Weve all seen the Dilbert cartoons about bad meetings. Its even become fashionable to complain about meetings. Its too bad that productive meetings dont make for good cartoons if they did, more people might believe it was possible and would invest in the planning and facilitation that are needed to tap into the power of group interaction.
From the two-hour board meeting to the three-day offsite, I design and facilitate meetings where real work gets done.
The most important outcome is that you achieve the goals youve set for your meeting. These goals can range from the concrete such as making a decision or creating a plan to more intangible goals such as increasing team cohesiveness or getting buy-in on a new initiative. Most meetings have multiple goals that include a combination of the tangible and intangible.
In addition to accomplishing the goals that youve set, I promise that at the end of the meeting the participants will feel that their time has been well spent. Theyll have a sense of accomplishment and a clear idea of what happens next. The meeting will create the momentum necessary for follow through on action items.
A well designed and facilitated meeting can also create the space for the deep thinking that is so hard to do in the usual tumult of daily work. This is particularly important for teams that need to make progress on sticky or complex issues like strategic planning.
A final outcome that most clients experience is an increase in the meeting and discussion skills of all participants. Even unfacilitated meetings will be more productive (and less painful!).
How I work
I start every consulting engagement with a focus on defining clear and achievable goals. Ill push you to be as specific as possible about the outcomes you want. Are there concrete deliverables such as a work plan? If so, how detailed does that plan need to be and what does it have to include? Well also talk about what you want participants to know, feel or do once the meeting is over. If you want the team to improve its communication, well define the specific ways in which you want that communication to improve.
In some situations I interview the meeting participants or conduct an e-mail survey. I typically ask participants what they want to achieve at the meeting or offsite and what questions or concerns they have. Ill also ask questions to flesh out the content of the meeting. The information is used to further refine the meeting goals and agenda. Typically I share the data with you during the planning stages and with the whole group as part of the meeting kickoff. Interviews and surveys are always anonymous.
After defining goals and gathering data, Ill design a draft agenda for you and I to talk through. This discussion is critical in making sure that the agenda will work for your particular group, will accomplish the goals weve set and will be something that you are comfortable with. This is your meeting, not mine.
Once the agenda is set, Ill write a draft e-mail for you to send out letting participants know what to expect and how to prepare. If we expect the meeting to be particularly difficult, I will coach you and other key players on how to handle critical moments.
We start the meeting with a clear agenda, but I always warn clients that we are unlikely to stick to it completely. A rich agenda will generate unexpected issues. Ill work with you to determine when these unexpected issues are important enough that we need to pursue them. After years of experience Ive developed a high level of skill at redesigning in the moment. Ill offer you choices on how to proceed and move the group quickly into the new topic.
The end of a meeting always includes a review of action items, a quick meeting evaluation and an opportunity for you to make closing remarks. If you like, Ill stay after the meeting to debrief and talk with you about what needs to happen next.
After all offsites of a day or longer I offer a free two-hour follow-up session several weeks later. This is an opportunity for you to reflect on how any longer term action items are proceeding and make any needed course corrections.