Enabling Effectiveness: Facilitating Collaboration and Capability

January 18, 2013

Shared Purpose and Vision in Empowering Teams To Thrive

Shared Purpose and Vision in Empowering Teams to Thrive

What makes one team higher performing than another? What is it that pulls individuals together into a cohesive team, enabling them to work together more effectively? Like all successful partnerships, key ingredients of an effective team include:

  • A shared purpose
  • A compelling image of a positive future – a shared vision
  • A common understanding of what action is required to stand in purpose and realise the vision
  • Understanding each others’ motivational preferences and complimentary styles

David Cooperrider, creator of the strength-based Appreciative Inquiry methodology, coined the term “Positive Image, Positive Action”.  When we have powerful, positive images of our possibility that are aligned individually and collectively, we are compelled to take action that moves us toward the experience of what we imagine.  This in essence is the power of a meaningful purpose and an inspiring vision.  Key attributes shared by all great leaders include the ability to fuel people’s drive through the possibility of an inspiring vision and the mechanisms that enable them to feel valuable.

Research into the use of graphics or imagery in creating/assigning meaning to information reveals that the process:

info visualisation PEEST

We know from neuro-sciences that every idea or thought that we have is a mental model.  Everything we do, create, choose, act on, first starts as an anticipatory mental image.  Think now about your car … your home…. a child or friend ….something of importance to you.  You get that an image is what you notice, right?   If our mental models are strong enough, they:

  • Guide our actions and behaviour
  • Influence our communication
  • Stimulate mental connections
  • Engage our physiology (horror movie…racing heart-beat….get the picture?)

Our brains filter information based on our mental models and what we are focusing on.   Visually representing the team’s strategy and referring to it often in communications, conversations and other business activities will strengthen the team’s association with and connection to its purpose, vision and objectives.  Most powerfully, it will  create a collective mental model within the team that generates focus, clarity and energy for the intended journey.

Most businesses have a purpose or mission statement, a vision, and a set of objectives for achieving the vision.   Rarely do they nurture mechanisms that enable teams to determine and develop the link between those statements and their own purpose and vision.  Mostly, the objectives are translated into targets which become the springboard from which operational activity takes place and is evaluated.

Focusing purely on driving targets can become meaningless, as can a company vision perceived as being imposed, and since we humans are meaning-making beings, this could translate into less than inspiring cultures and sub-optimal performance.

The most successful visions build on the individual and collective visions of  employees across the company.  Shared vision reflects shared purpose, and both are important for motivating people to learn and collaborate as they create a common identity that fuels focus, connectedness and energy. This strengthens the probability that team members will be more committed to outcomes, work together more effectively and share ownership for making things happen.


Another important consideration in enabling a team to elevate its capacity to achieve its vision and to contribute organisation value, involves harnessing and aligning individual traits.  For example, the Disney strategy of Dreamer, Realist and Critic aligns glass half full and glass half empty people, as well as big picture and detail oriented people.  Aligning individual styles and motivational preferences will help to address the unconscious patterns in people that could lead to sabotaging behaviour.

The process of discovering a purpose and birthing a vision together, enables team members to internalise their connectedness and goals, and forms a platform for focused team activity.


Article written by Vasintha Pather.  Thanks Dr Sally Vanson for your input and insights 🙂

Copyright Inter-Arise Facilitation Solutions (Pty) Ltd

The Visionary Teams Workshop:

 ‘Visionary Teams’ is an inspiring workshop for your team to co-create its vision and focus for the year ahead.  Using interactive and collaborative processes,  inter-arise facilitates a half-day workshop with your team to:

  • Engage around a shared purpose
  • Co-create a vision that is meaningful and inspiring
  • Identify the building blocks that will enable success
  • Align the differences in the team to maximize success

At the end of the workshop, we produce a visual representation of your team’s strategy that will serve as a powerful resource to strengthen connection with, and evaluation of, the strategy through the year.

e-mail or to enquire further and/or to set up a conversation


September 9, 2010

Group Facilitation: Why it’s necessary in organisations

Filed under: Facilitation — admin @ 6:07 pm

Group facilitation is “..the process of helping groups… to learn, find a solution, or reach a consensus, without imposing or dictating an outcome. Facilitation works to empower individuals or groups to learn for themselves or find their own answers to problems without control or manipulation..”.
If we define a group process as a gathering of a specific group of people to achieve a predetermined objective, then the role of the group is to provide the content necessary for achieving the objective and the role of the Facilitator is to guide the group to the achievement of the objective.
Any of us who have been in a meeting that is ineffectively managed will know how frustrating it is and how much time is wasted when:

  • the group veers off track
  • participants are unable to add value in the meeting and do not need to be there
  • people are distracted and focusing on e-mails, mobile phones etc
  • One or two people dominate the discussion and not everyone is given an opportunity to participate
  • the purpose and objective of the meeting are unclear
  • there are no clear outcomes and actions from the meeting

In real terms, ill-managed meetings are extremely costly to an organisation and indeed to the people who attend them.  Consider as a very simple exercise to illustrate the point the average cost per person per hour and multiply this by the length of the average meeting and the number of people attending it.  Now if most of these people leave the meeting feeling frustrated, consider the amount of time it will take for each of them to get their energy back up and into a productive, value-adding state.  What is the cost of the time wasted?  Then, consider that some of these people will chat with colleagues to complain about the meeting and to share their feelings frustration, what impact will this have on the people they talk to and how much time is being wasted now?

Why is Facilitation an important process and why is the Facilitator an important role?  Because both prevent the negative consequences that result from discussion sessions that waste individuals’, groups and organisation’s time, contributions, energy, and productivity.  Instead, well Facilitated sessions enable the realization of the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts.  Facilitated sessions create an environment in which participants are able to productively contribute toward the achievement of a particular objective, and to agree on shared actions and outcomes for progress.  What is the impact of this?

  • People leave such a session feeling meaningful and valued, they leave feeling productive
  • There is greater probability that the participants will continue to work together after the discussion to ensure that the resulting actions are performed
  • There is greater probability that there will be a sense of shared responsibility
  • Much less time will be wasted complaining and there is a much greater chance that the communication.

Vasintha Pather, MD inter-arise

June 2010

August 30, 2010

Graphic Facilitation

Filed under: Facilitation,Training — admin @ 12:15 pm

Research shows that around 60% of people in the developed world are dominant in left hemisphere style thinking. Thinking with the left side of your brain is excellent for fact gathering and analysing and for precision and analysis, it’s also great for organising information and situations, keeping records and developing plans. In short, our left brain loves order and details.

The trouble with zooming in on the details is that you can miss out on the bigger picture. That’s the realm of your right brain and it facilitates wonderful abilities such as flexibility of thinking, intuitive problem solving, creative planning, considering values, spotting new possibilities and interacting sensitively and positively with others.

Graphic Facilitation is a style of group facilitation that uses visuals as a sophisticated thinking tool to help groups brainstorm, explore ideas, analyse detail, deepen dialogue, clarify, reach consensus, and take ownership of their contributions and agreed actions.

At a deeper level, graphic facilitation uses imagery and metaphor as a way of drawing out and portraying group thinking, helping groups literally “see what they mean”.  The creative use of imagery combined with structured models of communication appeals to the intuitive, intellectual and emotional aspects of people.  This approach stimulates whole-brain engagement which is very necessary for optimal learning, creativity and participation.

inter-arise provides a fun, interesting and deeply insightful Graphic Facilitation skills masterclass at which we facilitate learning in how to develop and use graphics in training sessions, meetings, workshops and discussions.

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