February 19, 2015 1 Comment
The secret to leading more effective meetings and workshops reminds us to put a CAP on wasted time and energy by embracing three behaviors:
- Clear thinking (ie, yields consciousness)
- Active listening (ie, yields competence)
- Prepared structure (ie, yields confidence)
The effective meeting leader learns to cap waste—to maintain control over direction, environment, and contributions of meeting participants. To be highly effective, requires a servile attitude. Here we cover the first item, commonly referred to as leadership. Leaders answer the primary question, “Where are we going?”
Nobody is smarter than everybody. The modern leader does not have all the answers, but takes command of the questions. Through appropriate questions, meeting participants are asked to focus and generate supportable answers (or responses).
Leaders know where they are going. For most meetings, clear thinking and sense of direction is built in advance. Optimal questions are thought out and properly sequenced. If you were designing a new home for example, you would consider the foundation and structure before discussing the color of the grout.
When you are leading a meeting, it is critical that you know what the group is intending to build, decide, or leave with. What is different when they walked into the meeting? The modern leader is a change agent, someone who takes a group from where they are when the meeting begins to where they need to be when the meeting ends. You need to start with the end in mind. What does DONE look like?
Unclear speaking and writing indicates unclear thinking. Your awareness about where you are leading the group needs to be expressed in writing, for your benefit and the benefit of others. If you are unable to capture the ‘deliverable’ of your meeting or workshop in writing, you are not ready to start your session.
Meetings need to be documented—if it is not documented, then it did not happen. Therefore, an effective leader has to develop detailed awareness, in writing, that describes the end state and successful conclusion of their meeting.
If the purpose of your meeting is simply to “exchange information” then you will likely find more time and cost effective methods than meeting face-to-face. A typical meeting costs USD$20 per hour, a costly venue to simply share information.
Ask yourself, would you typically rather attend a two-hour meeting or go to a movie? Most people would rather go to a movie for at least three reasons:
- Movies include a beginning, middle, and an end. When did you last attend a meeting without one of those components?
- Movies embrace conflict. They do not scurry away from conflict; rather they use conflict to make the experience more compelling.
- Movies do not require involvement. It is probably easier and less embarrassing to fall asleep at a movie than a business meeting.
As a successful meeting leader, you must provide a clear purpose (beginning), a meaningful approach (middle), and a consensual wrap and dismiss (end). Unfortunately, throwing together an agenda and relying on your goodwill and charm may let you skate by as a person, but do not qualify you as exhibiting modern leadership traits.
In fact, describing the end of a successful meeting is not enough; you should be able to describe the objective of each step in your agenda. Using the home design example, you would know that at the end of the first step, you might have an articulate purpose for building your house, in 50 words or less (eg, primary or secondary or vacation home, etc; ‘to support kids or grandkids or live-in parents, etc; to be lived in for the next 25 years or five years or five months . . .’).
Leadership consciousness and awareness begins by knowing what the end looks like and in the example above, the objective would be a consensually built, 50 word statement that indicates the purpose of the new dwelling.
Once you can articulate WHY your meeting is important, then you are ready to proceed with the next step. WHAT must you do to be more facilitative? We will take a deeper view of the core facilitator tool, called active listening, in our next post.
Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.
Become Part of the Solution—Improve Your Facilitation Skills
The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership-training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).
Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.