There are lots of things written about meetings – particularly about how bad they can be! But great things happen when people meet, and there have been some meetings that have changed our lives:
Can you think of a meeting that you have experienced where you came away thinking, “that was good!” or “we achieved a lot”?
What was different about those meetings? What makes a meeting a positive experience for you?
I suspect that the positive meetings that come to mind may well have three things in common:
Taking each of these in a bit more detail.
Clarity of purpose
If everyone involved in a meeting knows why the meeting is happening and what the expected outcomes are then a really good foundation is laid for a good meeting:
The right people to do the work
Successful meetings happen when work really gets done in them and not in the squeezed time between or after meetings.
A great way to think about having the right people in the room comes courtesy of Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff in their book Don’t just do something, stand there!. They use the acronym ARE IN to examine whether the right people are involved.
So to ensure that the work needed can be done the meeting needs people with:
An example to illustrate how effective having the right people in the room can be is IKEA. The retailer successfully decentralised a global system for product design, manufacture and distribution in just three days. This meeting involved 53 people from 10 countries and included customers and suppliers as well as the internal teams from IKEA. (Weisbord & Janoff, Don’t just do something, stand there!)
The focus also needs to be on the work within the meeting and by this I mean actively doing things that lead to an outcome, not just sharing information updates. This can be a very inefficient use of valuable face-to-face time when there are other more time effective ways to keep everyone updated.
This leads us to how the work gets done.
Attention to how work is done
Each person in a meeting is unique and paying attention to this really helps to deliver a good meeting and strong outcomes.It involves thinking through how to:
The more people that are involved in a meeting, the greater the number of perspectives there are. Harnessing this diversity of perspective is where real breakthroughs can come. Often this can involve sticking with it when it feels pretty uncomfortable. This discomfort will be different for different people. For example if you tend to be future focussed in your thinking you may feel frustrated when others in the meeting talk more about the past. Or if you are more task oriented you will perhaps be bemused by those who are focussed on how any change may affect people. The thing to remember is that all perspectives have value so take a deep breath and hang in there, it is worth it!
When people share lots of ideas and perspectives it can feel as though it will never make any sense and there is then a huge temptation to leap to action and decisions. This is where people tend to have a need to move to comfort and display symptoms of AAS (Ambiguity Aversion Syndrome) or UID (Uncertainty Intolerance Disorder)
However staying with the ‘groan zone’ for long enough can result in some amazing new thinking that leads to a much better outcome. The real breakthrough thinking, new ideas and solutions come in the space that sits between chaos and order. So maybe the next time you are thinking about meetings move the focus to what works. After all, we can all do our bit to make a change for the better.
|What is it||Impact on group||Pros / cons|
|Illustration||Illustrators help people communicate more effectively through their skill in developing images that support verbal or written words. This is usually done in a studio, not live with a group.||By communicating through pictures and words, people tend to be able to take in and remember information better.||✓ pictures bring things to life × the pictures are developed by the illustrator and therefore not ‘owned’ by the group.|
|Graphic recording||Graphic Recorders help groups see the conversations they are having through their expertise in listening, visualising and use of metaphor.||The group can SEE the conversation being recorded all on one page. This acknowledges contributions and makes people feel heard.||✓ Captures attention ✓ Supports group memory ✓ Useful summary × Often added as an afterthought, late in the preparation of meetings × not integrated into group process × Little group ownership|
|Graphic Facilitation||Graphic Facilitators work with groups to help them achieve their outcomes through their combined expertise in group process and visual architectures.||Conversations are are designed with a focus on group outcomes. The group can SEE their contributions being added to the charts. The group can make new connections as individuals see their perspectives alongside others.||✓ Focusses attention ✓ Supports trust and respect ✓ brings clarity ✓ supports group decision making ✓ strong ownership by the group × for full impact the visuals need to be planned as an integral part of the design - not added as an afterthought × the combination of facilitation skills and graphical skills are harder to come by|
|Visual Organisatational Development Consultancy||Visual OD practitioners work to improve an organisation’s performance through their expertise in human systems, system architectures.||Group work is designed within the context of organisational needs. The visuals help the group develop clarity in complex situations. The way the information is synthesised in this approach enables new insights and meaning to be drawn by the group.||Same as above and… ✓ visual synthesis brings new insights aimed at business impact × very few people worldwide can do this|
This article was developed for Enlivening Edge.In 1999 I left my well-paid, corporate job to pursue my passion for facilitation and co-found Meeting Magic. Meeting Magic (MM) provided meeting facilitation services for large corporate organisations. Three years later Ingrid, my co-founder, and I were at capacity and the vision for the Meeting Magic Network was born. Little did I know the journey this would take me on! A journey to becoming Teal. (more…)
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