I began my last post with the admission that I have a healthy respect for well-facilitated meetings, unlike most people I know. But please notice I did specify that I appreciate meetings that are facilitated well. Sadly, many are not…which is why so many folks suffer from meeting phobia.
There is a direct correlation between meeting phobia and the abundance of leaders who have neglected to hone their facilitation skills. Those of us who appreciate face-to-face communication can overcome the resistance by consistently leading efficient and effective meetings. There’s one critical key to doing this well: be considerate of those who will participate in your meeting.
1. Create an agenda
- Be realistic about what you can accomplish in the allotted time. Next, subtract one thing from the agenda.
- Share the agenda with participants prior to the meeting so that they have time review material and come prepared
2. Control the flow of the conversation
- Introduce the concept or problem, then allow the participants to interact with it.
- Create space for people to think, particularly those who tend to craft their speech carefully.
- Listen. Let me say that more emphatically: be quiet and listen to what others are saying. Their idea or solution may be better than yours!
- Don’t be afraid of conflict. It’s healthy to wrestle with concepts and problems. It goes without saying that verbal abuse is off-limits.
- If the conversation gets off-topic, suggest putting the distraction in “the parking lot.”* Come back to it later or make it the agenda for a future meeting.
3. Be sensitive to time
- Simply put, start and end on time. No excuses.
- If an exception has to be made–e.g., the group has nearly accomplished its task/purpose and can complete it in a few more minutes–ask if everyone agrees to extend the meeting 15 minutes.
- If a decision has been reached or a problem solved, re-state the decision or solution to be sure everyone leaves the meeting with a clear understanding.
- If action items have been established, review them at the end of the meeting.
- Follow up within a few days with a written summary of the meeting.
In speaking of Christ’s humility, Paul wrote to the church at Philippi:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. -Philippians 2:3-4 [ESV]
Every one of the bullet points above requires the leader to consider the time, thoughts, and feelings of the meeting participants ahead of his/her own. It’s definitely a challenge–especially when you have a great idea to share or a perplexing problem that must be solved quickly–but doing so will go a long way to curing meeting phobia!
*This concept is taken from Death by Meeting, by Patrick Lencioni. It’s a must-read for anyone who regularly facilitates meetings!