Meetings. We love ’em and we hate ’em.
Me too. I love ’em when I can give them. I usually hate ’em when I have to attend them.
Upon hearing that I love running meetings, managers will usually tell me something like, “That’s because you’re a teacher and coach Rosa. Having to hold meetings all the time gets to be such a burden. I just don’t know what to talk about.”
Well, let’s talk story about that.
In case you missed it, this posting is a follow-up to this one:
Managing with Aloha through the Lessons-Learned from Current Events, also the subject of my recent Ho‘ohana Community newsletter: Talking Story Skill-building with Current Events. Snippet:
People will often lament that meetings are boring, useless, time-sucking sacred cows, yet let’s get real about this: If true, the meeting itself isn’t the problem, because meetings don’t give themselves. The problem is us, as the meeting givers and takers we are.
The good news? It’s a very easy problem to solve. We just need to approach it as skill-building, with the added benefit of culture-shaping communication improvement. Set the goal:
I will be a great meeting participant and follow-up champion.”
“Have to” versus “Get to”
There is an attitude change required of managers charged with holding regularly scheduled meetings, which by the way, I would require you to do if I was your boss, as a part of good workplace communications.
You can dread them, or you can decide they will totally work in your favor from now on. Go even farther than that, and decide they’ll be fun for you — make it happen.
Second, start to think of holding meetings as a privilege you get — for that is exactly what it is. You get the privilege of securing others’ time and attention. They honor you, with their willingness to connect with you, and better engage with you.
To get this attitude change, frame meetings in the proper perspective:
- A meeting is simply a group affair — define it that way in your planning for it. You save a lot of time by communicating messages to a group rather than to individuals one at a time. Bonus: You can be confident they all heard the same thing, and you can immediately take note of any emotional reactions, those transparent cues on the health of the workplace environment.
- Assure that your meetings are conversations — talk story! Too many meetings are broadcasts of the same stuff people should have been held accountable for reading in emails, memos and reports; no wonder they’re boring, and considered a waste of time. In contrast, people within a group should expect, and look forward to, meetings where they can speak up freely, communicate with each other, and get immediate whole-team feedback.
I like thinking about meetings as huddles: Huddles, Values, and the Work Ethic we value
- Instead of dropping new bombshells on your group or team, consider meetings to be the best way you can communicate follow-up, something we managers don’t do enough of. You can use your meetings to brainstorm new project initiatives, but be wary of announcing “done deals” that your team is unprepared for. Follow-up is when decisions came about as a result of work progression, as opposed to decisions announced out of the blue.
- Connected to the previous point, give yourself a break: Stop assuming you need a new agenda for every meeting you hold, you don’t. When you begin to reframe your meetings as suggested, you’ll lessen that burden you may now feel, because others are jumping in with more input for you, and you become a conversation facilitator. If you have a copy of Managing with Aloha, review the Mahalo story of the Alaka‘i Nalu which starts on page 214 (2nd Edition) under the heading of “Creating the habit of appreciation.”
- Create more conversational dynamics. Conversing is an odd duck. We’ve all done it since we learned to talk, yet we never master it. Make it an expectation that everyone speaks up, and allow your meetings to be opportunities when people can practice doing so, and feel good about how safe you make it. Discuss, and yes, debate. Analyze to uncover root causes. Create a forum for communicating workplace experiences. Reward the behaviors you want to see repeated with sincere recognition, giving credit where credit is due. Bonus: Everyone will be practicing better listening as well.
Progress from “what it is” to “what it can be”
For many of you reading this, the meetings you now hold or attend have become sacred cows, routines riddled with auto-pilot, and historical artifacts in your organization. You might feel that the re-framing I suggest is daunting, and that I ask too much. Please challenge those assumptions.
Start by shifting your own behavior.
Give well: Tweak your meetings when you give them. Openly set new expectations, and ask people to please get on board with you. I’ll bet their eagerness to do so will surprise and delight you.
Receive better: Shift your own expectations as a participant when you attend meetings run by others —if you passively sit there, you only have yourself to blame for wasting your time. A good self-coaching technique, is to attend every meeting with a question you would like to ask relating to the agenda in some way. Ask it of everyone there to gain input and feedback on something you’re working on that’s related to it, or initiates a thoughtful option.
You can make changes. Be Alaka‘i and lead by merit of your own good example.
1. Turn meetings into interesting, engaging, culture-building group conversations.
2. Shift meeting agendas away from informational broadcasting and the “this will happen” mandate. Talk about what already happened, its impact, and how it points to what comes next. Assure that the progression of workplace productivity is rewarded and celebrated, and everyone collectively acknowledges and enrolls in the lessons-learned you go forward with.
3. Be a facilitator who coaches conversational engagement. Seek the partnership of those in the room, so you never go it alone. Do with, not for.
4. Proactively set better expectations from everyone involved. Meetings can be a fantastic vehicle for managers to secure more involvement, participation, and engagement. DO consider them team building exercises.
Let me know if I can help you,
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Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawai‘i’s Universal Values to the Art of Business
Our value immersion study for the months of January and February 2017:
HO‘OMAU; Love the one you’re with.