The mental model CATER will help you recall the five techniques that improve collaboration and team dynamics. CATER does two big things necessary for all greatly facilitated sessions. The mental model creates comparable knowledge among participants and opens feedback channels for successful collaboration.
CATER is a mental model that identifies the core components of a system and helps you wrap your head around how the components interact.
CATER stands for:
- Communicate in pre-session exchanges.
- Ask powerful questions.
- Anticipate Trouble.
- Use engaging Exercises.
- Manage the Rhythm.
Communicate in Pre-Session Exchanges
A pre-session exchange involves the facilitator (session leader) collecting information from the participants before the facilitated session. The exchange usually occurs via face-to-face interviews, phone interviews, or online surveys. The pre-session exchange should be planned and structured as equal to planning and structuring the main session.
Asking Powerful Questions
Powerful questions lead participants to active thought, debate, and compelling results. Weak questions do the opposite. Introductory questions and clarifying questions are the two major classes of powerful questions.
Disruption is a reality. Trouble will occur. Great facilitators embrace the reality of disruption and are prepared to move through trouble.
Engaging exercises are what draw favorable attention or interest. Some synonyms for engaging make the point better: alluring, appealing, captivating, charismatic, enchanting, charming, fascinating, glamorous, magnetic, and seductive. From experience, a facilitated session can achieve its outcomes if its exercises rise to the level of engagement.
Manage the Rhythm
Whether a single or multiple sessions, “ups” and “downs” will occur during the facilitation process. Like many things in business and life, the lowest points are followed by the highest. Experienced facilitators understand this. Great facilitators can spot subtle changes in tempo and attitudes. All facilitators must master the rhythm and timing associated with team dynamics.
Facilitating with FINESSE
CATER is discussed more in Facilitating with FINESSE: A Guide to Successful Business Solutions. The book applies CATER to ten commonly facilitated business applications, including risk assessments, business cases, failure analysis, and strategic plans. Move your facilitation from good to great by CATERing to your participants!
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JD Solomon is the author of Communicating Reliability, Risk & Resiliency to Decision Makers: How to Get Your Boss’s Boss to Understand and Facilitating with FINESSE: A Guide to Successful Business Solutions. JD Solomon Inc. provides solutions for facilitation, asset management, and program development at the nexus of facilities, infrastructure, and the environment.