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Posts tagged ‘Meeting Facilitation’

Resource: Meeting Matters

Read the entire article or browse the summary below. What are your meeting “pet peeves?”

Meeting after meeting after meeting quietly corrodes our spirits and our organizations. We are used to boring meetings, long meetings, meetings without a purpose. We are used to mediocre and downright bad meetings. We like to call them, but there are often limited benefits from attending.

Beyond the measurable wasted time, meetings matter. They matter because our organizations use them to make decisions, to have social interactions that create vital connections, and – most of all – they support change. Here are 10 “Golden Rules” that, when followed, can help to create more effective meetings:

  1. Avoid meetings.
  2. Limit invitations.
  3. Create and send an agenda in advance.
  4. Prepare and confirm.
  5. Begin and finish on time.
  6. Use meeting rules.
  7. Stick to the agenda.
  8. Create a space for each participant to air their ideas, thoughts, and opinions.
  9. Finish well.
  10. Follow up.

These “Golden Rules” sound like good ideas. Yet, we still go to ineffective meetings led by outside agencies, bosses, team members, and peers. Why? We feel obligated. But if you ask the meeting organizer, they will say that they feel obligated too. The meeting is a gathering called by someone who has no choice, attended by others who have no choice.

The good news: you can choose. The meeting system can change. Act. You are too effective and competent to put up with meetings that don’t work. Choose to change your own meeting behavior. Choose to make your own assessment of which meetings are worth your time, energy, and budget dollars. Change happens when each leader and manager chooses to transform themselves and their organization. The opportunity is presented. Game on.

Meetings and other wrecks
Overheard conversation

The shape of space

Skyscape XV

First the students sit in traditional straight lines, behind desks.
Then they sit in a circle around a table.
Finally they sit in an open circle, with nothing in the center.
…then we reflect together on the experiences.

Doing this activity over several years in the organization development classroom does not constitute scientific research data. But here are frequent student observations about the different room setups:

The traditional straight line allows everyone to easily see a presentation and gives the facilitator to have greater control over the group. The disadvantages include individuals having a sense of being detached from the group – leading to a more passive group that is less likely to participate in discussion or interact.

The circle table setup, either round or “U” shape, allows everyone to see everyone else, including making eye contact and observing posture and body language. In a smaller group (6 to 8), more people are comfortable contributing to the discussion and interacting. The table at the center allows for ease in note taking. It seems to create a sense of safety by providing a partial barrier between the individual and the group.

The circle setup without tables , either round or “U” shape, has the same benefits as the first circle with the additional benefit that it is easy to engage in activities that use movement. The openness can create a space for more personal connection. On the other hand, without a table, individuals may have different levels of discomfort without the table as partial barrier – conflict is perceived with increased threat. From a practical standpoint, people do not have places to put notebooks or drinks.

An alternative that I’ve used is creating a “chevron” shape where the tables face the front, but at a 40 degree angle. Participants can see each other as well as the presentation. This combines some of the advantages and disadvantages of the arrangements described above.

The shape of the space has implications for the participants and the facilitator or instructor. In my experience, it is important to consider how the space invites interaction and participation, creates psychological safety, and meets the needs for the gathering goals. How have you experienced the shape of space in your meeting and class rooms?

Strong opinions, weakly held

This is a cross-post from the Friesen Group Kansas EMS Transition project blog. It is a topic of interest to everyone who engages in organizations.

As dialogue, debate, and discussion continue around various EMS Transition questions, I was thinking about a post on Bob Sutton’s blog where he talks about the need for strong opinions, weakly held. The argument originated with persons from the Institute for the Future.

It starts by stating that we each need to have strong opinions. When we care passionately about something, we are willing to put our energy and time into learning about it, understanding it, and defending it. But the argument doesn’t stop there. The rest of the argument is that we need to hold our strong opinions loosely. If we’re too attached to our opinions, we lose the ability to hear and see other evidence and alternative ideas.

I close this post with a quote from Sutton, “Wisdom is the courage to act on your knowledge and the humility to doubt what you know.”

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