Mmm… Making Meetings Meaningful (Again!): 3 Tips (Link to Webinar as well!)
By Bix | January 23, 2017 | Uncategorized
Years ago, after a long day of facilitating meetings, I was having dinner with some of the meeting participants, and after a big sip of wine, I said, “Gosh, but I bet most of you just want to hit the snooze button on these meetings, right?” Wrong. The woman next to me said, “Well, actually I enjoy meetings.” I thought to myself, holy guacamole! Is it possible I’ve just met the only person on the planet who likes meetings?!
Turned out, the joke was on me. The entire group – who didn’t work at the same place – said that they liked meetings, with qualifiers. It was an eye-opening experience I’ve never forgotten. Not only did I realize that some meetings can be interesting and productive, but more importantly, that I was walking around making the assumption that my views on meetings were universal. In fact, I was committing the first mistake about meetings: assuming that everyone was on the same page.
Having learned a thing or two since then, here are three less-talked about approaches for making meetings meaningful again.
- Identify the type of meeting up-front. Most meetings serve one or more of three purposes:
- An exchange of ideas – which requires listening and speaking and thinking through the ideas and responses.
- An exchange of information that requires acknowledging the information shared, identifying implications from that information, and deciding actions or responses to the information.
- An exchange of ideas and information to solve a specific problem.
Most meetings are a combination of exchanging ideas and information, but not all with the goal of solving a problem. Being aware of the type of exchange and the different skills and responses required saves time – so you don’t try and come up with a response to a hypothetical, for instance – and energy and foster a more productive meeting.
- Be willing to change your mind. Unless you’re going into a meeting with the single goal of convincing people of a pre-determined decision or to share some specific piece of information, try hard to listen and be willing to accept a different point of view. If you can, create a culture where changing your mind within a meeting context is encouraged. The key here is the phrase “within a meeting context” — this can be the space to disagree and change one’s perspectives. But going back on decisions made during a meeting? That’s a practice that can lead to chaos, and to colleagues/staff viewing meetings as a waste of time.
- Practice generosity: share ideas, air time (by actively listening), credit, cupcakes. People – even if meetings are part of their job – are being generous by making time for meetings. Reciprocate that generosity in whatever way possible.
On February 7, 2017, we led a webinar, along with SEED on how to How to Facilitate Productive and Meaningful Meetings for the Foundation Center. You can view and enjoy the webinar by clicking here.
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