Remote Facilitation with Kristen Belcher

Podcast Ep. 123: How to Master Remote Facilitation with Kristen Belcher

Remote Facilitation with Kristen Belcher
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Episode Description:

Today, Dan Neumann is joined by Kristen Belcher, an agile coach who is saving the world, one retrospective at a time.

Kristen’s focus is all around developing genuine human connections and relentlessly pursuing improvement. She enjoys working with technical people to solve business problems and thrives on helping people find ways to make their jobs — and lives — easier and more fulfilling via better communication and technology. And more than anyone else, Kristen knows that facilitation can be fun, challenging, and incredibly rewarding — which is the topic of today’s episode.

In this conversation, Kristen shares her insights on how to effectively facilitate remotely. As someone incredibly knowledgeable on all things facilitation, Kristen shares how to make facilitation impactful and memorable, techniques for effective remote facilitation, what not to do when facilitating, and all of the other things you need to consider with remote facilitation.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Key Takeaways

  • The importance of good facilitation
    • It can make exercises incredibly impactful and memorable
    • It can help a group’s ability to collaborate effectively
  • Challenges of doing good facilitation:
    • Reading the room (especially virtually in this COVID-19 era) can be difficult (you can’t tell when people are getting tired or losing focus, getting confused, etc.)
      • Solution: A virtual indicator that is available to your audience that they may need to take a break which can help revamp the energy
    • Collaboration can be difficult virtually
      • Solution: Implement virtual collaboration tools (such as Whiteboard or Miro)
      • Solution: Create different opportunities to interact with the space (whether that’s through audio, video, text, or an online whiteboard) — this makes for a rich environment and can simulate similar engagement that you would get in a physical space
      • Solution: With larger groups, have a shared visual to help keep the focus
      • Tip: Consider exercises — they can be super helpful for engagement and collaboration
  • Techniques that are effective for remote facilitation:
    • Check-in at the beginning
    • Create a comfortable, safe, space
    • Ensure that the meeting will run smoothly by making sure people have access to the online session beforehand
    • For engagement, you can send participants physical materials (handouts, sticky notes, sharpies, etc.) that you would have in a physical space
    • Nurture human connection (this is important in a physical space but it is even more crucial in a virtual space)
    • Utilize breakout rooms
    • Create a safe environment by giving people the ability to be autonomous, have mobility, and leave when/if they need to (AKA the “law of two clicks”)
    • After you are done facilitating (or participating in facilitation) it is important to signal to your brain that work is done(i.e. by changing out of your “work” clothes, closing your blinds, shutting your computer down, etc.)
    • Finishing your meeting and closing the space is really important not only for you but for everyone in attendance as well
  • How not to facilitate:
    • If the space is virtual, do not force people to get on video (instead, extend the invite to get on video)
    • Don’t assign a heavy amount of “pre-work” or homework to do before the session (i.e. read an entire paper, fill out a large form, etc.)
    • Don’t surprise someone by asking them to facilitate on the spot (i.e. don’t invite a coach to a retrospective and ask them to facilitate when they arrive) — be sure to ask them in advance
  • What to consider with remote facilitation
    • Be prepared and make sure it’s accessible
    • Have security with your company in place
    • Master your remote facilitation tools
    • Remote facilitation takes more preparation than physical facilitation so make sure to set it up beforehand so it all goes smoothly
  • Does everything need to be facilitated?
    • Not every conversation needs to be facilitated
    • If you’re already familiar and comfortable with the group you’re speaking with, you don’t always need to

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript [This transcript is auto-generated and may not be completely accurate in its depiction of the English language or rules of grammar.]

Intro: [00:03] Welcome to the Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought. The podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host, coach, and agile expert, Dan Neumann.

Dan Neumann: [00:16] Welcome to this episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner. I’m your host, Dan Neumann. And today I’m joined by Kristen Belcher, an agile coach who is saving the world one retrospective at a time is a fun LinkedIn headline. So thanks for joining Kristen.

Kristen Belcher: [00:31]
Yeah. Thanks for having me, Dan. I’m excited.

Dan Neumann: [00:34] It’ll be fun. Um, you’d mentioned you could talk all day about retrospectives, which we’re talking about a kindred spirit of those, which is remote facilitation. And, uh, when we were doing the, where did we meet back in the day, it was a coach camp and we were recalling a gentleman named Tiagi who did an exercise he was facilitating something. And it got me to thinking about how impactful good facilitation can be and how memorable the exercises can be. Uh, and I suspect bad facilitation can be too. You go, Oh, that one. But yeah so I think that’s why, that’s why for me, facilitation is important is how memorable and impactful it can make the exercises.

Kristen Belcher: [01:22] Yeah, absolutely. And, um, you know, I also think that the best facilitation, if you’re a facilitator, you remember it because you’re paying attention, but if you’re not, no one notices the best facilitation is when nobody noticed you even did the thing and everything just flowed perfect, easy, you know, very, very easeful with lots of, lots of fluency.

Dan Neumann: [01:51] And I have facilitated some things that have not flowed well. And then, you know, they’re, they’re the opposite and it’s always a learning opportunity, but now we are finding ourselves, um, distributed looking at each other on computer screens and teammates on computer screens. And, um, maybe what are some of the challenges of doing facilitation that you’re seeing remotely versus in person?

Kristen Belcher: [02:14]
Yeah, that’s, that’s a great question. So there’s a lot of things that I think we as facilitators take for granted when we’re in person. Reading the room is one of them like it’s way easier to read the room, to notice people’s body language. You can see when someone’s crossing their arms or they’ve kind of got a frown on their face, or they’re in deep thought. And you want to wait a second, let them finish their thought before you interrupt them. Um, and I think logistically in this remote space or in this virtual space, it it’s just different. You don’t have, um, what I consider at this point to be a luxury of being able to see everyone all the time. Sometimes all you have is audio and audio is better than nothing. Um, forcing people to have their video on actually is more intrusive and, um, really combative as opposed to collaborative anyway. So I think it’s, it’s an interesting challenge because you’re looking for, or paying attention to different things. And, um, you’re really requesting your, your audience or your group of folks. You’re facilitating to engage differently in a virtual space than they would in a physical space. Um, one example is, you know, when usually you can tell when people are getting tired and they’re just, you’re like, yeah, the energy is kind of going. We probably need a break for a few minutes here. You can’t necessarily tell that from silence in, in a call, silence might be because people are thinking, um, silence might be because they, because they did take a break and they walked away, um, or it could be because the energy is dropping. And so, um, and in those scenarios, having like an indicator somewhere in your virtual collaboration space that people can drag over like a timer or an image or something and say like, I need a break. And once you see a few of those, you’re like, Oh, it looks like a few people want a break. Like, let’s take one. And then that can really shift around the energy in the room.

Dan Neumann: [04:20] That’s great. Yeah. You touched on a couple of things that I wanted to, to kind of circle back and amplify one was the yeah. Forcing people onto video. Um, not a good move, right? It’s, you’re, you’re invading space. Uh, one person literally takes calls from their bedroom. Cause that’s the place they have to work. And it’s like, yeah, no, not going to have the video on in the bedroom. Right. Just intrusive. And, and not that there’s anything there that is untoured or you could even tell, but just the psychological invasion of space. Right? Yep. And then, um, kind of the, Oh, you mentioned the collaborations space. Um, maybe touch on that. So yeah, so you’re a lot of times it’s voice only obviously an invitation to have on video is okay. I see.

Kristen Belcher: [05:06] I usually have mine. I’m, I’m fortunate enough. I haven’t some office space and so I usually have mine on so that people can see me and see how I’m interacting. Um, and I always invite folks to turn theirs on. Um, and actually sometimes we use it. If most people have theirs on, sometimes we use it to say, Hey, we’re going to have, you know, five minutes of reading time or quiet writing time at the beginning of an exercise or something. So turn your video off while you’re doing that. And then when you turn it back on, I’ll know, you’re ready. It’s kind of like, if they’re looking down and you’re writing on the table, you can see that. And then when people look up or they stop writing, then you can see that too. So it’s, I mean, for me, that’s a, that’s a facilitator cue. If you have a sized group where you can pay attention to that. Um, but to, uh, uh, what were, what did you just ask? So you’ve asked your point about the collaboration space. Um, with that I’ve found it really helpful, not only to have the quote unquote room where you’re meeting be your collaboration space, but also a virtual collaboration space, like an online whiteboard type of tool. And there’s lots of those out there. Microsoft teams has one built in there’s Miro, there’s mural, there’s lucid spark. Um, there’s lots of, lots of different online collaboration tools. Um, and there’s some great again on the retrospective topic. There’s some great online retrospective tools that folks can use. Um, but I think that’s, that’s really helpful as well to have a, almost like a virtual yet quote unquote, physical representation of your thoughts in the space, separate from the people and the conversation that’s happening in the space. Um, it’s yeah, it’s really, it’s really useful.

Dan Neumann: [07:07] When you say representation of your thoughts, what, what comes to, so you talked about having a place where people could kind of drive a token or an avatar into a, like I’m ready for a coffee break now, or, um, you know, I’ve stepped away from my computer. Cause I always find it weird whenever we’re tethered to our chairs a lot or are standing at a desk. And then, you know, every once in a while I need to step away to take care of something. I don’t want to interrupt the flow of the meeting and say, Oh, I’m still listening, you know, wireless headphones or I’m dragging the laptop through the house with me so I can stay connected. Um, but, but having the ability to just say, Hey, here’s, where’s Dan, Oh, he’s off video because he’s, you know, wandering down to go grab a sandwich or whatever.

Kristen Belcher: [07:47] Yeah. I found that helpful in those, um, like in those artifact spaces, like as you’re, co-creating visual artifacts for your meeting, you can add that to that space that folks can see either in a different window or on a different monitor. Um, and also the chat really. Um, some people don’t want to interact as much with audio, but they’re happy to interact in the chat, you know, in text where they can formulate their thoughts. Like everybody everybody’s different, right? Some of us think by saying all of our thoughts and somewhere in that brain dump that just came out of our mouths, we find something useful. That’s kind of me. Um, but other other people and I totally get this. Um, my husband is one of them, but other people, you know, need to need quiet thinking time. They need to write stuff down. They need to be able to process before they come to whatever conclusion they’re going to get to. And so being able to interact in different ways with a space, whether that is audio, video chat, or an online whiteboard with like quote unquote sticky notes, um, or graphics or gifts or things like that, it, it all makes it more of a rich environment that is definitely different from physical space, but can still simulate the same feeling and the same engagement that you get in physical space.

Dan Neumann: [09:14] Do you find that having all those kind of the different modes helps with engagement? For me, audio only phone calls are brutal because my brain is gone. It’s off somewhere else pretty quick.

Kristen Belcher: [09:29] Yeah, I think with, uh, especially with larger groups, um, if you can have a shared thing to look at, um, that that is always helpful. And it’s funny because I think back to, um, being in an office, sitting in a, in a room with a very long table with a TV on one end and somebody is on the computer. And how often did you all sit around that table? And you are looking at one shared screen and half the people are on their phone, or like, I’m pretending to write notes in my notebook because I am just bored and we’re, we’re looking at shared material. Right. But we’re not engaging. And so it’s interesting and different, I think in a virtual space that, yes, I maybe I don’t want to look at people, but I do want to look at the same shared information and engage with that differently. Um, I have all sorts of ideas in my brain and postulations around why the TV in the conference room works differently than your second monitor. Um, but that’s probably more for another day.

Dan Neumann: [10:41] It has too. I mean, that’s, that’s kind of the interesting thing is while some of these things feel like they should translate, they feel like they should be similar. It’s not, it’s just different. Um, and you’re talking about looking at versus engaging with the materials and that’s one of the things I really like about exercises, whether it’s a silent writing, like you were saying, um, where it’s like, Hey, let’s take three to five minutes, whatever the time box is and add your thoughts into a space on the board. Um, and then having people help affinity group. But so it’s not that one person clicking notes around again, watching versus engaging.

Kristen Belcher: [11:26] Yeah. And that’s something that’s really important when you’re choosing tools to use for remote facilitation is thinking about, you know, the purpose. Why are you using this tool? Um, probably not just because it’s cool or it looks neat, but because you’re going to find it functional for your purpose, um, and then being prepared and making sure it’s accessible and you have the security, um, but both ways access for as well as security for your organization or your space in the way that it is okay with them. Um, but you know, mastering your tools really is, is really important because the, the worst, uh, remote facilitation experiences I have had so far have been when my tools didn’t work and you spend the first 20 minutes of a 60 minute meeting, troubleshooting technology issues, and then finally you get into it and everybody’s discombobulated as a facilitator. You’re discombobulated. And you’re like, well, this, um, this kind of sucks now. So it’s hard to get back on track with that. And so I’ve found really, it’s helpful. Um, a couple of things that are helpful. One, if you are using like a new tool or a tool, you’re not sure if folks have access to setting up a small, uh, introduction in advance that people can do can be great to suss out some of those access issues. Um, we, we would just create like the online whiteboard and have a box with a sticky note in it that had my name in it. And then a sticky note next to it that said, Hey, please pick a sticky and write your name on it and put it in this box and just do this before the meeting. And so, you know, we’d send the link in the invite. We’d send out an email the day before, or maybe, you know, the morning of, or something and say, Hey, please make sure you do this so that we know you have access. And we can deal with that before we get into the session and make the session as productive as possible.

Dan Neumann: [13:25] Do you find that you get a reasonable amount of compliance with the request to do that little bit of homework, because at times I’ve seen that create friction, right. Or, or just people don’t do it. Right. You know, Hey, maybe, uh, Hey, read the Scrum Guide before he come to the scrum training. That’s like that type of request is falling flat, right?

Kristen Belcher: [13:43] Yes. I think there’s, there’s two. Um, there there’s two sides to that coin, right? If all I’m asking you to do is please click the link and make a sticky note. That is not a difficult request, especially when I explained to you, we are using this tool for this session. And so we, we really want you to be able to engage with it. Most people so far I’ve seen, if they, as long as they haven’t missed the email are happy to do that to your point, though, if you’re sending out pre-reading and you’re like, please read this article or pre please read the Scrum Guide or something. I find that happens less. And so one way, um, to, you know, to help that is some people might do it. Um, people who are very self-aware and know that they need time to process will likely do that. Um, but other folks, I think sometimes it’s helpful just to build in time at the beginning of your session to allow for that, that prereading like, Hey, if you can come and read this beforehand, great. If not, you know, give folks 10, 20 minutes at the beginning to read through something. Um, as long as it’s not a book, like if you’re in a book club, that’s a different story.

Dan Neumann: [14:57] That does that make sense. So, so good. I like, I like the differentiation between the, Hey this, this is to make sure that you have access and that we can all participate in, get effectively out of the gate when we’re in our training class versus, uh, do your homework and then show up to school. They, you know, to use that metaphor.

Kristen Belcher: [15:15] Yeah. Right. Yeah. Folks don’t typically like homework. I have noticed.

Dan Neumann: [15:20] No me either. I’ll forget about it. You know, it’s not that I don’t intend to, or, you know, it’s on the list, it’s on my to-do list, but it never, you know, never makes the top. So what other types of, um, activities or, or techniques I should say, have you found to be really effective with being remote?

Kristen Belcher: [15:40] I think, I mean, one that’s universal, whether you’re facilitating in-person or you’re in a virtual space is doing a check-in at the beginning, some sort of check-in and, you know, just helping to create and to frame the space. I really liked the McCarthy style check-in mad, sad, glad, afraid. Um, but there’s, you know, there’s other things to do that are just getting people to step into the space and to be present. Um, also setting up working agreements. You’ll other people can’t see me, but you can see me. I actually have a working agreements poster behind me on the wall. And I wrote this, um, well about a year ago when we all had started staying home.

Dan Neumann: [16:21] So we’ll paint a word picture. So it’s, it’s, uh, an actual flip chart, a paper flip chart,

Kristen Belcher: [16:26] It’s an actual sticky flip chart. Yes. It’s the half size one because this one note to self, when you can travel again, also fits in a large suitcase. Oh. So then you can see two people would be turned with you just in case.

Dan Neumann: [16:40] Oh, I love it. So yeah, be engaged, use video one conversation at a time, respect each other, align, align around the reality and acknowledge uncertainty. Yeah. And everybody can see it.

Kristen Belcher: [16:53] Yeah. And even with this working agreements poster, I made this and I made it so that folks could see it behind me and I partially made it because I really wanted tangible items again. So that’s something else that’s interesting is, you know, creating this working agreements in my physical space. I can also create it in a virtual space, you know, on a virtual whiteboard or in a document and a teams tab in a Slack channel and share it with folks and we can, you know, we can add to it. Um, another thing I’ve done recently is for an engagement. We were working with a group of people over six weeks and we actually sent them physical materials, like boxes of physical materials. So, you know, handouts, we wanted to use, um, sticky notes, Sharpies, pipe, cleaners, like just things that you would have in a physical space. And we, we can’t acquire those, you know, virtually you don’t get those things to, to have tangibly with your person, um, in a virtual space, but giving folks those materials to say like, Hey, you can still use stickies and Sharpies. Um, you know, you can still play with pipe cleaners while we’re talking. Like, it’s, it’s an interesting, um, you know, parallel world where yes, I can still have these work things, even though we’re all engaging virtually, which is pretty, pretty fun. Um, to get back to your question. Uh, another thing I have found useful, um, is really to nurture some human connection too. And I think that’s again also in a physical space, but it’s even more important in our virtual worlds. I mean, I have, I have new teammates I’ve never met in person before. And you know, a lot of, a lot of people are switching jobs like switching positions in the last year. And so they, they have teams they’ve just never met in person. If you’ve met somebody in person, I think it’s kind of easier if you facilitated this group in person and now you’re facilitating remotely, it’s easier. They know what to expect. They’ll probably give you some grace on that. If it’s a brand new group of folks, maybe not. So being able to nurture some of that human connection with people using smaller groups, for instance, um, like if you’re, you know, if you’re trying to have a conversation using breakout rooms, getting two, three, four, or five people to talk together instead of 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 is also going to be more effective. And, um, and I mean, again, that’s, that’s in physical space and in virtual space, but I think it, it helps even more in virtual space to get people to engage because it is so easy to be distracted when no one can tell that you’re actually distracted.

Dan Neumann: [20:11] The breakout rooms. And there are activities that we would do as part of an agile essentials where we would maybe have whatever there are six little clusters of people. Each one would maybe get two of the principles behind agile, that we’d ask them to talk about it and then kind of report back. And that to me would be the type of thing that would fit well into the breakout room.

Kristen Belcher: [20:33] Yeah, absolutely. Um, I recently did a, uh, a retrospective very similarly with the, um, like interview questions and locate strengths exercises that you’ll find on the agile retrospectives book by Esther Derby and Diana Larson and setting that up virtually I created what almost looked like a, a final Ford, you know, like March madness grid, if you will. And I had, here are the pairs of people and then those pairs were going to pair up and then we were going to come back to the big group and everyone was going to share. And so, you know, like setting up something that style as well can be really useful, you know, sometimes random zoom, breakout rooms or teams, breakout rooms works great. But if you’re, if you know the group you’re facilitating and it’s small enough, you can, you know, you can strategically pair folks up. If you want to, if you would’ve done that in physical space, or you can just say like, okay, well, this is how we’re going to do it. And then everyone has their virtual whiteboard space that they can collaborate. Everyone can see everyone else’s sticky notes, if you will. And then they can continue to collaborate together and go from that diversion to that convergent thinking, not only in their interaction, but also in the virtual collaboration space.

Dan Neumann: [21:55] That’s cool. And the breakout rooms reminds me of the, what you were talking about earlier. You touched it, you said, master the tool, I’ve been part of breakout rooms, not going smoothly. The group was too big. We had too many late arrivers. We had to organize people oh, it was not good.

Kristen Belcher: [22:11] Yeah. That’s rough. It’s a thing. You definitely have to think about what the size of your group, like I said, if you’re, if you’re facilitating a retrospective and you’ve got eight to 15 people, you know, who’s going to be there, that’s pretty easy to figure out like, okay, are we doing breakout rooms of three or four? Or are we just doing pairs? How are we going to do this? If your group is going to be any bigger than like 20 people, I think the randomness is fine. And then if you’ve got key players, you want to have separated, then you can look at your list and just, you know, move people around as needed. Um, and I’ve definitely done that. A trick with zoom breakout rooms is make one more room than you need. And then it’s easy to move people around.

Dan Neumann: [22:53] Yes. And zoom specific has the op there’s a configuration where you can allow people to put themselves in a room. So we’re in a PI planning. If people know that you belong on team a, B or C, and hopefully they’re named cooler than that, but they put themselves there, let them self-organize or switch rooms when they realize they need to.

Kristen Belcher: [23:14] Yeah. That actually, I was just talking about that new zoom feature with a colleague of mine, who’s doing, um, a self selecting teams, uh, exercise. And we were talking about how this may be the best way to facilitate that. And because it allows people to self-organize and also to have that visual representation so that you can see where people are as they move themselves into different rooms or into different conversations. Um, we’ve also used that in Microsoft Teams, for instance, by starting multiple teams calls within the same channel and just making sure they’re named appropriately so that you can be in one channel and still see where everyone is. Um, that has been pretty helpful too. But yeah, I’m, I’m with you on the, you know, you want to give people their own agency to go where they would like to go and any, uh, I mean, any tool I’ve used that has like the breakout room functionality. People can always opt to not go to the breakout room or to come back to the main space. So allowing folks their own mobility there, um, we joke that in a virtual space, it’s the law of two clicks. Uh, I think April Jefferson may have coined that term. Um, but you know, giving, giving people a chance to, you know, to engage in that, but then also if, if they don’t feel like they’re, they’re in a safe space, doing that to step back into still engage with the facilitators in the, in the main space during that breakout can also be a really good option.

Dan Neumann: [24:47] You had mentioned law of two feet and I’m guessing there’s some folks. I was at one time, not familiar with open space, which is the law of two feet, which means if you’re in a group and it’s not for you, you have two feet, go it’s okay. You know, you’re empowered to leave. And so the two clicks right. Click, click I’m gone.

Kristen Belcher: [25:05] Exactly. Yeah. And so the, the mobility exists, whether you’re in a physical space or a virtual space. Um, and that, I mean, that’s part of creating a safe environment, right. Is giving people the ability to be autonomous and to leave if they need to, especially if we’re all working at home, especially if we need to go deal with something. I mean, lots of folks have their family at home with them during the day still, um, or, you know, pets or whatever. Um, but other, other things to take care of, sometimes maybe you have to go switch the laundry right now, or else your stuff’s going to wrinkle.

Dan Neumann: [25:43] Yesterday’s call was from the 80 year old lady, a couple of houses down, and God love her. I thought her dog, who’s also geriatric who might’ve passed because we’re on call. But now her windshield wiper blade snapped off in the ice. And so whatever, I, I helped, I helped her deal with that. So she could get to the mechanic and have it replaced, but yeah, you know, stuff happens we’re, we’re around and, and you know, it’s nice to have that. Um, I don’t know. Two-edged sort of flexibility.

Kristen Belcher: [26:10] Yeah, it definitely is. Sometimes I’ve found, I know I totally need a routine in the morning. Otherwise I don’t feel like I’m going to work. I’m still wearing like real, real pants. Um, even if they’re your work, sweat pants versus your home sweat pants.

Dan Neumann: [26:26] Because I can, I can have my work, sweat pants, you can totally good. I’m going to make my wife listen to this episode.

Kristen Belcher: [26:34] I was reading something though about like, you know, lots of people do talk about starting their day with a routine, but I think one of the things in virtual space, one of the things we’re seeing with everyone working at home is that sometimes it’s really hard to disconnect at the end of the day. And, um, I was reading something about how, um, the, the woman whose article I was reading said that she has an end of the day routine that does include changing out of her work sweat pants, basically into her home sweat pants. Um, even though her work sweat pants I think are still like dress pants, but maybe they’re comfy, but she was talking about how, like, that signals for her the end of her day. Like maybe she doesn’t have a commute anymore, but closing the laptop, walking away and, you know, changing your clothes for instance, can, can signal to yourself like, okay, and we’re at the end, like I’m going to stop now. Um, and for me, it’s actually, I have a window in my office in front of my computer to let in some natural light. And my end of the day is closing my blinds. So when I close my blinds, it’s like the office is closed. Um, and it’s, it’s really an interesting thing to think about. Like, my kids could be home, they could be running around, but if my blinds aren’t closed, then I’m not done working.

Dan Neumann: [27:55] That’s interesting. Yeah. Having those, having those routine or those signals and, um, you know, the signals apply to remote facilitation to the visuals are talking about having the smart boards, et cetera. It’s just different ways of signaling. Okay. We’re, we’re done with this. We’re moving here.

Kristen Belcher: [28:12] Yeah. That’s um, actually closing your space is something that’s not only important to working yourself, working at home, but also in facilitation, whether in a physical or virtual space. And, um, if you, if you look at the five steps or the five phases of a retrospective closing is the last phase, it is the often forgot about like, let us close the space a step. And it’s something that I’ve tried really hard to make sure I incorporate, especially in virtual facilitation is making sure people know that we’re done and they know where we’re going from here. So, um, you know, whether you close the space with feedback for yourself or feedback about the session, or even just appreciations for the people in the room, finishing off your, your meeting and closing your space is really, really, really important. I don’t think I can stress that enough.

Dan Neumann: [29:08] You don’t have that awkward, like, well, we talked about stuff for an hour.

Kristen Belcher: [29:15] Right? And now everyone, it’s a hard to back away slowly on zoom

Dan Neumann: [29:21] Move to the closer to the door, looking at your watch furtively like, I need to go, oops,

Kristen Belcher: [29:32] Yeah, yeah. I do work with a coach. Who’s like, let’s not make it awkward. Okay. So let’s be clear about when we’re done so that it doesn’t get awkward.

Dan Neumann: [29:42] Love it. I love it. We’ve talked, we’ve talked, you’ve shared about several different techniques from, from mastering the tool to, um, kind of using physical materials still and lots of other good ideas that we’ll put in the show notes that, that people can get And they’ll find the show notes with links to different things as a bit of a, a closing before we get to what you’ve kind of been reading on your continuous learning journey. Um, does everything need to be facilitated?

Kristen Belcher: [30:13] That is a great question. So we talked about at the beginning, how skillful facilitation makes everything flow and makes, makes it better. However, I would say that not every conversation needs to be facilitated. Um, I guess technically, you’re kind of facilitating us right now, even though we’re having one-on-one conversation because we are recording a podcast.

Dan Neumann: [30:40] And we cheated, we, we co-created an outline before we started.

Kristen Belcher: [30:44]
Kind of, yeah. Okay. So we cheated a little, but it’s been pretty free flowing. And if you think about it, I don’t think every conversation needs to be facilitated per se. If you’re, you know, if you’re brainstorming with a group of people, you know, and trust and you’re comfortable with each other and you know, you can get through it together. Usually with me, that’s with a group of facilitators. Um, and I don’t think it really like needs to be super focused on facilitation. You can probably participate. Um, but if, you know, if you’ve got more than probably three people, then you might want to think about someone taking on the role of facilitating the conversation and, uh, actually in their, in their book, Kristen Casey and JL and Morris, um, in the remote facilitators pocket guide at the beginning, they talk about gorilla facilitation. Uh, and it’s kind of like that sneaky, you’re noticing facilitation needs to happen, but it’s not happening from the people you may have expected it to happen from. So you kind of just like sneak in there and start asking some questions, making some observations and a little sneakily trying to facilitate the conversation. So does everything absolutely need to be facilitated conversations on the phone with my mom? Maybe not. Um, she’s going to listen to this too, and she’d be like, really, you brought this up, but no, like talking to her on the phone, maybe, maybe not. I guess it depends on if you have a time box, but, um, you know, I don’t think everything needs to be facilitated, but I do think that if you’ve got folks in the room who have facilitation skills, it can be really useful. Just don’t surprise them. Surprise facilitation is the worst. Please don’t invite a coach to a, and then when they get there, ask them to facilitate. That’s not nice, please don’t do that. If you want someone to facilitate, please ask them in advance. That may have been from personal experience more than once.

Dan Neumann: [32:52]
So you’re saying facilitation even remotely will take some preparation.

Kristen Belcher: [32:56] I think remotely takes more preparation if you’re not used to it yet. Um, probably like Mark Kilby could facilitate something in his sleep, I would guess. But, um, I definitely personally need preparation for remote facilitation, um, because it is different and there’s a lot of stuff that, again, if you set it up structured in a way that’s going to be useful to your purpose beforehand, it’s going to make everything flow much better.

Dan Neumann: [33:24] Very cool. Yeah. So some preparation, no surprises and facilitate when, when appropriate and when needed. So wonderful. Well thank you for taking some time out of your day and sharing about remote facilitation. We typically ask folks kind of what are they reading or learning about on their continuous learning journey? And I thought I’d ask you.

Kristen Belcher: [33:47] Uh, I have so many things, so thank you for asking and also thank you for having me. This has been so fun. I love talking about this stuff. Uh, currently I am, uh, well, I finished up the remote facilitators pocket guide, like I mentioned, um, by Kristen Casey and JL Morris. It’s great. And, um, someone whose work inspired them as well as, uh, the agile retrospectives book by Esther and Diana is a, the facilitator’s guide to participatory decision-making. This book is giant. Um, it is like a whole workbook. And I think a lot of it probably talks about physical space. I’m only part way through it. But, um, this book by Sam Kaner has been really, really useful. I have the third edition, um, and I also actually did just purchase the, um, remote facilitation course that the remote coaches offer. Um, so I’m really looking forward to participating and learning from that as well.

Dan Neumann: [34:47] Super cool. I’ll have to check some of those, uh, resources out. Cause I use the facilitator’s guide to participate of decision-making is one that hadn’t been on my radar at all yet. So wonderful new stuff for the backlog. Well, thank you for sharing all this fun learning you’ve been doing. Kristin, appreciate it.

Kristen Belcher: [35:04] Yeah. Thank you, Dan. This is not a lot of fun. We can talk about real facilitation retrospectives, any of this, anytime.

Dan Neumann: [35:10] Careful. You might have to come back.

Outro: [35:16] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought. The views, opinions and information expressed in this podcast are solely those of the hosts and the guests, and do not necessarily represent those of AgileThought. Get the show notes and other helpful tips for this episode and other episodes at

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