What I Feel Like Saying – THE Tool for High Performance Teams

Over our 40+ years of consulting, What I Feel Like Saying (WIFLS) has proven to be one of, if not the most powerful tool for building high performance teams. It is an amazingly simple tool for its effectiveness, and it works in groups of 2 to as many as 15, though the sweet spot is 5-7 participants.  Its purposes are to a) get people present, focused and ready to work, and b) to dissolve tension and divisiveness in a meeting and/or between individuals.

To use WIFLS, you simply start with one person who speaks whatever is on their mind. When finished, that individual passes to the person on their left, “Joe, what do you feel like saying?”.  And on it goes around the circle.  If you don’t have anything to share when it comes to you, simply say “I pass”, and continue to the next person.  This round robin continues until everyone passes, i.e., it might take 2 or 3 or more rounds, depending on what the group is hashing out together or what responses come up to different individuals’ comments.

Here are the 4 simple rules to keep WIFLS effective:

  • Listen actively. For people to be honest and really share what is on their mind, they need to know that they have the group’s undivided attention and genuine interest. This is essential.
  • No comments. Right alongside listening actively is not interrupting or commenting, or even asking a question until WIFLS comes back around to you. When someone has the floor, they are the only one to be speaking until they pass it to the next person, and then only that person has the floor, and so on.
  • Tell the truth. For WIFLS to be effective, the truth needs to get out.  This can be intimidating at first, particularly in groups with low trust.  That is why we recommend using the tool consistently at your meetings. Over time, people will build up the trust and courage required to tell the truth.
  • Pass it on to the next person. As discussed above, the exercise continues until everyone passes. It is akin to peeling back an onion one layer at a time. You may have to go around the circle several times until everyone passes, which is the signal that you’ve peeled back all the layers at this time and that everyone is focused and ready to get on with the business at hand.

When do you use WIFLS? It is very effective at the beginning of a meeting to get individuals present and focused. When people come into a meeting, they are thinking about the phone call that ended when they arrived at the meeting, the traffic on the way in, the email just read or sent, etc.  WIFLS gives them the opportunity to finish and clear that distraction and therefore fully enter into the meeting at hand.  It is also highly effective at the end of a meeting to allow team members to summarize how the meeting went from their perspective and to “let it go”.

The other place WIFLS shines is when meetings get tense or quiet or ineffective.  Whenever there is clear tension or frustration in the air, pull out WIFLS and begin a round.  The opportunity to speak without being interrupted gives participants time to both let off steam and to hear each other’s point of view. Instead of getting into verbal jousting, team members must patiently wait their turn to speak and must listen to all the other team members’ various points of view.  Because the rules require only one person at a time to speak and that the conversation move around the room in order, WIFLS opens the door for a dialogue and an opportunity to consider and understand different points of view that is difficult to achieve in normal conversation, particularly in a meeting. The forced patience often allows team members to calm ruffled feelings and to hear other perspectives, often cracking the door to better understanding, if not a full resolution of an issue. A caveat to using WIFLS to resolve thorny issues. It is very difficult if not impossible if your group is fairly large. It is tremendously effective with groups of 7 or fewer.

We traditionally use WIFLS at the beginning of every client session, and its effectiveness has been shown time and again. In one instance, a client team member was overwhelmingly distracted about a situation he had left at home when he came to the meeting. Rather than just push on, the team quickly realized he would not be able to focus or work effectively during the meeting with the situation unresolved. Instead, they paused and allowed him a few minutes to make a couple phone calls and resolve his worry at home. The team then came back together, completed WIFLS, and had a highly effective meeting.

We have also witnessed WIFLS both heal a broken team and peel back the layers until it became clear that there was an unmendable break in a team.  In both cases, the end result was a stronger, more resilient organization.

We recommend that you make WIFLS a standard part of your meeting schedule.  As the group gets accustomed to the tool, they will take more risks with it and look forward to using it.  They will find that they can trust their fellow team members and be more honest, which is a foundation for high-performing teams. The more you use What I Feel Like Saying, the more powerful it becomes.  Want a print-out of the WIFLS purpose and instructions?  Drop us an e-mail..  We are also happy to chat about it and talk through its use if you are working with a highly difficult or dysfunctional team. Contact us to start the conversation