Committee Meetings Don't Need to Suck

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Apr 12, 2014 12:42:00 PM

boring-meeting1

I'm sorry to say "suck". It's not a nice word and my mother raised me better than that, but the fact is it's true. Bad meetings can suck the life out of you.

In Meeting Zoology we looked at how personalities can turn a meeting into a mess. In An Evaluation Quickie we showed a really quick solution to improvement. But let's dive deep into what a bad meeting looks like. Here's a recipe I came up with for horrible meetings:

Horrible Meeting Pie (Serves 8-12)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Executive who feels like they don't need to listen because they already know the answer
  • 1-2 Dominators who want what they want and don't care about the group
  • 2-3 Extroverts who actually like meeting politics and like to "play the game"
  • 2-3 Specialists who just need the group to approve their project so they can get back to work
  • 2-3 Quiet facilitator types who would like to achieve consensus

 

Instructions:

  • Do not send out an agenda.
  • Have the highest ranking individual arrive 20 minutes late
  • Repeat the first 20 minutes of discussion for them
  • Mix all personalities in a bowl until shaken
  • Let the dominators and executive argue back and forth for 30 minutes
  • With 10 minutes left let the exasperated specialists interrupt and demand that their project be accepted.
  • At 60 minutes, have half of the executives leave without deciding anything

 
I'm getting the willies just writing that. The good news is that IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE THAT BAD. Let's look at an alternative.

1) Collect Alternatives

First, we send out a collaborative document before the meeting to discuss priorities. That can look something like this:

Screen_Shot_2014-04-12_at_12.03.32_PM

The important thing is to let everyone speak their mind by adding what THEY think is most important.

2) Prioritize

Second, let everyone rank the choices in priority order (in a quiet room by themselves). Doing this forces everyone to make compromises, which creates empathy for the group. This can look like this:

Screen_Shot_2014-04-12_at_12.04.08_PM

3) Compare

Once everyone has voted, it's time to make a real agenda for the meeting. We can do this by comparing the results.

Screen_Shot_2014-04-12_at_12.08.27_PM

Ah, OK it looks like we don't even need to discuss the mission statement. And frankly in a 1 hour meeting we should probably make sure we stay on the "HR issue" and the search for the provost.

4) Outliers

But is that the entire story? Not exactly. When we compare the individual responses we can see that Stephen has a very different priority from the rest of the group. That doesn't mean we need to spend the entire meeting on it. But the meeting facilitator should make sure to take that up directly with Stephen.

Screen_Shot_2014-04-12_at_12.08.11_PM

Will using a tool like this solve every issue with your meeting? No, it surely won't. But by focusing the meeting on a single issue and having this data to understand the landscape of opinions you'll have an opportunity to use the precious face-to-face time to deal with the real issues.

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Topics: meetings

An Evaluation Quickie to Improve your Meetings

Posted by Val Snowdon

Feb 26, 2014 11:24:28 AM

innovation-in-evaluation-last-post-

We monitor and evaluate EVERYTHING it seems these days. How many “Likes” did my post get? What combination of keywords works best for a particular SEO? What content does my blog need to get the most hits? #What #hashtag #should #I #use #to #get #my #tweet #retweeted #?

We are obsessed with our social media analytics, and for good reason—they tell us how our brand is doing, which of our products are clicking with people, and what ideas are not gaining traction amongst our peers.

Similarly, we have reports and evaluations that we must submit to our supervisors. Sometimes these are project/product based (and are backed up by the power we gain from our analytics) and sometimes they are personal—how are we doing within our position? What is our role in the company? How can we improve?

We evaluate for a reason. It show us where we stand in multiple contexts, and more importantly, how we can improve. Which brings me to my question:

Why don’t we hold the efficiency and productivity of our meetings to the same M&E standard as everything else?

I don’t know, perhaps it seems like overkill. Do we really need to grade our meetings on top of everything else?  

Absolutely.

What do people complain about most in the workplace? Meetings. The number of them. The length of them. The amount of work you COULD have gotten done while attending them. So why not try to improve them?

My suggestion is quick. It is dirty. It is +/∆

plus-delta-pic2-300x154

AKA...Positive/Change. Meaning—at the end of each meeting, people take 1-2 minutes to write one positive thing that came out of the meeting and one aspect of the meeting that could be changed and HOW. (The how is the important part. Otherwise, you are just whining. Nobody likes a whiner). The facilitator of that meeting then collects all the +/∆ slips, reviews them, and decides what suggestions they should adopt for the next meeting.

OR…

The team leader could report those suggestions back out to their team to see how the proposed improvements are prioritized by the group. Allowing your team members to constructively voice their opinions about meetings, and encouraging them to choose a peer-generated strategy to adopt in the next group setting will improve the time spent in meetings.

 ForceRank can help with that.

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Topics: meetings, Evaluation

Be the Bard of the Boardroom

Posted by Val Snowdon

Feb 19, 2014 12:32:33 PM

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”

shakespeare

Ah, The Bard!  Shakespeare has what we all want—lasting relevance. Sure he came around in a time when status updates were delivered by troubadours, and he didn’t have to worry about posting x# of blog posts every week, but he was prolific, and he told universal stories that people over the centuries continue to identify with.

“Right. Shakespeare’s great,” you might say. “But what can he teach me about leading successful teams?”

Well, as Ken Blanchard has shown us through his wonderfully accessible book, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams, Shakespeare can teach us to PERFORM.

Team members, like actors, play vital roles in making the group operate as a strong, cohesive unit (or as an endless quagmire where ideas go to die). The group needs to learn how to embrace the process (and each other) to become an ensemble, or risk egos, personal agendas, and conflict running your project into the ground. Obviously, no one wants the latter. So, in order to receive a standing ovation at the end of a project, each team member must embrace the PERFORMance:

 Perform_Venn_Diagram_

 

Purpose & Values

The team has to agree to a shared purpose and value system prior to beginning work, and should check back in with both throughout the process. This is, of course, easier said than done. Gaining consensus can be an arduous process, but it is an invaluable step in moving your team forward. Luckily, there’s an app to help you with that… Try ForceRank

Empowerment

It’s cliché to say at this point, but a team is only as strong as its weakest member. Instead of asserting our own agendas (and risk alienating some of our teammates), try to foster an atmosphere of empowerment.

Some ideas to try out for your next team project:

• Get to know team members’ strengths and encourage them to take on aspects of the project at which they will excel.

• Have a fair number of introverts in your group? Shake up the meeting structure once in awhile and have people work in pairs with a share out session at the end.

• Leave the PowerPoint unopened and re-imagine the information you need to present. Often an activity or demo will engage people with the material rather than induce their epic mid-afternoon daydreaming sessions.

When people feel empowered, they want to contribute.

Relationships & Communication

Obviously, these two things are paramount to the success of any high performing team, but for some reason, they often are forgotten or pushed aside in a misguided attempt to increase productivity. Effective communication supports an empowered working environment and eases the process of defining a shared purpose. Not only that, but putting a little more effort into communicating well with team members can result in the added benefits of a friendly group forming positive relationships!

Flexibility

While we’re not telling you to go take an aerial yoga class, we do suggest that you allow yourself the freedom to stretch your brain a bit. Just like the limber bodies of a dancer, our minds are capable of incredible things when we work out their elasticity. Whether it is allowing a kinesthetic person to knit while at the meeting so they stay engaged, or truly entertaining a seemingly outlandish idea, flexibility can help you find the hidden gems within your team. (And on second thought, you really should go take an aerial yoga class).

Optimal Performance

Successful teams need a leader who can manage a group’s conflicts and expectations, thus leading the team to an optimal performance state. This is the sweet spot—where productivity is at its highest and people feel a sense of pride and ownership in the project.

Recognition

Who on your team have you thanked today? People LOVE acknowledgement. The people over at TINYpulse recognize this, and have even added a “Cheers for Peers” function to their software. Check it out.

While we don’t need to dish out praise all willy-nilly (read any Baby Boomer indictment on Millennials to understand why), recognizing a good idea, hard work, or otherwise positive contribution to the team will go a long way in creating…

Morale

All of the above actions contribute to this final piece—keeping morale HIGH! It’s a simple concept really: happy, engaged people who enjoy working together will achieve great things. A team with low morale will not be effective, and if things are really bad, completely dissolve. No one wants that (or at least, no one SHOULD want that if the team chooses to PERFORM).

A successful team is a relevant team—a team that gets things done and is noticed within the company. So take a lesson from the Bard (and Ken Blanchard), and teach your team to PERFORM.
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Topics: meetings, leadership

The Personality Zoo: Meeting Zoology

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Dec 1, 2013 5:17:00 PM

Extroverts make the world go round. They connect us, push us out of our comfort zones, keep us busy and save us from awkward pauses. But what happens when groups of introverts and extroverts get together to make decisions?

Hi, my name is Jeff and I'm a Meerkat.meerkat

Well, not exactly, but according to this brilliant look at the various Meyer-Briggs personality types I'm a bit of a Meerkat since I'm an INFP.

Full disclosure, at work I actually tend towards the Owl (INTP) & Wolf (INFJ) as well, but one way or another what I'm not is an extrovert. No Lion, Dog, Parrot or Dolphin here.

So what?

The important thing about understanding your personality type is using it to understand the interactions happening around you.

So let's play a little game. Imagine your next big meeting. Now imagine what it would be like if we replace your scintillating coworkers with their appropriate MBTI animal. That's right, put these animals around the table and imagine what would happen.

I'm going to guess you've probably got at least one Lion, pacing back and forth in front of the whiteboard and trying (sometimes unsuccessfully) not to roar. HR has no doubt informed them that roaring came up on their last 360 review.

Your group no doubt has a dog or two. Recognize them? Someone who's extremely excited to hear themselves talk. Interesting in yapping at each other. Perhaps interested in nipping at the heels of the Lion.

Perhaps you have a parrot as well, flying into the room 10 minutes after the start of the meeting and sitting on the top of a chair displaying his glorious plumage.

A dolphin doing tricks in the corner?

Does this sound familiar? Frankly this is starting to sound like a fairly accurate characterization of some of the meetings I've been to.


Then there's the introverts.

And then you have the introvert section, it's almost easy to forget them in all the the bustle of the other animals.

You've got a wolf sitting in the corner seat he always sits in. Not saying anything. Possibly considering eating one of the small dogs.

Your group has all most certainly forgotten your Owl, perched as she is in the corner. You probably won't hear what she thinks about your 2014 until she lets out a deafening screech and flies off.

And what about the Meerkats in your group. Quietly checking in on your process and trying to keep the meeting on track. And the octopus, happily avoiding everyone while hiding under a rock and making plans.


So what do you think the chances are that you're leveraging this zoo of team to their full capacity? Does it seem possible that your extroverts are taking up more than their fair share of airtime? Really, how can you hear anything above the din of those dogs!


The Zoo is not for everyone.

Perhaps there's a better way. If you want to hear what the owl thinks, you're going to have to approach her differently. That octopus? He'd probably prefer to write an email to the group then come out from under his rock.

Before your next meeting, think about how you'd deal with managing this menagerie of animals and see if that colors how you set your team up for success.

Here are a couple things you can try:

  1. Let your quieter individuals read a prepared statement before the meeting starts.

  2. Send around a poll of "what is the most important issue" before the meeting begins so you can be sure to get the group view.

  3. Just sit back and track how many words each of your coworker says in an hour. Present the group with a pie chart of "talk-time" (with no names attached) and suggest that they try the same excercise. 

The introverts will thank you and your meeting will be better.

Help my group make a decision

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Topics: meetings, mbti, personalities


   

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