Do you enjoy going to meetings?
When asked, most people said they’d rather sit through a film than go to a business meeting. It’s an odd thought. Think about it for a moment.
The film is a passive experience, where you sit in a dark theatre often on uncomfortable seats for several hours on end. Yet meetings offer an opportunity to interact with other people, engaging in conversations that really matter to you and your work life.
So surely you’d expect people to be jumping at the chance to take part in meetings at work?
Of course, the opposite is true. People tend to make excuses to stay away, arrive late or simply don’t contribute as much as they could.
In her book ‘Time to Think‘, Nancy Kline offers one way of tackling this with a way of holding effective meetings, driving ownership and creating a thinking environment. As Nancy says “When you are bold enough to do even one of these things, the quality of thinking in the meeting rises.”
- Give everyone a turn to speak – everyone is allowed to speak in turn, knowing they will be listened to and not interrupted.
- Ask everyone to say what is going well in their work, or in the group’s work – if nothing else, open your meetings by going around the group twice. Firstly, to give everyone a turn to speak about a positive reflection on their own or the group’s work. Secondly, to give everyone the opportunity to talk about the first item on the agenda. State the agenda item clearly and then go around the group to get each person’s ideas, again uninterrupted and listened to.
- Give attention without interruption during open and fiery discussion – get everyone to agree not to interrupt each other – they will have a turn. Interruption destroys thinking!
- Ask questions to reveal and remove assumptions that are limiting ideas – identify the assumptions people may be making and ask questions that remove them, e.g. “What are you assuming right now that is stopping you….” “If this were not true, what would you do?” and then…”What else would you do?” and then……..”What else would you do?“…………..and then…….
- Divide into thinking partnerships when thinking stalls and give each person five minutes to think out loud without interruption – when ideas are flagging, break the group into pairs and give each person between three and five minutes to think out loud for themselves and with their partner’s undivided silent attention. You will often find new ideas / solutions emerge.
- Go around intermittently to give everyone a turn to say what they think – at several points go around the group again, giving everyone a turn to speak again without interruption. This can be particularly productive immediately following a partner break-out.
- Permit also the sharing of truth and information – people often feel reluctant to bring the truth to the table, in fear of appearing ‘negative’. Give permission for them to share the truth, however negative it might seem.
- Permit the expression of feelings – if feelings are suppressed, they inhibit thinking.
- Ask everyone what they thought went well in the meeting and what they respect in each other – it is important to end on a positive. First, reflect positively on the meeting by giving everyone a turn to say one thing that was positive. Secondly, go around the group and ask them to say one thing about the person to their right that they respect. This may be a contribution from the meeting itself or some other aspect of behaviour that is admired. The person on the right must simply say “thank you”!
These steps should not be underestimated. Put them in place and perhaps more people will answer “meetings” when asked next!