Everyday Meeting Series #1: Adding Facilitation to Improve Everyday Meetings
As a precursor to adding training to everyday meetings, you often need to add some thoughtful structure and facilitation. This post shows you how to take an everyday meeting and add some lightweight but powerful facilitation to improve the meeting quality and outcomes.
Stay tuned for a follow-on post “Adding Leadership Skills Training to Everyday Meetings” where we take the same meeting and add skills training.
Scoring a Meeting
Score yourself: In this first section, give yourself one point for every sentence that reflects something you have experienced in the last two weeks.
You’re sitting in a meeting. One of your colleagues is droning on. You’re not quite sure why the topic is even being explored as you thought the decision was made last month. Most people are chatting away on slack and email. You’re pretty sure remote colleagues are reading or watching something interesting because their facial expressions don’t match the content or tone from the presenter.
A contentious point comes up and hangs in the air. The silence is heavy for 10 seconds. And then the next topic is brought up. Probably best that we didn’t talk about that, anyway, because the two people needed to resolve this particular issue disagree vehemently and haven’t found a path to resolution. With their lack of positive communication skills, they are as likely to avoid the issue as they are to devolve into hyperbole and name calling.
The next point, which you think is incorrect, is too much to pass up. You say something to provide helpful and correct information.
The speaker defensively cuts you off.
You say nothing more. This person can’t seem to take feedback without getting defensive.
During the whole meeting there are a few people you never hear from. There’s one person who neither said anything nor showed up on video. You’ve been working together for over six months and you’ve rarely heard their voice, much less seen them.
Ok, wait… Are you actually sitting in a meeting right now, reading this blog post? If so… you probably aren’t paying attention to the person talking, either… give yourself one more point.
If you scored 3 points or fewer overall, you’ve likely got some good basic meeting structure, organization, or facilitation in place. You can likely skip to the upcoming blog post Adding Leadership Skills Training to Everyday Meetings.
Adding Facilitation to a Meeting
If you’re still reading here, you’re a high scorer. To get you further away from not-so-valuable meetings we need to add some basic meeting facilitation. Whether you’re leading the meeting or a meeting participant, you can help.
You’re probably not going to believe this at first, but the basics will get you a long way towards more valuable time together. Start by helping to set meeting expectations. Make sure the meeting has a clear outcome and agenda. It helps to start with the following format (even if you don’t use all of it in the calendar invitation):
The Purpose of today’s meeting is to <desired outcome of today’s meeting> So that we <why this outcome helps serve a strategy or strategies> By <agenda of activities for the meeting>
Review these briefly at the beginning of each meeting. Even short meetings.
Next, improve everyday meetings by making sure each person has a say. It’s been shown in a handful of studies that on the highest performing teams everyone gets approximately equal talk time. If you own the meeting, you can set expectations that you would like to hear from each person on the call. When a topic is being discussed, employ round-robin facilitation to give every person their chance to weigh in. Ask a clear prompt question, call on each person, and tell them they have two minutes to share their thoughts. Set a 2-minute timer with a sound, and gently and kindly cut them off if they keep talking more than an additional 30 seconds.
If you don’t own the meeting, you can still facilitate hearing from everyone. During a discussion, share the research about approximately equal talk time on high-performing teams, and ask to hear from more of your colleagues. You might call on specific people who have been quiet, and ask them for their perspectives. If the meeting is moving toward a decision too soon, speak up and suggest the group shouldn’t decide until they’ve heard from everyone.
Another technique to improve everyday meetings is simple decision capture. When you think you hear a decision being made, call it out and write it down. At the end of the meeting, say something like “I think we made a couple of decisions in this meeting. I’d like to read them back to you, just so I’m clear.” Then, after the meeting, send a follow-up communication with the captured decisions. If you build this practice, people will learn to be more intentional about recognizing decisions made or not made. With decisions captured, you will less frequently re-litigate decisions due to lack of clarity.
Once meeting attendees are accustomed to giving each person a chance to engage, and having clear expectations on outcomes, participation, and perhaps even timing, we can work on adding some skills practice to this meeting. Look for the upcoming post Adding Leadership Skills Training to Everyday Meetings.