The Importance of Enthusiastic Facilitation, and Why Faking it Works
Flavor Flav is the original hype man. He amps up crowds and brings an infectious enthusiasm to everything he does. Enthusiasm is a peculiar thing. The more you fake it, the more REAL it becomes. It is inherently contagious, motivating, and energizing.
Why do we care about enthusiastic facilitation in software development?
Writing software is just the result of someone typing words into a computer. Yes, someone might genuinely be enthusiastic about doing this day after day. But it can be a lonely, tedious process at times. Every bit of extra energy, excitement, and motivation can be used to make software development better.
Remember a day when you were excited to work on one specific thing versus the days when you knew you had a tedious assignment. There’s a massive difference in enthusiasm for the work you are doing.
If a facilitator can help increase that enthusiasm just a little bit, it will make your day a bit easier, and more importantly, productive.
Increasing the enthusiasm just a little bit will show in the work that people are doing. Happiness increases; code is written better and potentially faster. This really isn’t anything new.
What is so special about enthusiasm?
When I was young, I learned an essential lesson about enthusiasm through Dena Evans while at “Point Guard College.” There was one specific person designated to be a “hype man” whose main goal is to keep up the levels of enthusiasm to as high of a level as possible. This “hype man” could fake their enthusiasm by starting with clapping, shouting, jumping up and down, etc. Others would roam around and make this enthusiasm contagious by feeding off of the main hype person and try to get everyone moving. All of this to wake up your senses and keep you engaged. As we joined in clapping and jumping up and down, slowly that enthusiasm became a part of what I was doing and how I was behaving.
You might notice that most high performing teams will have this person, even if they are not specifically designated as such. This person drives the levels of energy upwards to make everyone more alert, aware, and engaged.
Being a facilitator with this type of enthusiasm might seem outlandish, but it can provide massive leaps in Team Sentiment. The way a speaker or facilitator acts helps directly drive the engagement of the participants. The more active engagement, the more work gets done. The more work that gets done, the larger sense of accomplishment and positive attitudes will be generated.
Enthusiasm as a facilitator will not solve all of your problems
Many facilitation techniques can be tedious and generally not accomplish what we set out to do. I don’t particularly enjoy sitting in 3-hour Sprint Planning meetings, nor do I know anyone that does. The same applies to other corporate disciplines. Long meetings aren’t fun.
So what if we amped up our enthusiasm in the meeting?
The most natural way to incorporate enthusiasm into the room you are facilitating is standing up. Get everyone to stand up and walk around. Corporate culture has come to ingrain the idea of:
meeting = sit down and talk
Getting up and out of seats starts conversations, and produces a lively environment to work. Specifically, in the tech industry, Software Developers spend a large part of their day at a desk writing code. Why should they also sit and stare at a computer while in a meeting? (Secret Bonus: standing up keeps people awake, so no one can fall asleep in your meeting)
But this still isn’t enough.
There are numerous tricks, techniques, and tools that can be used to facilitate effectively. As part of my work with Open Innovation Labs at Red Hat, we have captured a lot of them. And they are available open-source, here: OpenPracticeLibrary.com
Who should take this role and when should that role be in place?
Almost anyone should be able to take this role. I say almost because there are two individuals that should seldom be assuming the facilitator role.
They are: Product Owner and Architect, also known as, Business Stakeholder and Technical Stakeholder.
Why shouldn’t they? Because they will have an extremely tough time taking off their “I am responsible for this product” hat.
You want your enthusiastic facilitator to guide the team, not control them. The facilitator is there to ensure everyone gets a voice, remain positive, resolve conflicts, and that no one’s time is wasted in overly long meetings.
Have stakeholders worn both hats before? Sure, but they are the exception, not the rule.
So then who really should be the facilitator? What if we don’t have a dedicated member to facilitate? Well, you’re in luck! Pick the most positive and enthusiastic person on your team. Plus, I have a working theory if you have co-workers who used to be in Theater, they are probably a great person to position as a facilitator. Facilitation is a stage in its own right, and let’s make the process enjoyable and build a team while we do it.
When should the enthusiastic facilitation begin?
Immediately! More than likely, you already have meetings that are taking too long and participation is getting stale. Why not change things up and allow another person the opportunity to facilitate? Let’s use enthusiastic facilitation to drive a positive and happy work environment.