As an agile coach, one pattern of activity that I have found very beneficial is to meet up, one-on-one or in a group of three, with individuals before critical meetings. Critical meetings include training, facilitated workshops, conflict resolution meetings, project launch meetings, or any meeting where there is a lot at stake.
Each one-on-one follows a similar pattern. First, basic introductions. Then, I give a very abreviated life and professional history (married with three kids, grew up as a geek, 9 years doing agile, blah dee blah…). I also ask for a brief professional history from the person I am meeting with and if possible, as a little about who they are as a person. For example, I might ask about hobbies, family or what they consider important outside of work. Then, I check on their knowledge of the subject of the meeting. I get a basic background of how they think they might contribute to the meeting. I also find out how much they are familiar with agile, lean and other related concepts. If they are not at all familiar, I give a very brief introduction to agile work. Finally, I ask if they have any thoughts or questions that might be important for the upcoming meeting.
What does all this do? First of all, it allows me to have a personal connection with everyone in the meeting so that I don’t have to try to build that on top of facilitating the discussion at hand. Secondly, it helps map out some of the strengths of the individuals involved. Occasionally, I will encounter someone who has something really unique to offer in the meeting. For these people, I ask them to make a special effort to present their unique skill, knowledge, etc. at the meeting. They may even go on the agenda. Thirdly, the one-on-one meetings provide a potentially safe environment to bring up issues that may be hard to bring up in a group.
I usually budget 1/2 hour for each meeting and they usually start a few days before the main event.