Earlier this year I helped put together a guide to facilitating a group conversation using expresso (you can grab a copy at the end of this post) and it got me thinking about what, I would say, are the key things that will help make any expresso group session a success.
You may well have your own way of doing things, but here are my ideas to help you get the most out of any group session around expresso - whether you’re making use of a discussion guide or simply ‘winging it’!
1. Use the available resources
If you aren’t already aware, there’s a number of resources available to you via the expresso platform. Simply go to the Printable Worksheets page (you’ll need to be logged in to access it) and you’ll find not only worksheets, but handouts and reference guides as well.
No matter how familiar you are with your own expresso data, it always helps to have these reference sheets to hand, to remind yourself not only what your scores mean, but also how others differ from you. The Grid Reference Sheet is particularly useful for seeing how each of the four colours play out for each of the symbols: Asterisk (Interest), Diamond (Usual), Circle (Need) and Square (Stress).
If you’re running a session with your own team, or facilitating a group discussion, it really helps for each person to have their own copy of these materials - that they can keep and make their own notes on, both during and after the session.
2. Get everyone involved
In an expresso session, it can be tempting to rush through the data in order to fit it all in - especially if you are facilitating a large group, or are tight on time.
In these situations it would actually be much better to cover less of the data, and go into more detail, while getting everyone involved - rather than trying to cover everything, briefly.
The thing is, that when you rush through these scores there’s a danger that individuals end up not understanding or connecting with the data at all. You might cover everything in the hopes of giving them more information to work with, but instead they leave the session, fatigued and lacking clarity, and never think about their expresso data again.
Alternatively, if you spend an hour covering just one section of the data - say: Interests - and you get each person to talk about their scores, to compare top Interests, to share stories and experiences, to question any scores they are not sure about, and to recognise the variety present within the group… you’ve given them a compelling experience, and a picture of the depth and power of the data, that will help them to continue exploring their other scores on their own time.
3. Start with the key data
Leading on from the last point, it’s always a good idea to start with the key data, in case you run out of time.
Before your mind jumps immediately to the Careers Data, let me give you a clue: that’s not it. The Careers Data can definitely give you some very powerful insights, but generally not for the reasons people assume.
In expresso, the most vital pieces of the data to cover are the individual Interest scores, and then Usual, Need & Stress on the Grid.
The Interest scores give individuals insight into their motivations, which are key. While those Grid scores reveal: their ‘normal’ behaviour, their behaviour under stress and the underlying needs that dictate which of those behaviours they are going to display in different environments (which can be life-changing).
Covering these two areas of the data is already a lot, and if you want to do it thoroughly, or include the Focus and Careers Data too, it’s wise to split the content over two or more sessions.
4. Use conversation prompts
A great way to keep people engaged is to get them discussing specific areas of the data, or applications, in small groups. This also ensures everyone has a chance to speak and share thoughts on their own scores - even if you’re short on time.
Give the groups 2-3 questions or prompts, and a set amount of time for discussion. Then collect everyone back together and have each group share some of the key responses they came up with.
Example prompts might include:
- What motivates us? What demotivates us? What impact may this have on the way we approach our work?
- Do we share common Interests? Are there any ‘gaps’? (i.e. Interests that are low scores for everyone)
- How varied are we, in terms of Usual Behaviour? What might this mean for our team?
- What kind of environment do each of us Need? Is this likely to be met by our work environment?
- Does my Need conflict with the Usual Behaviour of others in my group? And what might this mean for us? etc. etc.
5. Give ‘homework’
Providing suggested activities, specific worksheets to complete, or areas of the platform to explore, is a good way to make sure that people are at least aware of what additional content is available to them. Hopefully this will encourage them to take a look and engage with their data on their own time!
The more you can help people to engage and reflect on their scores, the more they will get out of expresso, and the greater the likelihood that they will still be making use of this data years down the line.
(Note: I completed the questionnaire 12 years ago and I still use the data on a regular basis, and continue to uncover new depths of what it means for me!)
6. Keep using the language of expresso
After completing an expresso session it’s helpful to keep using the language of the data to keep people engaged and thinking about their own scores.
Use the Grid, Areas of Interest, and Organisational Focus in team discussions, and encourage line managers to use expresso as a framework for discussions with their direct reports.
It doesn’t just keep the data front of mind for people, but also provides individuals with the words to explain why they may be struggling with certain areas of their work, or why they feel particularly enthused to take on new areas of responsibility.
So those are my tips! If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of our Guide to facilitating a group conversation using expresso just drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line expresso Conversation Guide and we’ll send you the PDF.