots – follow and leave a 5-star review if you’re exercising your Marketing Smarts!

  • Episode Summary & Player
  • Show Notes
  • Marketing Smarts Summary
  • Transcript

Marketing Smarts Episode #108: How to Get the Most Out of Collaborative Work Sessions

Brainstorming and strategy sessions can work wonders for your organization – if you do them right, that is. Collaborative work sessions can be a huge help and create that insight your business needs right now. But, it gets tricky really quickly when you have so many voices in the same room. So how do you nail your next collaborative session? In this episode, you’ll learn why you should always have 2 facilitators, give homework, allow for respectful debate, and never leave the final decision up to the group. You’ll also discover how to manage strong personalities who dominate the conversation and ensure your team takes the right steps following the session. This episode covers everything from brainstorming to debate. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • How do you get the most out of collaborative work sessions?
  • What does it mean to be a good manager?
  • Why should you give homework?
  • How do you allow for respectful debate?
  • What is power dotting?
  • How do you manage strong personalities in the room?
  • Should you hire a third party to manage the session?
  • What did Victoria’s Secret do wrong with their first-mover advantage?

And as always, if you need help in building your Marketing Smarts, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at:

Check out the episode, show notes, and transcript below:

Show Notes

  • How to Get the Most Out of Collaborative Work Sessions
    • [0:00] Welcome to Marketing Smarts
    • [0:29] Anne Candido, April Martini
    • [0:33] Learn more at
    • [0:39] How do you get the most out of collaborative work sessions?
    • [1:04] P&G (Procter & Gamble)
    • [1:32] Agency-Side
    • [4:52] What does it mean to be a good manager?
    • [6:17] Client
    • [10:28] Why should you give homework?
    • [15:03] How do you allow for respectful debate?
    • [18:12] How do you manage louder voices in the room?
    • [21:06] Why should you never leave the final decision up to the group?
    • [22:23] What is power dotting?
    • [26:09] Are you craving a deeper dive immersion into the topics on our podcast? Shop our Virtual Consultancy
    • [26:51] Recap: How do you get the most out of collaborative work sessions?
    • In-the-Trenches
    • [27:48] We have some very strong personalities who always seem to dominate. How do I manage them?
    • [29:29] PR (Public Relations)
    • [32:54] The Round House Bar in Put-In-Bay
    • [33:46] How do I get people to do their next steps after the session so there is progress?
    • [40:28] I am leading a session for my own company. I know it’s ideal to have a third party, but we just don’t have time and money. What are the watch-outs?
    • Marketing Smarts Moments
    • [47:04] Victoria’s Secret
    • [50:01] Macy’s
    • [50:51] First-Mover Advantage
    • [51:18] PINK
    • [52:23] LIVELY
    • [53:08] Tommy John
    • [53:25] Recap: How do you get the most out of collaborative work sessions?
    • [53:59] Make sure to follow Marketing Smarts on your favorite podcast spot and leave us a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts
    • [54:04] Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn
    • [54:10] Sign up to view all the ForthRight worksheets & tips for FREE!
    • [54:12] Shop our Virtual Consultancy

What is Marketing Smarts?

From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. They deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from their combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. They tell it how it is so whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.

How do I exercise my Marketing Smarts?

Thanks for listening to Marketing Smarts. Get in touch here to become a savvier marketer. 


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Anne Candido 0:02
This is Marketing Smarts – a podcast committed to helping you become a savvy or marketing leader, no matter your level. In each episode, we will dive into a relevant topic or challenge that marketing leaders are currently facing. We will also give you practical tools and applications that will help you put what you learn into practice today. And if you missed anything, don’t worry, we put worksheets on our website that summarize the key points. Now, let’s get to it. Welcome to Marketing Smarts. I am Anne Candido and I am April Martini. And today we’re going to talk about how to get the most out of collaborative work sessions. So when I was in R&D at P&G, I used to love the idea of going to brainstorming sessions or strategy sessions or creative development sessions or product exploratory session me, you name it, I loved them, all the sessions, all the sessions. And the reason why I liked it, because I felt like it allowed you to kind of throw out all the rules, and you got to just kind of throw out all your ideas, and you kind of got to go a little bit rogue and it just was like freedom. It was awesome, especially in you know, what the confines of P&G. But I must admit, after the amazing high always came to a really amazing low, because many times outcomes were unclear. The momentum to activate behind the next steps waned, people started to give excuses as to why they couldn’t do what we discussed. And the list goes on and on.

April Martini 1:25
Yeah, and I think being on the agency side, and being the ones that had to plan and run a lot of these sessions, this is what we were always trying to manage against, right, because, as Anne just very clearly shared with you, everyone would get really excited to be in the room and share their ideas and have that flexibility outside of their day to day job. But once that sort of magic was gone, and everyone felt like they said their piece, it was really hard on the agency side as the ones responsible to pick up the pieces, so to speak, and keep things moving, to get people to refocus, in order to move those outcomes forward.

Anne Candido 2:06
Yeah, well said. And since we facilitate all of these sessions, on behalf of our clients, we thought we would share our tips for how to get the most out of these sessions. But let’s first cover the obvious ones. So just so you guys know, we’re not going to be like talking about having clear objectives. You guys know about having clear objectives. We’re gonna talk about some examples of clear objectives. But you guys know, you need to have clear objectives. You also know, you need an agenda with allocated times. You need to have stimulus for people to react to, you’d have snacks and drinks to keep everybody’s energy up. You ask them not to multitask, and you need to assign action items and owner. So those are the obvious ones. Did I miss anything? April and take phones away? Oh, take phones away. Oh, good luck on that one. Good try. So with that we’re going to talk about the more that non obvious tips, because I’m going to assume that you guys are doing most of those for getting the most out of your collaborative work session. So your first one is you should always have two facilitators, a leader and a manager, Amen. Yes. Now the leader is the one who guides everyone through the agenda facilitated discussion, that one is pretty common, almost everybody will identify a leader. The one that people forget is the manager, okay, the managers, the one who’s taking the notes, they’re managing the time, they’re taking a pulse check of their group, and they intervene accordingly. So these should be assigned roles, and ideally should be folks who don’t have a vested interest in the outcome. Because if they do, things can start to get a little bit skewed. And we’re going to talk about a little bit about that later. But this is why then many people hire external facilitators in many Hiral a leader, like I said, very popular thing, but what they fail to do is identify a manager. Now the manager could be somebody internally, if you need to manage costs, as long as they can be impartial. And unlike what I talked about an intro, there actually should be rules. So the leader is in charge of setting them and keeping them and what I always start out with when I’m a leader is what my role is as a leader which is to to some uncomfortable things like push people when they’re not actually expressing what they need to express or calling on people. Sometimes that may be being too quiet and you know, they have something to say you’re there to point out inconsistencies. If somebody’s saying one thing and they flip their their story, you’re supposed to be calling those out. You need to make sure everybody feels heard. It’s very, very important these sessions and you need to facilitate respectful debate, because that’s ultimately what’s going to lead you to your your objective. So I even admit at the very beginning that they actually may not like me at the end and that is okay because as a leader your job isn’t to be nice. Your job is to facilitate a discussion. April, why don’t you talk to us about what it means to be a manager and how does a person be a manager? Well,

April Martini 4:57
yes, but first I want to go back to that point. About stating that they don’t necessarily have to like you, I to think that that is really important to put that out into the room, because I have seen too many times where it’s not stated overtly, and it gets uncomfortable or awkward. And it doesn’t allow on either side, whether we’re talking the leader or the participants to feel really free and comfortable to say what they want to say and put it out there, right, there’s that like, oh, I don’t want to rub them the wrong way, whatever. But when you put it out there that you may not like me at points, and that’s my job. There is a freeing sense, I think that comes over the room of like, okay, so, okay, at those points. So, anyway, but yeah, so I’m on the side of the manager. So I was recently put in this position, and we all know how much I love to give up control.

Anne Candido 5:47
You did such a good job.

April Martini 5:49
I embraced it. Okay. But I mean, oftentimes, I was the leader in the sessions, right? Well, now I have an in and is an amazing facilitator, as well. So I don’t have to play that role anymore. Nor do I really love it the way that I used to, I actually am finding that I prefer to be the manager. So we had a recent client session. And like I said, that was my role. And I probably spent the first 30 minutes freaking out about what I should be doing, saying, opening my mouth, you know, all of these different things. But every time I would get an idea and would already cover off on it, because sometimes we share a brain of speed. And so once i Yes, very scary. And once so once I sat back and thought, Okay, well, my role is not to be in so April, you need to let that go down. That’s how we set it up before the session, I really was able to do yes, the logistical things that and sat around taking notes keeping time. But really more than that, what I was doing was watching the room, and really listening and feeling what people were saying. And so the point that I want to make about the manager, and one of the mistakes, I think, you know, ansaid people always have the leader, they don’t always have the manager. But also what I’ve seen happen is they have the leader, and they pick too junior of a manager. Yeah. And so it’s not actually a partner to the leader, it’s more of someone who’s just going to do those logistics, right. But in this role, because my seniority and experience matches or complements. And in these situations, I was able to sense out things that she just can’t because she’s pushing, right, she’s facilitating, she’s keeping the conversation moving. And so I’ll just give an example. There was one point where I felt like one of the people in the room was starting to get a little bit up in angst or a little bit uncomfortable. And I wanted to make sure that he felt heard, because he had sort of reiterated his point in different ways. But I could tell he was having a little bit of trouble articulating himself. And so I chose that moment to step in and say, Hey, number one your heard so and, you know, said the point about making sure people feel hurt. I just very overtly said that. And then I gave the perspective that we were not suggesting at this point, it was like throw everything out and start over. Right? Yeah. And that we would never suggest that actually, and that what we are pushing on is making sure we get to the right outcomes of the session. But that by no means would that be the approach moving forward. And you could sort of see him visibly relax, which gave me a huge sense of pride and purpose, if I’m being really honest, it was like, Okay, I got this manager top down, I can do this, right. But then also it moved him into a state of being able to be much more vulnerable in the room. And it would have been unfair to expect and to be able to manage that on top of everything else that she was managing. It also would have been unfair if I was a more junior or substantially more junior than the people in the room manager to be able to do that, because it probably wouldn’t have landed as well. But I think it’s just a really good example. And like I said, for me, it was a personal win. But it was just it’s it’s the way that I think it operates best. And I also think that anytime you put just a leader in there, you’re setting that leader up for failure, because they also have to feel like they have people in the room that are surrounding them. And it’s not just their show to run,

Anne Candido 9:18
right. And it can get very tense for a leader if they’re trying to navigate some sort of dynamic within the actual session that they may or may not know anything about. Yep. So even if you have a manager who is an external facilitator, that manager needs to be in lockstep with whoever is running the session and make sure that they understand hey, are am I going to have anybody who’s a little bit difficult? Is there any dynamics I should know about? Is there somebody who’s going to be kind of resistant, like you kind of get a pulse for the room before you even go in there. So the manager knows exactly what to expect, as best as you can when you start having those discussions, but then it’s prepared for like Ah, yes, somebody prepare me like that person prepare me that this could happen. I know what to go do now. If it’s the leader, the leader then gets totally off track. So it’s so important what you said April is to have like those rules clearly identified and make sure that the person is set up well, in order to do the role that they’ve been given. Yes, yeah, absolutely. All right. The second way to get the most out of collaborative work sessions is to give homework in April loves giving homework, that’s just something you’ve taught me. So I’m gonna let you take this one.

April Martini 10:30
I do love homework, and you know, in the in the setup, and talked about the messiness that goes into sessions, and you know, how it can feel a little bit chaotic. And we all know that I’m a processor. I love chaotic sessions. So yeah, and I mean, honestly, I think that this was born out of getting burned too many times in sessions, because, yes, you should do all the logistical things that again, said in the beginning set objectives, you know, make sure that there’s timing around your activities, all those things, but it’s to your benefit to get everybody marching in the same direction prior to the session, you don’t have control over what they’re doing before they actually get there. And also, while you know, I’m a processor, so I get tense in the sessions, when I’m like, What are we going to do with this? What are we going to do with this, you know, there are people that aren’t good at coming in cold, either on the other side, and so they want to participate in it comes from a good place, but they’re just throwing things at the wall that may or may not be relevant, and could even end up being a distraction. So what I find or you know, have always found really, once we started instituting homework, it really grounded the conversation and helped it be a lot richer and more productive overall on the other side, because you can manage where you want people to focus, giving their them homework, holds them accountable to participating appropriately in the session. And it also gets everyone thinking about the same things. And so you’re starting much more from that place. Now, I will say a watch out is if you are going to assign homework, you need to make sure that you go over the homework and spend a good amount of time with it in the session. Because the last thing you want to do is have people spend time on something and then it’s like, well, wait a minute, we didn’t even talk about what that what was the point of that? Right? And I also find it’s not enough just to say, Okay, you did all your thinking on the homework, which is, you know, prepped us for today. So we’re ready to jump into the conversation. No, no, then you’ve just wasted the homework because people don’t have a chance to get warmed up. Or they feel you know, like, Well, what was the point of it, then I don’t see the connections easily even though you might What am I supposed to just have blind faith? Right. So but all that to say, I just think it’s a really good way to leap off the diving board versus dipping your toe in the water and trying to really use the time in sessions wisely. Just a caveat to that, too, is it can shorten the length of your sessions. If you do the homework. I am not a fan of eight hour sessions, I think that there is just a point of diminishing returns. So I try to manage against that amount of time, wherever possible. I think it’s just too much of a departure from everybody’s day to day. And you’re asking them to do some heavy thinking and speaking and be vulnerable, like I said before, so homework can be another way to jump in quickly and cut it by a couple of hours, which can also be helpful

Anne Candido 13:23
to the group. Yeah, I think you make a good point about the fact that it helps both sides. So when you give homework, it helps those who need a process have time to actually do that processing. Because, yep, they’re not going to be as actively eager to jump in with their thoughts in the actual session, because they’re processing and then a lot of times they feel like they kind of get left behind. And they finally have something to say but that happened like an hour ago, right? Uh huh. But then you also are helping those people who are like more in it, who like to do it more edit actually have something of value to add, because what tends to happen is then it just becomes like, everything that they’re thinking becomes, you know, lays out there by No, these people who get very excited, you know, like I did in order to like, share with everything that was on our mind, right? And so becomes very unfocused, these people can tend to hijack the discussions, then and then it’s hard to kind of bring it back down. So the processing that can be done beforehand helps everybody get their thoughts in order. So you have a much more productive conversation. And I know a lot of people are like, well, I like to have the spontaneity in my sessions. It’s like well, listen, guys, the spontaneity doesn’t come from everybody coming in cold. Like you said, April. The spontaneity comes from like somebody bringing in some well thought out ideas. I was like, yes, that and like so the spontaneity comes from everybody building on each other’s ideas, not from just coming cold with ideas. Because you’re right, you’ll spend the first two hours three hours just kind of trying to get people warmed up. And if people had some time to think beforehand, you would and be able to kind of thought process their way through it, they would come a lot more ready to participate in a much more meaning away, absolutely 100%. Right. So now the third way to get the most out of collaborative work sessions is to allow for respectful debate. And this is one of my actual favorites, because this is something that tends to get shut down very, very quickly, because it makes people feel kind of like nervous about how to manage this kind of debate. And we still have this perception that when we go into these conversations, everybody needs to be very polite, right? Everybody needs to kind of have some level of decorum, everybody needs to be like, mindful of whatever, like who’s the highest ranking person in the room, and not to like, disagree with that person. So first of all, what I will say is debate is very, very good. Because what it does is it reveals the perspectives that individuals have, and they’re coming from the place of their own POV, which is really, really important. And that’s what you want to get out there. That’s what the whole point of these sessions are is like to get in see the problem you’re trying to solve, or the objective you’re trying to solve from these different lenses. Now, what you need to be careful of is that that it actually does remain respectful. So when I say screaming matches, where people are putting each other like that, that is not productive. Okay, so it still needs to be respectful debate. And you need to be careful that you’re not allowing certain folks to monopolize the conversation. Because as we said, you can have some dynamics and some people bring in baggage to these things. And they want to be heard, and they want to be heard again, and then they want to be heard for a third time and they want to win the conversation. So in order to manage this and make sure that your debates days respectful, there’s, there’s several things that you can do in order to kind of get into it when people are starting to get not respectful, right. So what you can do first us as people are kind of going at each other, and it’s starting to get very, very uncomfortable for those involved, you can interrupt them, and you should interrupt them, don’t let them finish, they will never be done. All right, it’ll go on forever. And you say something like thanks to both of you for bringing valuable perspective, we have captured it. And now we’re going to move on. A lot of times, it makes sense to even have like a little whiteboard or a flip chart that actually has parking lot items. And you put that on there that helps these people not hijack the meeting, and it helps you to continue to move on with the agenda. You should call a break, if you feel it’s like it’s starting to get really tense, call a break, let everybody go calm down. And then you actually should address it with the people who are having that conversation and they’re creating the tenseness and the intensity within the session. And you need to tell them that they need to bring it down. Right. So if this discussion needs to happen offline, it can happen offline. And you can tell them, you appreciate their input, but they are distracting, and they are monopolizing the whole session. So those are some ways that you can start kind of bringing the energy back down if you see that the respectful debate is starting to escalate. April, I know you have other thoughts on this one.

April Martini 18:10
Yeah, first, I would just say this is tough, right? Because you want people to be passionate. But it can spiral out of control really quickly, right? So this is one where if your ears start picking up at all, you need to defuse as quickly as you possibly can. But to the point that and made about taking parties away, I think that sidebars can be hugely helpful, especially if you’re dealing with issues with the leaders and decision makers in the room. So you know, another session recently that we had, as one of the managers in the room, I noticed that, you know, the lead person was starting to feel frustration with the results that were coming out. Right. And so it was one of those situations where it was coming from a place of positivity. But, and I mean, in this group, we didn’t have disrespectful debate, really, like they were very passionate about what they were talking about. But I think that he was feeling the onus to get to a solution in the room, right. And so I think that just by having the conversation of hey, you can take the pressure off yourself. We’re getting what we need from here. It’s not left to you and your devices or this session right now to figure it out. But I think that that dialogue on the side, allowed this person to relax more back into the process and participate more actively. And so I think that that is what you should always be looking to do. And so it’s okay to take nuanced approaches. I love the idea of the parking lot so much because I have gotten myself out of messy situations time and time again, just by saying it’s on the board now, like, you don’t have to repeat it again, we got it, it’s on the parking lot, remember, okay, let’s move on. But I do think also, it’s kind of that I dread addressing the elephant in the room type thing, right? Assess the personalities that you’re dealing with, try to figure out where you think it’s coming from, and then go have the conversation in the right tone with them outside of the bigger group. So that they again, it’s acknowledged that they’re heard, this may not be the place for that. And also, please help us by coming back in and actively participating in the conversations that we need to have. Now.

Anne Candido 20:40
Yeah, that’s a really good point in the one you made about not having to actually solve for it in the room, which is a big mistake that people make is they’ll they’ll try to reach a resolution, which is almost impossible, we have two very highly passionate people who have very specific points of view, least in Islington, the next point, and I’m sorry, I preempted a little bit, but that’s okay. You do a lot. That’s right. I do.

April Martini 21:03
I can help myself. And yeah, so the fourth point of how to get the most out of the collaborative work sessions is to never leave the final decision up to the group, which is mine. Yeah. Which is probably why I was sort of speaking ahead of myself, there you go. But okay, if you hear anything in our conversation today, here, this, the final decisions should not be made by committee. And this is a frustration that Anna and I have both experienced, and really something that we have no patience for. And there’s a lot of reasons for this one of them I just gave, which is, it’s unfair to this large group of people to try to reach resolution, usually about something that’s not their day to day job, and much bigger than what is happening and however many hours we have together. There’s also the fact that when you do these sessions, if you do them, right, you want a cross section of different types of folks from the organization. And that typically means that they’re not all peers. And what that means specific to this point is that they may not have decision making power anywhere in the organization, you’ve brought them in for fill in the blank reason you think they’re a rising star, you feel like you need to hear from their department creative, they’re creative, they’re good in sessions, they’re willing to put their voice out there, but that doesn’t make them a decision maker. And so when we start to see, sessions go in the direction of things like power dotting which Anna and I both oh my god, anytime this Apex comes up, which means and for those of you that aren’t familiar, you get, I don’t know, usually an odd number three power dots, and you’re supposed to go up and put your power.on, the idea that inspires you the most that you think is the best solution, or the biggest problem solver, fill in the blank. And this is one of the places that I really see the conversation go to a dangerous place when it comes to outcomes of the session, right? Because there’s no criteria usually, with the power nodding of you know, something, we can actually go do something that the leadership is going to allow us to do all of those types of things. And I know again, I can appreciate it comes from the idea of not killing the energy and not you know, making people build the building them up just to crash them back down into reality, I know why it’s done. But the issue becomes with what happens on the other side of that session, and what can realistically be tackled, you really need to have the people that are going to be the decision makers outlined ahead of the session, as the leader in the manager that allows you to look to them and use them as helpers in the session. It also tells the room that the objective today is not to solve it come to consensus come to a final decision, but that we are looking for inputs. And all of you have been invited today because we want your voices to be heard exact those types of things. But never should you ever use a session to button up, put the bow around, make the final calls and move forward from there. It will ultimately lead to failure. And like I said, it can be a major major distraction for the teams in the business.

Anne Candido 24:10
And it totally diminishes the whole impact of the of the session. So why are you going to have this session? If you’re going to let a bunch of people like you said, who I mean, to be very forthright, have no basis for making a decision making a decision, because what happens and I’m sorry, I’m a little passionate about this is that you go through all this effort, you create a session, you create the right momentum, and then people vote for stupid ideas because they think they’re funny, or they’re cool, or they’re their own ideas or whatnot. And then you wonder why nobody wants to go do them. After the session is over. You’re like, that’s because it was not an actionable decision anyway, so yeah, then you either have to backtrack and you have to undo, which then questions the integrity of what you just went through and what you put people through and people are like, well then why did I spend my time or you have to like entertain And this idea that you’re going to like, you know, take it to some level of permission where you can then absolutely kill it, which then again, waste people times people, like, why am I working on this? So we’re gonna get into that in a little bit. But I think what you said, April, it lends back then to making your objectives a little bit more clear. So like what we said, like your objective should never be like, come to a consensus or choose or lock in, like, those are words that everybody likes to use, because I want action. Instead, you can hedge these a little bit by saying things like, provide two to three viable options, right? So you providing a range or define two to three paths. So this helps you kind of get that idea the ideas generated, but it doesn’t commit that actual group to actually making the decisions. But this is also why you don’t ever have to shut down any kind of respectful debate, because you’re generating ideas, you don’t need to reach consensus, but then you can also shut down non productive debate because there’s never an intent to actually solve for anything in that session. Right? Right. So that’s how you kind of get around that. All right, so just to recap how to get the most out of collaborative work sessions. First, you should always have two facilitators, a leader and a manager, the leader is the one who guides or you went through the agenda and facilitates the discussion, the manager takes notes, manages the time, takes a pulse check of their group and intervenes accordingly. Second, give homework this is critical, because everyone in your group thinks and acts differently. Third, allow for respectful debate that don’t allow it to go off the rails monopolize the time. Finally, never leave the final decision up to the group final decision to not be made by committee. Our next segment is In-the-Trenches where we give real world examples specific to industries and situations but but broad application for anyone to adjust and put into action. So our first In-the-Trenches question, we have some very strong personalities who always seem to dominate.

Who doesn’t right? How do I manage them? That’s a big question. Alright. So this is where it’s really nice to have a third party person who isn’t invested actually in the outcome, then you don’t have to worry about being so polite. But if you don’t have that luxury, and you have to do it internally, here’s what has worked for us. So first, you can do a go around the room discussion. And I’ve told the story before about one of our VPs at the time, it was in fabric care. She was famous for her quick, creative reviews, because what she would do is she would come into the session and she goes, Okay, I just want to know, three things. I want to know what you liked what you didn’t like, what would you do differently, and you need to give it to me in less than 60 seconds, right. So it’s not a big elaborated, like getting on your soapbox kind of thing. It’s give me what you actually feel and be concise and be direct. And then I will hear all of you and then I will process through and I’ll make a decision, which really, I think is so brilliant, because it eliminates the bad behavior immediately. Because people then feel the pressure of oh man, I have to make the right point. Instead of I can hop up there and talk for as long as I want to. Oh, yeah. And we know who those people are, right. And that’s why that’s why you do this. A homework is another really great way of being able to facilitate this because it makes sure that what the thoughts are coming to the room are thoughts that have been actually vetted internally by the person before they’re like, spewed out in front of everybody. Second is give them the opportunity to get it off their chest, we’ve talked about this a lot is that you’re not going to be able to go toe to toe with somebody who’s very feeling very, very passionately about their point of view. So that’s why we say things like the parking lot is a really great way of like letting them like after chess, capture it, let them know what’s been heard, and then move on. Right. And another one is include others by bridging strategically This is actually a communications PR had a trick, this bridging technique. But it’s like, if somebody says something in they’ve been making their point over and over, and they just won’t be quiet and they won’t take a seat. You say that’s great. I would like to hear from somebody else, somebody from r&d on their point of view on this, and actually call them out to actually speak up so that you’re getting in facilitating that discussion that you wanted to diversity of thought what you’re going for here. And incidentally, this is how you get someone who’s actually more or introverted to speak to Yep. And actually you introverted people, if you’re going to want us to sessions, you are expected to speak, you cannot sit and be a wallflower. If you’re going to be a wallflower, then you might as well not even go and you won’t be invited again, you won’t be invited again. And like I said, just to really hit this point hard is don’t try and shut these people down. Okay? Let them actually get out what they need to say in a reasonable amount of time. But if you push on them, they’re just going to push harder back on you because they just want to be heard and appreciated. They want to be right. So do all these things. We said that should help but April I know you have other thoughts too.

April Martini 29:57
Yeah, and this is where setting the parameter As at the beginning can come back in because you can lean back into that idea of the agenda, and that you have certain things that you want to get to and cover in the session. And so we don’t have all day to belabor all the points, and you just say it in a nice way, right? It’s like, okay, you know, what you’re saying is great, I told you at the beginning that there were going to be places where I was going to have to shut things down. Sorry to be the bad guy, but we need to move on to the next piece of our agenda. And really, if someone tries to come back on that, I mean, they end up looking like the jerk in the situation, right? Because it’s like, well, I was hired to facilitate the session. And now you’re going to go against not only, you know, pushing your own agenda, but now you’re also going to go against the structure of the session and disrespect everyone in this room. Right? Hmm. Another one I would say is that parking lot idea. And I mentioned this before, but as you’re putting it on the parking lot, you can say something like, I totally get that you’re really passionate about this. So I’m going to put it on the parking lot for additional discussion that can take place outside of this room. Because that wasn’t one of our objectives for today. Although it was a really great idea and put a star next and put a start, put a star next to a form very important. Yeah. And this can be really tricky. And we did talk about sidebars before. But if you can take the dominant voices aside and say, you know, you have so many great ideas. And I’d even be happy to chat with you additionally, outside of the session, if that’s what it requires. But you’re so outgoing, and there are other people in here who I would love to hear from. So I don’t have to worry about you, I know you’re always going to speak up and give your point of view. But if you could just help me encourage other people to do the same thing. So we can hear from everyone with the limited time we have, I would really appreciate that. So you’re doing the ego stroke, at the same time as you’re getting them to kind of stop the behavior that you want to have stopped. But I just find that if you ask for help, and you position it as this is such a great strength of yours, I get why you’re so comfortable in these sessions. People hear it as a compliment, and then are willing to come back in and help you instead of resist you in the session.

Anne Candido 32:16
That’s funny too, because that reminds me of a story that one of my friends Jerry, who used to be a bouncer way, way long time ago at The Round House Bar at Put-In-Bay and he said the amount of bouncer you’re standing up on this looks like a chair that’s at up a lifeguard chair and you’re up high. And he would like scan and he looked for the people, he thinks he’s going to be a troublemaker, and you get off his chair and you go to them, he goes, You look like you’re having a really good time. I could really use your help and helping make sure everybody else has a good time. So can you keep you know, your buddies under control? And you know, make sure that you know everybody’s Oh, yeah, I can do that. I can do that for you. You just taking the person who’s he expects is going to be the big troublemaker and made him an ally. And he’s like, worked every time every time every time it worked. Yep. So there you go. What I can learn from Put-In-Bay.

April Martini 33:05
I wasn’t sure where that was going at first. But that is a very applicable example.

Anne Candido 33:09
Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. All right. So the second of the trenches question, how would I get people to do their next steps after this session. So there is progress. April. Yeah. So just

April Martini 33:20
like you have the designated decision makers, you also have to have a team that’s designated prior to the session that is going to lead the follow ups. And just to be clear, it’s not the same people. So the decision makers are usually the leaders, the higher ups, the ones that have approval or veto power, those types of people, the ones that are going to lead, the follow ups are usually project managers or account managers, you know, the more task oriented positions where this would be a normal expectation of their role, it’s just another project that they are taking on to their plate. And, again, this team really needs to be identified prior to the session, because one of the big watch outs we have is doing the opposite, which is what we call voluntold, which is you’re in the session and you get put on the spot and you’re told in front of this roomful of people that now you’re going to take on the action items and next steps, not a good, comfortable place for people to want to be, I think you’ll have a lot more success if you preempt and plan for it. Because then people feel important, instead of feeling put upon. They feel like they have an important role for this session. And so they can be participating but also actively thinking about what they need to do next, which makes them more productive, but also it strokes their ego a little bit versus that voluntold where you feel cornered and like you don’t have a choice because you’re in front of all these people. And you also want to make sure that the people that you pick, while they’re not the decision makers, they really do have a vested interest or are excited about this session. or when you tell them, It’s met with a hug get to be included. I mean, these are the types of people that you want with you in the session, because we gave you the caution of things not going anywhere, this will build the momentum. And you’ll know you’ll find the right people that are then going to make things come to life on the other side of that session. And then also, this is where we talk about logistics. So make sure timing is established follow ups are scheduled, do not leave the session and have no specific next steps about what is going to happen. That first deliverable really should be within a week. Even if it’s something small, you maintain the momentum, people start to see a timeline roll out. And then with that timeline, and it’s communication, you have to stay on top of it. So these people are the ones that are meant to go around. And if they have to say, Hey, I didn’t get your deliverable, we can’t move forward without your input on this. And really make sure that things don’t go off the rails, which was a caution from the very beginning. And then you need to make sure that there are meetings or check ins or a way that the decision makers are going to hear about the updates and the progress being made. And or have times to weigh in, those are the people that are usually hardest to get on their calendars. So you got to make sure that you have that timeline. But as part of that you have noted for these people’s admins or whoever’s managing their calendar, to know that let’s say every two weeks or once a month, for the next six months, we need to make sure that there’s a meeting on the calendar and that this time is preserved, so that we have the next steps. And then this also gives those people that are lower on the totem pole, quote, unquote, an ability to interact with those higher ups, which is another incentive for them to be invested and engaged and excited about this opportunity. Because while it may not be a shiny role, it’s going to give them exposure in a way that they wouldn’t normally have.

Anne Candido 37:05
Yeah, I think those are all really, really good suggestions. And I think there’s some implied watch outs in there too. So oh, there were Yeah, so I’m gonna better be listening. Yeah, I’m gonna hit, I’m gonna hit those watches. So they’ll be like Easter, so you have to kind of like mine. So one is in making sure the team that is going to be doing a follow through in the follow ups, frankly, have support. So this is one reason why you do it ahead of time, because you want to make sure that their management supports what they’re going to go do. The other problem with being voluntold. Or even if you get really excited, and when you sessions, you’re like, Oh, I’ll do it. I’ll do it. Yeah. And then you go back to your boss, your boss is like, new, that’s not a priority, right? And so then a person’s like, well, now I feel terrible, because I’m, I want to do this, but my boss doesn’t support it. And where does your priorities go? It definitely goes back to what your boss tells you, your your priorities are. So make sure that the team has support. And in that makes sure that they’re also incentivized. So if they’re taking their time and their effort and doing this, there should be some level instead of a vacation. So it’s either some level of like bonus or like value add, or it’s like they can claim it on their whatever the way that they’re showcasing their accomplishments for the year or whatnot, that helps them lead to promotion are bigger, or opportunities for career progression, whatever those happen to be, make sure those incentives are clearly stated so that these people know that their time invested is worthwhile. It shouldn’t just be altruistic, like, Oh, of course, I’m going to do this, I’m going to help my company know people are motivated by incentives that they’re going to get. The third is the accountability piece, right? So having those management or decision making meetings, says accountability on the team. And so that’s where the management and decision makers, that’s the role I need to play is making sure like, I thought I was gonna see something, when am I going to see that, right? So then that kind of stems that in kind of filters that that kind of melee down through the ranks, where then everybody feels a sense of accountability in order to deliver what they’re supposed to deliver, so that they can all show up looking like a team and no one person is carrying the bag or you don’t want to be the person who’s kind of left out, right. And then also the progress piece, which I love what you said about like, making sure that there is a milestone very immediate to the session, right? Because the watch out there is if you don’t and it progresses too far, then you lose a little bit of momentum. And then if you let those milestones start to slide, then people start not taking it very seriously like, oh, this wasn’t that important to begin with are missing. You know, everybody’s missing their deliverables. So that’s not a big deal that I hit mine. Right. So those are the watch outs within the points that you gave that I want to make sure that everybody heard. All right, so the third in the trenches question. I am leading a session from my own company. I know it is ideal to have a third party but we just don’t have time and money. What are the watch outs? Okey dokey

So, I’m gonna hit a couple and I know April’s gonna have some two here. The first watch out is you can’t run your own agenda. Alright, so there can be a big tendency to start steering your conversations or lead the questioning or judging comments in certain ways. When you are wanting certain outcomes. If you’re going to be the leader, you need to be very impartial, you need to be seeking insight, input data, creative thinking, whatever that the session requires. And if you can’t go in there and honestly are feeling like I already like no, I want to go do this right or, and I don’t know, if I can be impartial, then either you need to recuse yourself or this session is you might as well not even do it right. You also need to be much more finesse and how and where you push. I mean, these are obviously people that you see day to day, like we said, sometimes the leader has to be kind of that tough person in the room, they’re not always the life person in the room. So you might have to be a little bit more mindful and stylize your feedback a little bit differently when these are the people in your room that you’re going to have to interact with after the session right. Now what I would do when I had to do this within png was I would actually make a point to what April was saying earlier, in actually stating my facilitator role. I’m like, I’m literally like, I’m taking my communications hat off, I am putting this facilitator hat on, I am no longer in from communications and fabricare. I am an facilitator, leader of this session, please see that differently. I’m not guaranteeing it always works sometimes annual, but like at least you’re trying to set the stage for how you want people to engage with you in the role that you’re going to be playing. And then next, I would say you can’t be intimidated by those who are higher up, okay, when you get into the room, everyone is equal, I would actually state that as a rule. When we’re in this room, everybody’s equal, everybody gets to say, nobody can shut anybody down. However you want to state that. But that is a rule. And don’t take all the pre work and follow ups for yourself, because you want all that control. So April mentioned that in the very beginning that this is a funny, like scale that we can we continue to play with each other is like, okay, who’s taken the control who you know, and who’s been the lead and who’s kind of being the backup. Make sure you share the responsibility. You can’t be a leader if nobody is following you. It’s one of the things I say all the time because I had that problem, especially younger in my career. So make sure you share the responsibility, because that will make people more invested and vested in wanting to see an outcome because they’re part of it. April, what’s your builds on that one?

April Martini 42:24
Yeah, I mean, I guess it’s just really being as objective as you possibly can, is really the overall point of what Dan just said, in all of those different instances, right? So you have to think of yourself as Switzerland. In a meeting, you have to and whatever you have to do to reinforce that which I think you made some excellent points about what are those things you need to do? How do you set it up? reaffirm it as many times as you have to? If someone asks you to switch hats, the answer is no, you can’t play both sides, not running your own agenda. I mean, oh, my gosh, I can’t tell you how many sessions I was a part of until I finally raised my hand and said, I think I should be the person running all the sessions. In one of my organizations, where we were having these problems with the, you know, people running their own agendas. I mean, it is just such an important thing. Because what again, said at the very beginning, and the reason you hire a third party, is because it’s better if the person leading has no skin in the game, right? And they really not to say that they don’t care. But it doesn’t matter to them, where the discussion lands, what decisions are made, they’re just there to get all of the inputs, like we said, and maybe they’re responsible for the outputs to, you know, the final deliverables, etc. But they’re not ones that have emotion tied to it. They’re not invested in the business. So I always tried, you know, I’m speaking from a place of experience. And as Ann’s giving all of these examples, I was like, yep, that’s what I would do. That’s what I would do. That’s what I would do, right. But it is just really important. And then on the other side, the one thing, it kind of goes along the lines of not taking all the follow up for yourself and making sure other people are invested. But I think that you are allowed to ask the participants for a little bit of grace to Yeah, you can say, look, let’s just recognize this is a tough position for me to be in. And I’m willing to do it. But what I’m asking on the other side is the respect of the people in this room to treat me as though I am that third party, right? And so it helps the leaders clue into Oh, I shouldn’t be flexing my muscle. Or you know, the people in the room thinking well, this is just April from whatever grew. Why should I have to listen to what she has to say exactly. It sets you up as the person that has been placed in this position and the most qualified to do it although the situation is not totally ideal. And I always felt like when I would walk in due that there was more willingness in the room versus resistance. And it also worked on the other side when I became the boss, but then had to facilitate with younger folks. Then I could go in and say, I’m just a facilitator here, guys, I need you to have the conversations that need to be had remember, yes, I get this as awkward for all of us, right? I’m your boss, or the higher up or whatever, facilitating the session. But the truth of the matter is, we’re

Anne Candido 45:28
here we’re trying to get to these things. So I need you to participate. So yeah, and I think you just rose another really important point is be a good participant to Oh, yeah, geez. I mean, don’t come in and take advantage of your leader, your facilitators, because you’re a higher up person ridiculous in do all the bad behavior that we were just talking about how to manage. Don’t put people in that position. Go in with the right mindset go in with the ability to learn and grow in appreciate everybody’s input. I mean, don’t don’t be that person. If you’re going to just don’t go Yes, exactly. All right. Our third and final segment is Marketing Smarts Moments. This is someone or a business we have seen recently, either using or not using their marketing smarts, and may or may not have anything to do with the topic, and this one has nothing to do with the topic. Okay, here we go. It’s like the Put-In-Bay reference. Yeah, I’m just Are we headed? So this one is actually Victoria’s Secret? Oh, god, okay. Okay, we’re doing it, we’re gonna do it. Okay. And this started actually at Put-In-Bay, Oh, my back. And one of the people we were with, and she was making a comment about how she went to Victoria’s Secret, I guess, size for a bra. And there, they told her she was a D. Now, if you looked at her, and you would have guessed, you’d be like, B, maybe a C on a good day. And I was like, A D. I’m like, What are these people doing? I mean, what became very obvious is that, and I this is Anne’s point of view about what I think is happening is that they are trying to bolster the confidence of smaller breasted women by changing the sizes, because there’s no freaking way in any universe. My friend, ad. All right. So I’m like, What is the point of that? Like, really? What’s the point of that? Because I understand how this site may be solving for something on the other end, I don’t happen to have small breasts I don’t know what that’s like, but I do happen to have large ones. So what that makes me feel like and enlarge part of the population who does is like okay, I’ve now sized out me what do I now have like double F’s I’m like what is that I mean, that just feels like so wrong to have to like actually conceptualize that. And what that also means is that now like, the way that they do the sizes, and then the way that they actually hold the inventory, there’s not a lot of choices anymore, right and so don’t I mean, they don’t carry like maybe a random Double D maybe, but it’s always like a beige or black or white right and they you don’t get a you have to order everything online and even then it’s like if he and then if you know that you’re have bigger breasts if you’re with me ladies and you’re feeling me then you know that I have to try everything on because it has to have a certain level of support it has to fit here has to fit there. It’s not that easy to fit larger breasted women. So I look at that and I just feel like overall it made me rethink about the brand and totally which I used to be a huge avid fan of this brand I had their credit card I shopped there all the time. I feel like this brand is getting super lazy the whole thing is becoming super lazy. I was just there the other day to shopping for panties and I’m like the selection now is so commoditized it used to be very cute that used to kind of lead the whole industry and having just really kind of interesting looks in fabrics and designs but they all fit well. You can’t actually find anything that one fits well that’s comfortable to that actually is made while it’s not going to fall apart after so many washes and three that actually maybe looks anything different than when I’m going to go buy at like Macy’s or something like that. So I’ve now gone on a search for like a new place to buy some of the you know undergarments kind of things because I’m like I’m so just over walking in there and you have like the the big like, you know lacy Teddy’s which you know like to people by maybe everybody else is like trying to find a freakin bra and panties said it actually fits well. I’m like, I don’t so that’s mine where I feel like they are really losing their way and I feel like as a result of all these other online boutique bras and panty like those those Businesses are going to have a much bigger place to play and are going to appeal to more women. Yeah, I

April Martini 50:08
don’t disagree. I exited Victoria’s Secret several years ago. And I think lazy is the perfect way to describe it. I think that, you know, we talk a lot about first mover advantage on this show. And I think they sat in that seat for a long time, and they were continuing to innovate. And they did always have the most intricate like, just beautifully designed lingerie. Then they extended their different demographics and they had like the PINK branch, right? They always felt like they had three or four different stores going on within the store. Yes, you had your lace Teddy’s and things when you walked in the other side was usually pink. And then you had the more quote unquote, basics, but it wasn’t basic to the level of what you’re saying where it’s just, you know, black, white, beige, whatever. The first thing that caused me to exit was quality. Yeah, anytime I get to the point where and it was this way with them, where I had had brawls that would last several years. And I was buying new ones. And every few months something was going wrong, the underwire was coming out, the lace was ripping the class on the back got a lot cheaper, and they would catch on every year thing. And stuff just started to fall apart. But I think in addition to that, the fact that the selection seemed to be getting leaner and leaner, led me to a place of you know, I used to be excited to go in here and shop and I exited. And I tried out all those online brands. And I actually am somewhat committed to LIVELY as the one where I have landed currently, I’ve had previous not great experiences. So I departed from the brand. But I too went in and looked up what are the top ones from a durability standpoint and also not sacrificing style. I don’t I wouldn’t say they have the greatest selection of style. But at least I feel like things are holding up and also holding things up. Did I started your role anyway? Yeah, so there you go. But I feel exactly the same way. I think that it’s coming across as cheap and sort of trashy. I totally agree. And that’s why I just tried while I ordered them they still have yet to arrive is Tommy John. So I’m gonna see with Tommy John’s another one I go to Yeah, I’m

Anne Candido 52:28
gonna see how those are. Yeah. And they have a bunch of different styles. They look cute. But they look like they’re way more comfortable. So we’re going to try they are really comfortable. I will say that. All right. Yes. Good news. All right. So I have more coming. More common update later. All right. Or maybe not maybe be like please don’t tell us anymore. All right, so just to recap how to get the most out of collaborative work sessions. First, you should always have two facilitators, a leader and a manager. The leader is the one who guides everyone through the agenda facilitates discussion. The manager takes notes manages the time takes to pulse check other group intervenes accordingly. Second is give homework. This is critical because everyone in your group thinks and acts differently. Third is allow for respectful debate, but don’t let it go off the rails or monopolize the time. And finally, never leave the final decision up to group final decisions and not be made by committee that will say go and exercise your Marketing Smarts.

April Martini 53:24
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