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Building a sense of community

A spirit of buy-in and enthusiasm. ..A spirit of trust…We foster ownership…Our strength is in the diversity of opinion.
Those were the director’s assessments of the group dynamics at the close of the two day eXtension staff retreat last week.

Those values were achieved in part by the role of the eight moderators leading the sessions and the guidelines. They were given to staff before we got to the retreat. They set expectations. I’ve edited them a little. Consider adapting, adopting them for meetings, retreats or other events.

Moderator's Role
1. Frame the conversation at the start of the session.
2. Provide guidance to keep the conversation on topic.
3. Contribute to the conversation, but don’t dominate it. Bring out the thoughts of others.
4. If topics are introduced that take the conversation off topic, interject and move the new topic to the parking lot for later discussion. Bring the conversation back to the topic.
5. In cooperation with the recorder, summarize the conversation with action items when there are 10 to 15 minutes left in the time slot.

We agree, uphold and follow these guidelines in our work together.
1. Be supportive, constructive and genuinely helpful with each other.
2. Have the meeting in the meeting. Express your thoughts openly, honestly and constructively at the very moment.
3. Strictly avoid circling back off-line and trying to change what we've spent important time agreeing to as a group.
4. Be perfectly clear and avoid subtlety. Avoid forcing others to "read between the lines."
5. Be substantive and dig into the task at hand.
6. Disagree with people's ideas as opposed to attacking the individual person.
7. Avoid the urge to immediately criticize other people's ideas, even when they sound unlikely. Instead seek to understand how something might benefit us. View disagreements as opportunities to learn how others see things differently.
8. Support the decisions we make together (whether you agreed or not).
9. Be open to and curious about new and potentially foreign or threatening ideas. Seek to learn and understand the unvarnished truth.
Adopted from Russ Roberts, LTD; 2008.

They're really rules for civility, for getting along and being heard in the work community.


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All of these seem like common sense to me. But I know in a meeting where time and people are concentrated it is easy to forget.

I have also experience meetings were multiple cultures merge. How open and straight forward a person is can be linked directly to their culture.