How a group of project managers improved their facilitation skills and set a foundation for effective meetings 

The Challenge

ArcBest, a four billion dollar integrated logistics company based in Fort Smith, AR with 14,000+ employees, was seeking facilitation skills for their project managers after receiving internal employer feedback on skills gaps that needed to be filled. 

Project managers at ArcBest felt that meetings weren’t accomplishing what they set out to achieve. They were lacking consistency and a defined purpose. They acknowledged that receiving training in facilitation skills would be beneficial for this group. 

According to Lori Hull, Manager, Program and Portfolio Management: “Group facilitation is a key function performed by the department and we wanted the group to have the skills to professionally and effectively perform this function to achieve the expected results. We wanted them to have a common understanding of their role in facilitation and to be better equipped to help groups come to agreements and solutions.” 

The Solution

ArcBest chose Interaction Associates (IA) as a partner in overcoming this challenge because of their proven track record of helping organizations improve their meeting culture & facilitation skills. After understanding the challenges ArcBest was facing, IA knew that Essential Facilitation™ was the most appropriate solution for their project managers to address identified skill gaps. 

Essential Facilitation is a flagship training program that centers around The Interaction Method™, a research-based approach for building consensus, reconciling differences, and taking collaborative action. The skills learned in this program help individuals improve performance, build a collaborative culture, and facilitate high-stakes meetings. 

For ArcBest, Essential Facilitation would help improve the facilitation skills needed for their project managers to be effective. It would also create a common language for how their meetings would be conducted moving forward. 

They were also looking for hybrid and virtual meeting solutions since most of their meetings included some or all remote attendees. 

When understanding and applying new skills, simply sharing new concepts is not enough. Individuals must practice them. A key to the program’s success was IA’s highly interactive and practical approach to learning. Dedicated practice of new skills is critical to create an immersive experience and allow learners to try new concepts with relatable situations under the guidance of a skilled IA workshop leader. Graduates of the program came away with a clear understanding of the new skills they learned and the confidence to apply them.

This is exactly what Michael Reidy, IA Senior Consultant and Workshop Leader, did to help the group understand how to facilitate hybrid meetings. While the training was in-person, Reidy was able to divide the group into different locations at the training site and conduct a mock hybrid meeting where some individuals got a chance to facilitate and face various challenges that come along with this setting. Because of this practice, the team can refer back to this experience anytime they face a difficult situation in future hybrid meetings.

“Stakeholders have noticed the differences in our meetings since the training, and have appreciated the improved structure and effectiveness.”

- Lori Hull, Manager, Program and Portfolio Management

The Results

According to Reidy, “individuals within the group had varying levels of facilitation skills, but even the most tenured facilitators learned something of value during their training. Everyone in the workshop left feeling more confident as a leader and a facilitator.” 

Participants also found what they learned easily applicable to their daily lives. One attendee noted: “It is unacceptable to come to a meeting unprepared. This workshop gave me the education and tools to make sure I don’t do that going forward.”

It’s clear that this group understands the importance of acting on the training they received and not falling into the trap that so many do with leadership development: not implementing the training immediately and reverting back to old habits.

Project managers who went through IA training were asked to present on a topic they learned in the program during their monthly department meetings. They also developed a standardized format for their department that includes a detailed agenda, meeting purpose, and a “Desired Outcome Statement”. The popular concept of the desired outcome statement includes a list of actionable statements in an agenda that describes what a team plans to accomplish by the end of their meeting. 

When providing feedback after the training, Hull had this to say: “Our project managers really enjoyed the training. We are going to have fun putting the training into action in our daily work life. We have all committed to something we are going to work on over the next few months and will be holding ourselves accountable to turn practice into behaviors. Stakeholders have noticed the differences in our meetings since the training, and have appreciated the improved structure and effectiveness.”

Essential Facilitation™

Facilitate High-Stakes Meetings
Learn facilitation techniques for high-stakes meetings. Learn how to guide groups whose members may have widely divergent backgrounds and views to successful outcomes.

Improve Performance Across Three Dimensions
When meeting leaders and facilitators apply The Interaction Method, groups produce better results, improve work processes, and build stronger relationships.

Build A More Collaborative Culture
Our facilitation workshops are also powerful tools for effective culture building. Our results demonstrate when people utilize the Interaction Method in meetings, the organization adopts a common collaborative language and a set of effective meeting routines. The results: less wasted time, shared responsibility, and more productive meetings.

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