A conversation with Lynda Baker, Founder & President of Meeting Solutions Online

“I just started to see really smart, prolific, skilled people who shared my values.” -Lynda Baker

I’m excited to have Lynda Baker, IAF Certified Professional Facilitator Master, meeting leader coach, and founder and president of Meeting Solutions Online on today’s episode of Control the Room. As a certified professional facilitator, she creates collaborative client relationships, plans appropriate group processes, creates and sustains a participatory environment, and guides groups to appropriate and useful outcomes. She also trains meeting leaders and managers who want to remove blocks that prevent them from running productive meetings.

A little about Lynda: While a freshman in college, she wanted to be an orientation leader. She volunteered to work at the admissions office at the State University of New York, which had an excellent peer advisor orientation. Lynda learned about active listening, leading groups of students, and parent groups. The program equipped her with the skills to engage others in conversation. Additionally, she and several peers from this group volunteered to be response volunteers at a local crisis center. These experiences planted the seed to be involved in her career.

Working in an incubator, “I found myself demonstrating these really amazing pieces of technology in a room that was an intranet because the internet wasn’t even that powerful in those days,” Lynda told me.

In today’s episode, Lynda and I talk about her early days of being seduced by technology, why she clicked with the IAF, and how the IAF holds people accountable. Listen in to find out how Lynda teaches the concepts of facilitation, why “your” meeting isn’t “your” meeting, and why you don’t have to manage or control every part of the conversation.

Show Highlights

[00:55] Lynda’s career path to being a group facilitator.
[03:58] Lynda’s evolution story.
[07:24] What Lynda would do differently if she were to relaunch now.
[10:14] IAF, understanding facilitation values and behaviors, and the impact of engagement.
[13:26] Differences between a moderator and a facilitator.
[15:35] Lynda’s experience with training facilitation.
[18:36] Leaders and how they can harness the power of facilitation.
[21:30] Why engagement is not entertainment.
[25:48] Having operating agreements instead of ground rules. 
[29:47] Gratitude in facilitation and recognizing the contributions of the group.
[34:22] How can participants be better participants?
[38:27] Behaviors that go unchecked during facilitation.
[41:50] Why Lynda believes that a Master’s degree in Leadership Change is the most critical degree needed for our world today.

Meeting Solutions Online
Lynda Baker on LinkedIn

About the Guest

Lynda facilitates well-designed meetings, face-to-face and on-line, that create actionable results. As a certified professional facilitator, she establishes collaborative client relationships, plans appropriate group processes, creates and sustains a participatory environment, and guides groups to appropriate and useful outcomes. She also trains meeting leaders and managers who want to remove blocks that prevent them from running productive meetings.

Lynda is proudly cited as a creative senior-level organizational development professional with a passion for finding the right process to engage collaboration for problem-solving, decision-making, and action planning. Her superpower is surfacing clarity that leads to productive outcomes and action plans across organizational levels.

About Voltage Control

Voltage Control is a facilitation agency that helps teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.

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Full Transcript

Intro: Welcome to the Control the Room Podcast, a series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures for the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control, and others are loose. To control the room means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between imposing and removing structure, asserting and distributing power, leaning in and leaning out, all in the service of having a truly magical meeting.

Douglas: Today I’m here with Lynda Baker, IAF-certified professional facilitator-master, meeting leader coach, and founder and president of Meeting Solutions Online.

Welcome to the show, Lynda.

Lynda: Thank you, Douglas. I’m happy to be here.

Douglas: So, Lynda, tell us a little bit about how you got started.

Lynda: Well, I really was a wee tot, I must confess. I think I really got started as a facilitator when I was a freshman in college. I was one of those enthusiastic freshmen who wanted to be an orientation leader someday, and so I volunteered to work in the admissions office at this wonderful institution, the State University of New York at Stony Brook. And they had an awesome peer-advisor, peer-counseling orientation. And I learned about T-groups and about active listening and about leading groups of students who were coming to the university in conversations and leading parent groups, talking to parents who were interested in coming to the university, or having their children come. And even though there was a certain amount of content that we were sharing, we were also equipped with lots of skills to engage these students, prospective students, and these parents, in conversations. So there was that piece.

And the other piece was that it was the early days of creating what I think are now referred to as I&R services, information and referral services, like people who call crisis lines and want information. And there was a crisis line that was being created in the town of Stony Brook called Response, and several of my peers and I volunteered to be trained to be Response volunteers on the phone. And I think both of those activities as a college student really planted the seeds for me to be passionate about this field, although I didn’t find that out until a little bit later in my career.

Douglas: And so tell me a little bit more about—I mean, I think it’s fascinating to think back around some of the early seeds that are planted and how they start to grow and develop into something that’s ultimately a beautiful, flowering career in facilitation. You kind of mentioned that there was a moment much later on that it became more obvious. So was there something that was transformative later, or how did that journey from those early experiences flow into where you are today?

Lynda: Well, I think that the professional career that I chose and my academic training had very strong elements of facilitation, and my master’s degree is in Higher Education Administration. So I was a student personnel worker, and I worked with college students and really did a lot of shared leadership. I did leadership training with them and empowered them to make decisions. And trained resident advisors. So I had that background. And then I was in a graduate program in counseling psychology. So my academic background dovetailed quite well.

But I think it was when I was working, very interestingly enough, I was working at an organization called the Austin Technology Incubator, and it was in the early days of what we now call remote workshops. In those days, we called it electronic-meeting software or group-decision-support software. And I found myself demonstrating these really amazing pieces of technology in a room that was an intranet because the Internet wasn’t even that powerful in those days. The Web wasn’t even that powerful in those days. And I would demonstrate this really cool software that companies at the Incubator were developing.

And I worked for the Incubator as their external relations assistant. I did public relations, and I worked with students. And people would say, “You’re really good at that. Do you work for this company?” And I would say, “No. I work for the Incubator.” And I started realizing that I could do something that I really loved to do that lots of other people didn’t necessarily like to do or were not necessarily that good at doing.

And it occurred to me: I’m at this incubator that’s incubating businesses, starting businesses. I’m getting feedback that this is something I’m really good at. Maybe I need to just go out on my own and do more of this in another way. So I actually started my business in the ’90s, thinking I was going to do electronic-meeting software. I was going to haul around 20 laptop computers and set them up in rooms, or I was going to buy a boat load of keypads, and we were going to do—you know, of course, now people laugh at that, like who needs that? Just log on. So it’s really exciting to see what’s happened with this field and what’s going on now, particularly in 2020 when everything is “electronic meetings,” when everything is digital and virtual.

Douglas: I find that remarkable, this idea that incubators are there to help startups get launched. But I often find that people share that experience that you had, where they’re part of the startup or a part of the support environment. They’re an employee of the incubator, and they learn by watching these startups, and then that gives them the confidence to go start their own thing. So it’s awesome that this has been happening since the ’90s. I hadn’t heard a story quite like that. That’s incredible.

So when you were making that shift to start to have these electronic meetings with clients, and you had this dream of putting together these laptops, what was your first step in starting a company? There’s a lot of folks out there who want to start facilitation companies, and that’s pretty early in the game. So how did you get started, and what would you do differently if you had to start over now?

Lynda: Well, I think one of the things I did was I did a lot of work aligning with the handful of companies that were in the marketplace, who had software that enabled people to collaborate together—I wanted to say online, but I’m not even sure that that was an accurate statement—on a shared network of computers. And at the time, looking back on it, I think that I was a little bit more seduced, I think, by the razzmatazz of the technology. And it was later that I became more developed in terms of my own skills. And I got that, in large part, through affiliating with the International Association of Facilitators. They were having their second, I think, or third conference in Dallas.

Douglas: So what was it about the International Association of Facilitators that allowed you to kind of take a step back from the razzmatazz of the software? What was that thing that really clicked for you?

Lynda: I think I was introduced to the founders of IAF, actually, were the founders, and many people who were involved with the Institute of Cultural Affairs, which is this global organization of people who were doing lots of facilitation and said, “You know, there are other people out there doing facilitation, too. We are doing it to try to advance participation in communities, to advance participation as a sort of a social movement. But there are lots of people out there also doing this. Maybe we can create an association.” So they were really, many of those people from ICA were the founders of IAF.

And I think I was realizing that there were lots of people who shared the same values that I shared about collaboration, about engagement. And then I also met some of the people who’ve now become stellar luminaries in my field. I met Sam Kaner and I met Roger Schwarz, and I met lots of people, Ingrid Bens. I just started to see really smart, prolific, skilled people who shared my values, and they didn’t need the razzmatazz of technology necessarily, but they understood what facilitative values were. They understood what facilitative behaviors were, and they understood the impact of engaging participation. This notion that the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts, which is, actually, the topic of my recent MURAL talk is the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We, the people means we, the people. It’s not just a platitude. You can really make a “we, the people” occur in a meaningful way in a meeting room.

Douglas: That’s brilliant. And it sounds like the community and just the amazing people that were coming together to talk about these things and how they were shaping the craft, if you will, it really spoke to you.

Lynda: Well, yes, it was the community, and it was a community and still is a community that holds people accountable to some standards. When I got involved, they first started talking about what are facilitator competencies? How do we collectively define this body of knowledge, these abilities, behaviors, skills? How do these things fit together to really define what a facilitator is?

I think about the ways in which certain words are used in our culture. Counselor is a good one. You go to the doctor’s office or you go to some place, a medical place, and they say, “Oh, the financial counselor would like to talk to you.” It’s, like, that’s not a counselor; that’s accounts receivable. But people use the word counselor so loosely.

And I think facilitator is like that as well sometimes. People think everybody’s a facilitator. And everybody’s not a facilitator; this is a profession. And IAF got out there and said, “We’re going to define what these competencies are, what it means to say you’re a facilitator. And we have standards.” And I really appreciated that, and I appreciate it being a part of that movement in our field.

Douglas: The word moderator came to mind when you were talking about words that kind of get thrown around. And I know my heart sinks whenever I coach someone that is looking to improve their meetings; or even a lot of virtual stuff these days, where we get pulled in just to coach and help people. A lot of times, people don’t have budget, but we can still help them out and point them in the right direction.

I was helping out someone recently and kind of explaining how some of this stuff works. And they were like, they came back to me and said, “Oh, we found a moderator.” And I was just like, “Well, you know, you can you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, necessarily.”

Lynda: You can’t make them facilitate. They might just want to moderate instead.

It’s an interesting thing that you bring that up, because I will say to people, sometimes, “I think you don’t need a facilitator. I think what you’re talking about may be, in fact, a moderator.” In other words, I think it’s up to us as a profession to try to educate people, and I think that’s another reason why I appreciate the designation, is to help educate people about, I’m not a presenter. And yes, a trainer may use facilitative techniques, but someone who’s delivering training is not a facilitator of training. They are a trainer who’s using facilitative techniques.

So, I’m a former president of the Austin chapter of the Association of Talent Development, which used to be Society for Training and Development, so I have a lot of strong feelings about training, and I understand what training is, and it’s not the same as being a facilitator.

So it’s to your point, this is like a moderator, trainer, facilitator. It’s like, oh, they’re all the same thing. No, no, no, no, no, no. They’re not the same thing.

Douglas: So, you teach a class on facilitation, or facilitative leadership, I think, to be more specific. And I’m really curious. We never spoke about this, so I’ll be learning on the fly. Students usually have aha moments, and usually they’re fairly common threads from semester to semester, cohort to cohort. What’s the thing that keeps just recurring as you’re teaching this class that are just, like, pivotal moments for students as they’re embarking on learning about facilitation?

Lynda: So you were asking about my class that I teach. I teach a class called Facilitation as a Tool for Strategic Leadership. And my colleague, Dr. Tom Sechrest, had me come to speak to his classes in the master’s program in leadership and change at St. Edward’s University many years. And after several years of enthusiasm in these students, on Tom’s part, he said, “Maybe you ought to teach a special projects class on this subject of facilitation. I knew it was important in my class as a speaker, but it could be a whole class.”

So I embarked on that three years ago. And of course, this year it was totally online. And as of two days ago, my students’ final projects are due, so I’m going to be reading about their aha moments any moment. But I think that what I’ve observed that’s been very interesting is having trained facilitation, teaching people techniques, for many, many years—I teach the technology of participation, which is an ICA methodology—I now am really teaching more concepts of facilitation. I’m not necessarily teaching skills.

And I think what’s been really fascinating to me is students will say, “I took conflict resolution, and we learned a little bit about action learning. But the way you teach this class, I sort of see how it is applied in interacting with people. You demonstrated a lot of that to me.” And I have to be honest, Douglas. I don’t realize that I’m doing that intentionally, but I’ve been very gratified to see how people seem to say, “Hmm, if I’m going to be a strategic leader, I may not be a facilitator in the traditional sense of being what a facilitator is, but if I really understand what facilitators do, there are foundational principles and values and behaviors that I can shamelessly steal from that profession and use as being a really good strategic leader.” I mean, I think that that’s interesting now that I think about it—I hadn’t thought about it except about our conversation we had before we even started this recording, when we were talking about Roger Schwarz’s book Smarter Leaders, Smarter Teams. I mean, I think his first book was The Skilled Facilitator, but he’s teaching leadership now. I hadn’t really thought about it, frankly, until this very minute, that synapse, or that connection—that if more leaders were facilitated, we’d probably be in a lot better shape.

Douglas: Absolutely. And we’ve been talking a lot about how that’s the future, right? We’re looking at so many ineffective meetings and wasted time. If the leaders understand these things, then they can enact more change across the organization and influence direction through more participation. And I think that’s where true innovation can come from.

I guess, looking through that lens of leaders harnessing the power of facilitation, what do you think that can unlock for organizations as far as— like, what is the specific future you could imagine? How would you see organizations starting to change if more leaders were facilitators?

Lynda: Well, I’ve always said that it’s curious that people crave community and yet they abhor meetings. And I think if more leaders understood that people are passionate about getting things done, and they know that they must get them done with other people and cannot get them done alone, and that the reason why they abhor meetings is that there are so many blocks to their productivity in those sessions that they become frustrated. So I think that the secret sauce for a facilitator and for a leader is to learn how to remove obstacles and blocks rather than put things in that are irrelevant or clever or entertaining or the many things that people do. “Oh, I think I’ll do an icebreaker.” It’s like, “Is there any ice in the room?” I mean, people, I think, need to understand that their jobs are not to be necessarily entertaining, but engaging in relevant ways and listening to what people’s needs are and responding in meaningful ways to what their needs are. So I think if leaders begin to understand ways to not be afraid of learning what those obstacles are, not be afraid of being humble, that’s the big learning I’ve had, to be honest, living in this virtual space right now.

I told my students this summer, “I think I’m the Brené Brown of facilitators.” I will just come out and say, “You know what. I just left a breakout room, and by mistake, I left the whole meeting. I needed to get back in.” And then they feel comfortable saying, “Really? I didn’t know where the Chat button was. Thank you so much for admitting your vulnerability and your…” You know, I think we need to be more human with each other.

Douglas: Absolutely. My speaking coach even gave me advice. He’s like, “You don’t want to be the hero. No one wants to hear about how awesome you are. But if you show how fallible you are, they’ll listen. They’ll eat it up.” And I think that’s just to better engage the audience in the speech, but on the facilitation side, we absolutely need to show our human side because it’s not about us. It’s not about us entertaining and what not. And you talking about the obstacles and removing those reminded me of our preshow conversation and the definition of facilitation being to make it easy, and I think more facilitators need to meditate on that one.

Lynda: I think, when I first started working in this field, one of my very good friends and colleagues said to me, “You have to remember that this meeting isn’t your meeting. It’s their meeting.” And I kept thinking, “Yeah, but they’ve hired me to help them with their meeting.” Said, “Well, your job is to hold the space and be good at process, but it’s their meeting.” And I think when I’ve trained facilitators to hold their breath—or not hold their breath, perhaps—but take a breath and not necessarily intervene quickly in a quiet space in the meeting, that the group will pick up, eventually, the thread of that conversation.

Roger Schwarz once said, “If you don’t intervene at a particular moment and you think it’s a really appropriate moment, there’s a good chance that whatever that challenge is, it will come back again.” But it’s this notion that there are times to intervene that are appropriate. It also is that you don’t have to manage or control every part of this conversation, but you develop a sensitivity to when you can move in and move out.

I think you talk about tight control and loose control. It’s kind of like the dance, how you really move in and move out. And it’s one of the things that IAF promoted at early conference, I think. They talk about the art and science of facilitation. And it really is both an art and a science, I think.

Douglas: It reminds me of how Keith McCanless talks about falling off the horse and getting on the horse. And sometimes you lose control, and sometimes you—and you have to just be at peace with that. But my whole philosophy is you don’t want things to be out of control. We want to unleash everyone. We want to distribute control. But as soon as things veer into—in the form of if we’re looking at complexity theory, if we get into chaos, that’s not generally a good thing. Wading into complexity and allowing emergent phenomenon, that’s all good stuff. And how do we as facilitators maybe surf that line and balance around just enough support where we don’t deep into chaos? So we control it just enough so that beautiful things can happen. But we’d all over control it, where we get into the simple demand, and now it’s just, you know, obvious solutions that are going to stifle everything.

Lynda: I think that there is a skill to managing conflict, for example, as opposed to trying to cut it off or fearing it. I think that oftentimes there are undiscussables or conflictual undercurrents in a group that can be very illustrative and educational and healing if dealt with appropriately. And oftentimes, that’s why people bring in facilitators, because there’s something up—they don’t quite know what, or they don’t know how—but they know they can’t do it themselves. And so I think that the degree to which we can hold the space and manage those situations before they are chaotic, but they are conflictual in some ways, that we can guide people to learn from conflicts and not be afraid to talk about difficult things.

One of the expressions that I’ve heard people talk about when they talk about ground rules—which, I don’t like that phrase. I like to call them operating agreements rather than ground rules—is when people say, “There’s no such thing as a bad idea.” And I often find that to be very—it’s really a superficial comment. There are some ideas that are better than other ideas. And if we want to get really good ideas, we need to be comfortable talking about an idea that maybe has some aspects of it that are not going to help us advance to our desired outcome or to advance the results our company needs or to advance to a higher place. So I think that words matter a lot. I think it’s up to us to try to help—I made that comment earlier about we, the people. If we really want to have free speech, we need to be really skilled at communicating with one another and deepening the dialog, agreeing on what important words mean, and that’s what helps contribute to getting to the bottom of issues and not being afraid to go there.

Douglas: So I agree that words matter, and you have some opinions on ground rules don’t set the right tone and your preference for operating agreements. I think that’s awesome. What other sorts of verbal judo do you have or kind of words in your toolkit when you’re dealing with, let’s say, conflict or needing to maybe shift energy in the room? What are some of your Lynda favorites?

Lynda: The first thing that came to my mind, and I’m not even sure if this is what I would call verbal judo, is I often will say, “You need to complain to the person who can do something about the complaint.” I think that some of the operating agreements that I talk about—although Schwarz calls them ground rules, but actually he’s calling them eight behaviors for smarter teams now. They used to be ground rules, now they’re behaviors—are agreeing what important words mean. The famous Fisher and Ury, Getting to Yes guys, talk about focusing on interests rather than positions, sharing relevant information. A lot of those, even if a group’s not necessarily embracing those kinds of practices, I do my best to try to promote the use of those words that become—you become more unconsciously competent about it. If you use it for a long-enough time, you start to develop your own skill in actually doing those things.

In the beginning of my career, I used to say, “I’m going to share relevant information right now,” or “I’d like to focus on an interest rather than a position right now.” And it felt very mechanical. I’m more comfortable saying things like, “This is what I’m interested in. Help me understand what you’re interested in, or “This is how I see it. Do you see it similarly, or do you see it differently?”

Douglas: I like that, framing it really clearly and then asking, inviting people to challenge it and correct and maybe nuance. I think that’s powerful, for sure.

And I guess, I want to come back to this notion of facilitation making leaders better. And I think that one thing I’ve noticed in facilitation a lot of times, facilitators talk about holding space, facilitators practice active listening, and I think there’s a general thread of gratitude in facilitation, just being grateful for everyone’s contribution and recognizing everyone’s space and contribution. And I think that alone has a very powerful impact when leaders practice these things, specifically the gratitude. So I say all this out of curiosity around your experience with the, I would say, the overlap between facilitation and gratitude.

Lynda: Wow, that’s interesting. I hadn’t really thought about the connection between the word grace and gratitude until just now. I think that the current world that we are operating in is a world in which we are called to give one another grace. To me, that means that we are as grateful as we can be for their circumstance and situation, and I think that as a facilitator, we need to be grateful for people giving us the authority, if you will, to lead their meetings.

I learned many years ago that a key to introducing yourself to any group is to express your appreciation to them for giving you their attention. And that is a gift for which you need to be grateful because it’s very easy for people to tune you out as a speaker, as a trainer, as a facilitator. So I think we need to express our gratitude for people’s time and commitment and earn the right to be in front of that room. There’s a lot of humility that I think goes a long way when you realize that for a certain amount of time—an hour, two hours, a day, several days, a couple of weeks—you are being given a lot of attention, and that is very precious.

Douglas: If you could change anything about the way most meetings are run, what would it be?

Lynda: Wow. I think the simple slowing-down-to-speed-up philosophy would be a good way to start. That means listening to what is said and periodically pausing and summarizing what you think has been said and checking back with people and seeing if you are tracking with them. I think that would go a long way if people did that. And I don’t only mean meeting leaders. I mean, attendees could do a little bit more of that as well.

Douglas Yeah. So let’s talk about that. John Fitch and I have a book that we are working on called The Non-obvious Guide to Magical Meetings, and we have a whole section on how to make meetings better as a participant, so I love the fact that you brought up this notion of participants.

So as facilitators, we end up in other people’s meetings. And what’s some of your advice to folks that want to be better participants in meetings?

Lynda: I almost feel like, I don’t know, maybe a charlatan, answering that question, because I don’t think I’m a very good participant. I have to confess.

Douglas: So what makes you a bad participant, Lynda?

Lynda: Well, I get very excited and passionate as the participant. I think I have a lot of needs for attention. And when I get excited in a meeting, I sometimes get carried away, and I think that I’m the kind of participant that some people who are not experienced facilitators think are those people who go on and on, and you have to shut them up already. And so I think that’s why I’m a really good facilitator, because I have sympathy for those people, because I am one of those people.

But that’s not what you asked. You asked, How could participants be better participants? So now that I’ve confessed—I did tell you I was the Brené Brown of meeting facilitators—now that I’ve confessed that I need to teach myself some behaviors, I’ve been doing a little bit more of this. I have been. When I’m ready to say something in a meeting and I get really excited about it, I’ve tried to take a few breaths and think to myself, “If you don’t say that right now, why don’t you wait for two or three more people to say something, and see if maybe someone else is going to say it first.” So that would be one thing. When you’re really excited about saying something, you can write it down, and then wait a few minutes. That’s one behavior.

Another one would be the very thing I said before, which is if you don’t feel like you want to—some people say, “Well, I don’t really have anything to contribute.” I think a good participant can also be a good-enough listener to say, “Although I don’t have any ideas directly about what’s just been discussed…” I can hear you typing over there. You might be jotting down some really important notes. Although a participant may say, “I don’t have much to contribute,” they can listen and do that observation. “I seem to hear a theme. I seem to hear a theme right now in this conversation,” or “I heard this, this, and this. Is that what people are saying?” So that’s another way.

And I think the other great thing everybody can do is to learn how to ask better questions. What I tell my students is, questions are the Swiss Army knife of a good facilitator.

Douglas: Mm. I think it’s really great, too, when participants start asking really great, great questions. And I will often—that’s one of my operating agreements. I’ll stop saying ground rules. I encourage them to, if they have something to share, that they can share in the form of a question, it’s best to ask the question. If they think someone else maybe has more details on something, they can poll the group with this. And often, you will learn something because someone answers your question, they’re going to answer it slightly differently than you would have shared. And I just think that’s a super-amazing alignment tool is getting the team to ask questions of each other rather than just spewing facts over and over again.

Lynda: I think that is also that combination approach of combining advocacy and inquiry, advocating your particular point of view and asking questions. I think you pointed out before, when I mentioned, that you said being able to pose your opinion and then ask people if they see it that way or they see it differently. And that requires sincere curiosity. It’s not, “I have a technique. I’m going to tell you what I think. And then I’m going to ask you if you see it similarly or differently.” You have to really be curious about whether they do see it the same way or differently. Otherwise, it doesn’t really work, you know? And I think that’s the idea of being a values-based facilitator, that if your values are really to seek transparency and to share relevant information, then you really are curious. You really want feedback. Sometimes we don’t want feedback. Then it would not be a good idea to ask for it.

Douglas: Let’s talk a little bit about values-based facilitation.

Lynda: I think that we often have behaviors that go unchecked. We don’t necessarily align the way we behave in interactions as well as in facilitative skill or facilitative behaviors as human beings interacting with one another. And I think that really getting to the bottom of what we believe, what our values are, what our code of ethics is—I mean, the IAF has a code of ethics. We believe in the power of collaboration. We believe that it is important to disclose conflicts of interest. We honor the integrity of all participants in a group—you start to have to, in a way, hold yourself accountable to, how do your behaviors align with that? And I think that as a culture, we’re looking a lot more closely at, how do our behaviors align with our values?

That’s why I think that a meeting room, whether it’s face to face or virtual, really needs to reflect values or principles that are way bigger than just your personal opinions about how to manage participation. And as I mentioned earlier, that whole idea of, what does it mean that everyone is welcome? What does that mean, really? If you really believe that everyone is welcome, how do you equitably welcome everybody to the table? How do you respect people who do or do not want to have their cameras turned on? How do you connect with people and welcome people? And how do people want to be welcomed? The difference between the Golden Rule and the Platinum Rule—the Golden Rule is treat others as you would like to be treated. But the Platinum Rule says treat them the way they want to be treated. It may not be the same as the way you want to be treated.

So I think that’s the best I can do on values-based facilitation. There’s certainly authors that have written extensively. And I think looking at organizations like the IAF or ICA or looking at basic beliefs of an organization or the underpinnings of a philosophy.

Douglas: Yeah, that’s great.

What’s something that you recently discovered that has given you hope or making you really curious?

Lynda: I think it’s the gift of being able to teach at the university at this time. For the first time in the years that I’ve been teaching at St. Edward’s, this year I was able to say to my students, “You are all learning about facilitation as you are earning your master’s degree in leadership and change. I know that you thought this degree was important when you began to pursue it, but I want you to recognize right this minute that master’s of leadership and change is the most critical degree needed for our world today. And you are all earning that degree, and you’re learning about facilitation as you’re doing that.” And there were many students who looked back at me on, as I refer to it, the Hollywood Squares of Zoom, and their eyes lit up. And I think that as a mom and as a professor and as a professional in this field, I feel like there are lots of young people who really understand the value of engagement and participation. And our world really needs engagement and participation and compassion and empowerment today, not just young people, but thinking about cities and counties that have discovered, “You know, if we don’t have strong leadership beyond our city or county or state, it’s up to us. It’s up to each individual to step up to the plate, and say, ‘Yes, I can. And yes, I will.’” And I think facilitators are needed more now than ever before to help people realize that, yes, they can, and yes, we will.

Douglas: Lynda, thank you so much for this great conversation today. It’s been such a pleasure to have you on the show and to talk with you. I just want to give you a moment to let listeners know how they can find you.

Lynda: Sheltering in place, they can find me. They can find me at meetingsolutionsonline.com. My email address is lynda.baker@meetingsolutionsonline.com. And I would love to hear from your listeners. I’d love to hear what they heard, what they thought, what they agreed with, and what they maybe wanted to hear more about, or even disagreed with, because I’m aspiring to learn more about this field myself always.

So, thank you so much for the invitation to speak with you, Douglas. It’s been really, really exciting and intriguing for me to hear from you as well. So thank you very much.

Douglas: Always a pleasure, Lynda.Outro: Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control the Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. If you want more, head over to our blog, where I post weekly articles and resources about working better.