Posts

Back to Basics: Making Your Meetings More Effective

change-management meetingI’ve been studying and writing about organizational meetings for years. And I’ve offered lots of tips, techniques, and “rules” for making your meetings matter – to the organization, to your staff, and to yourself.

But I haven’t spent enough time discussing why making meetings matter is so important. In other words, what is the business case for changing the way you design and lead meetings?

To do that we have to look at the two dimensions of effectiveness:

  • Improving outcomes:  better decisions, more creative solutions, higher levels of participant engagement, strengthened working relationships, and happier participants;
  • Reducing costs: fewer meetings, shorter meetings, and more efficient meetings, leaving more time for people to get their own work done.

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Eight Ways to Make Your Meetings Matter

If it was a meeting that mattered – an experience you want to have again – then it included a meaningful conversation. As the meeting wound up you were incredibly energized and ready to do something important, and/or you were disappointed it was over.

A meaningful conversation changes you in important ways. You see the world differently, or you have new insights into a problem you’ve been struggling with, or you know someone in a far more personal way.

As I think back on memorable meetings I’ve been part of, it seems clear that the participants were speaking openly and honestly, and with respect for each other’s experiences and intentions. We were all “in the moment” exploring a topic we cared deeply about.

Those are clues about what drives a conversation from good to great. But they are only clues, and they are only my personal insights. To broaden my understanding of what makes a good conversation I’ve asked many people I respect and admire to share with me how they think about good conversations. Read more

Making Meetings Matter: Distributed Leadership

business people in meeting

Last week I offered ten tips for making a meeting flow smoothly (“10 Tips for Leading Meetings That Matter”). They were clearly directed at meeting leaders who have responsibilities for designing, convening, and directing meetings.

 

Bob Leek, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Multnomah County, Oregon, responded to that article by observing that, while meeting leaders are nominally “in charge” of their meetings, individual participants also contribute directly to the quality of the meeting conversations.

Bob’s suggestions for participant leadership are so compelling that I want to share them more broadly. Here, with only minor editing to clarify his perspectives, is Bob’s advice for meeting participants: Read more

Making Meetings Matter: The First Step

Meeting ImageThe first step in making your meetings and other conversations matter is to be more intentional about them.

However, because every one of us engages in work-related conversations of all kinds every day, it is highly unrealistic to suggest that you spend time thinking through every conversation before it takes place.

So let’s focus on formal meetings. Every meeting you set up and hold consumes scarce corporate resources – time and money. Don’t walk into any meeting or significant conversation without thinking through the basic variables, being clear about your purpose and expectations for the meeting, and sharing those expectations with the invited participants.

What information will you share during the meeting? What information do you want to learn? What decisions will be made? What commitments do you need, and from whom? How will you get to where you need to be? Read more

Orchestrating Powerful Conversations: Asking Questions

qmark1If you accept the idea that a meeting leader’s role is to orchestrate the conversation, or to sense and guide, then pay very close attention to what every participant is saying, and what emotions they are expressing. But listen for understanding, not to judge or evaluate what is being said.

As conversation expert Judith Glaser explains in Conversational Intelligence (link is to Amazon.com),

When we listen to connect we open and expand the space, allowing [the speakers’] aspirational [selves] to emerge. [When] we think out loud with them, and share our dreams with them and co-create with them we all experience ourselves in a new way.

Ask penetrating, open-ended questions, and add follow-up questions that extend your understanding. In the back of your mind you might question the validity of a statement, or be upset about a negative tone of voice. But remember that as the meeting leader you want to create an environment where everyone feels safe and free to express themselves, no matter what the content of their message (within the bounds of civility, of course). Read more

Meetings are the Heart of the Future of Work

covermeetingI was recently interviewed about Making Meetings Matter by Dr. Jac Fitz-Enz (“Interviewing Jim Ware”). In the course of our conversation he asked me why I had moved from my long-term focus on the future of work to something as “mundane” as corporate meetings.

Dr. Jac’s question caught me a bit off guard, but it made me think. Here’s his question and my response:

Dr. Jac:

Jim what took you from the lofty heights of futuring to the more mundane issues around meetings? There’s no question that we all suffer from meetingitis, but what drew you to it?

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The Four Dimensions of a Successful Meeting

Smiling interview panel holding score cards

How do you know your meeting has been successful?

This question came up during one of the research interviews for my new book (Making Meetings Matter: How Successful Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age), and I’ve been pondering it for some time.

At one level the answer is straightforward; it depends on how well, and how completely, the meeting achieved your initial purpose(s). If you set a goal of reaching a group decision, or designing a new marketing campaign, or resolving a budget conflict, and you achieve that purpose, then it’s easy to say the meeting was successful.

Or was it? Like all other human experience, meetings have multiple outcomes and consequences, and the quality of the group’s decision – or invention, or problem resolution – may not meet your expectations, even it was adequate for the situation.

More importantly, you may have made progress even if you didn’t achieve your ultimate goal. Read more

Three Simple Rules for Leading Constructive Change

Concept of leadership.

The best definition I’ve ever heard of effective leadership goes something like this:

A good leader doesn’t make people do what he (or she) wants; a good leader makes others want what the leader wants.

In other words, leadership is about engaging people’s hearts even more than their minds. If your staff shares your vision of what’s possible, understands why what’s possible is desirable, and shares your desire to make that vision come alive, they’ll do what they need to do to make it happen. Show them the future, share your passion about the journey, and get out of their way (but stay close by in case they need coaching or advice).

That all sounds good. But in my experience that’s only the beginning. Read more

Five Simple Rules for Making Distributed Meetings more Effective

Know The RulesMost of us today spend more time in meetings with people who are somewhere else than we do with our colleagues down the hall. And while most of the “rules” for leading face-to-face meetings also apply equally well to distributed meetings, the situation is clearly different.

In many distributed team situations the members live far away from each other and/or the central office. They may never have met in person, or they may see each other only occasionally.

When team members are not co-located, they typically have relatively independent personal lives and social-support systems. Realistically, they just don’t have a lot in common beyond their work. They go to different churches, synagogues, and mosques; they participate in different local town events; their children attend different schools and participate in different sports programs. And they just don’t bump into each other at the grocery store or on commuter trains and buses.

If you are leading a distributed team you need to take that reality into account, and to plan and lead your conference calls differently than you do when everyone is in the same room.

Here are five simple rules that will make your distributed meetings both productive and popular: Read more

Meeting Experiences: Survey Results

Team CollaboratingLast week I asked my readers to complete a brief survey to help me understand the kinds of meetings you participate in and how you feel about them. Many thanks to those of you who responded and shared your experiences.

While the number of participants is too small for me to claim any statistical validity, I nevertheless believe the trends and patterns are interesting, and I want to share a few of them here, along with some thoughts about what they mean.

For starters, it appears that this group is generally representative of middle to senior managers. The respondents were predominantly HR and Facilities functional leaders, based in the United States, and averaging a bit over 50 years old. The group is evenly split between men and women. The age and seniority data suggest that these are experienced people, presumably with significant leadership responsibilities. Read more