Back in the day, when I was in school, I must’ve heard it several times a week: “Stop talking and get to work!”
Being a natural extrovert/Chatty Cathy, I was often in trouble for, well, talking too much. Maybe I’ve come full circle. Now I’m the one at the front of the room. It happened just last week when I was facilitating a meeting with an executive leadership team in Houston. The big difference is that I admonish these leadership teams to
“START talking and get to work!”
Rod Collins said, “No one – no single individual – is smarter than everyone,” and I think this is never more true than within organizations today. We can accomplish so much more together, as a team, than we can separately. Whether you’re in a period of boom or bust in your industry, it is imperative that you tap into the wisdom of your team members.
It’s time for you, as a leader, to realize that you don’t have all the answers, and (gasp!) mayhaps someone else’s idea is better than yours. Successful leaders and organizations actively encourage input, discussions, and creative conversations amongst their team members.
Socialware . . .
Companies like Facebook, Yahoo, Zappos, and Google, (to name just a few), have got this figured out. They intentionally create workspaces where employees will have opportunities to bump into one another during the work day, primarily because they know that the best ideas and collaborations often arise out of water cooler/coffee pot conversations. This approach flies in the face of the common complaint of team members that they’re suffering from “death by meeting.”
In those traditional (and deadly?) weekly meetings most attendees sit there and stress out about the important – or real – work that they’re not getting done because they’re sitting in a meeting. I affectionately call those meetings “show up and throw up” meetings. You know, these are the meetings where you go around the table and everybody gives an update on their department or team. The problem is, no one is listening, and everyone is either on their smartphone or their laptop. And obviously, there ain’t much collaborating going on.
Personally, I think we need to rethink the way we do meetings. As a matter of fact, this isn’t only about making meetings more effective, but what I’m talking about is reconsidering the way we work together as a team.
Adjust your mindset about your team and its meetings.
Traditionally, many leaders have thought of meetings as a time to tell people what to do. Instead, think of a meeting as an opportunity to draw out the ideas, insights, and collective wisdom of a very smart group of committed team members.
Make your meetings more FUNctional.
Re-create the feelings and atmosphere of the water cooler conversations in your meetings. Allow for a few minutes of sharing what everyone did over the weekend. Yep, you heard me right, and no, I don’t think this will be a monumental waste of time. Why? Because the more people feel like they know each other, the more likely they are to collaborate and share ideas.
Start with an agenda and send it out ahead of time.
Sure, you want to allow for some unscripted/offline conversation, but at the same time, you need to balance that with the need to cover the right topics and accomplish the goal of your meeting. Otherwise, folks will just end up frustrated.
Have a real conversation.
The more people trust one another, the more likely they are to share a free flow of ideas and opinions, AND, this is the kicker, the more likely they will be to disagree with one another. WHY, you say, would I want people to disagree? Simply because one of the worst (and most dangerous) things that can happen is that your team will engage in groupthink. Groupthink is when everyone goes along just to get along. You’ve probably seen this, or maybe you’ve done it yourself. This is when they say whatever they think the leader wants them to say. Challenging someone’s idea or offering a different perspective, on the other hand, is a sign that team members trust and respect one another. It’s like they’re having a conversation with a friend at the water cooler.
So back to the executive team that I was working with last week. Through an amazingly open sharing of ideas and insights, they came up with a strategy for becoming more agile, innovative, and for improving employee engagement. They even figured out the key to whiter teeth and fresher breath. Just kidding. But they did accomplish quite a lot in one day. And all I did was encourage them to START talking and get to work!
- How do you make your meetings meaningful?
- What’s something you do to encourage an open exchange of ideas and insights within your team?
Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.
Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)
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