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Tips for more effective meetings

Today we bring you quick tips for more effective meetings. “Distribution Talk With Jason Bader“, a podcast that exposes…

“… the stories, struggles, and solutions from interesting characters who have chosen to make a career in the distribution industry.”
~ Jason Bader

In Jason’s interview with Terrence Metz, Managing Director and Lead Facilitation Trainer for MG RUSH Facilitation and Coaching, Terrence shares some quick tips for more effective meetings . . .

“You don’t build consensus around what people think. You build consensus around why they think it.”
~ Terrence Metz

Jason is a class-act and a renowned distribution expert. On behalf of his clients and listenership, he asked about some quick tips to help his clients better prepare and deliver meetings to increase their effectiveness.

Neutrality Tips for More Effective Meetings

The 30-minute conversation begins by exploring the challenges of neutrality.  With experience dictating that there is more than one right answer, the scar tissues that builds up from “biting your tongue” teaches the ego to hide. We all prefer to avoid pain, and speaking causes more pain than listening. In fact, according to Terrence:

“Meetings are always more effective when the client speaks more than the consultant.”
~ Terrence Metz

Therefore, take your content knowledge and put it in the form of a question(s). Prepare the questions in advance and sequence them properly. Then you can afford to stand back and seek to understand. The neutral facilitator is most effective when, with heartfelt sincerity, they help the group seek the best answer for them. Not the universal answer or the best answer for everyone. Rather, helping them find the best answer for them, given their situation, assumptions, and constraints. That’s what servant leaders are all about.

Define Consensus for More Effective Meetings

Consensus means everyone agrees. However, it also means that it may not be anybody’s favorite. Consensus means I might prefer something else, but the resolution is robust enough that I can support it professionally and, personally, I will not lose any sleep over it.

It also means that if you cannot support it, or if you will lose any sleep over it, we do NOT have consensus. Therefore (if you are an employee in a for-profit organization), if you have a problem, you have a fiduciary responsibility to speak up. As well-paid professional adults, your point of view will be recognized and you will be protected from fall-out or damage, but speaking is incumbent on you. The facilitator must protect the people, but not be expected to reach down their throats to pull it out of them.

“A meeting is not an opportunity to speak, rather it is an obligation speak.””
~ Terrence Metz

Meeting Method Based on Meeting Type

Facilitation bases its effectiveness on servant leadership skills. Core skills include speaking clearly, asking precise questions (properly sequenced), actively listening to responses and observing reactions, all the while maintaining perfect neutrality (referees never grab the ball from the player to score). The combination of these elements implies some structure.

Structured meetings run contrary to the opposite, an unstructured discussion. People frequently have a headache when they depart from a discussion, which is not surprising. The term discussion is closely related to the terms concussion and percussion.

At the very least, a quick tip for effective meetings requires you to determine (in advance) to know what DONE looks like.  Are you . . .

  • Planning? (WHO does WHAT by WHEN)
  • Prioritizing (purpose, options, criteria)
  • Problem-solving (gap analysis or present-future comparisons)
  • etc.

Eight Meeting Killers of More Effective Meetings

Jason further explores a previous article on Facilitation Best Practices, linked above, and summarized briefly here:

  1. Participants ought be prepared in advance, even if a culture shift is required (starts with leadership).
  2. Punctuality is critical so STOP one-hour meetings and run 50-minute meetings that give participants time to transition and attend to personal requirements.
  3. Always start with the end in mind, the single most important contributor to an effective meeting. This describes leadership, also called, line of site. Where are we going?
  4. Avoid structureless meetings called discussions (see above).
  5. STOP using the first-person singular term “I”. This is not about you, never was. This is all about them. Are you willing to serve or do you need to be served?
  6. As a servant leader, shut up and listen. (see chart below)
  7. Use ground rules to avoid unstructured discussions. (see above)
  8. Avoid hybrid meetings with some virtual and some face-to-face participants. Make them all or none and treat everyone equally. If not, virtual participants frequently get treated like second class citizens.

Talk Less for More Effective Meetings

We’re not trying to argue that the slope above is perfectly linear. Rather, the angle makes it clear. If you want to increase the likelihood of meeting success, shift as much airtime as possible to participants. When you talk the entire meeting (that sucked). When they talk the entire meeting (that was dope).

Three Things To Do for More Effective Meetings?

When asked for a few simple things for listenership to do different to increase their likelihood of more effective meetings, Terrence says . . .

  1. Get off to a smooth start. Use our seven-step Introduction sequence to ensure a solid, five-minute start to any meeting or workshop.
  2. No hybrids — Avoid calling on virtual participants last. At the very least, call on them first. (During Covid-19, set-up a virtual seating arrangement and use a roll call method).
  3. For staff meetings or regularly held “information-sharing” (or updates), embrace the three-question approach:
    1. Tell us, WHAT have you accomplished since we last met?
    2. WHAT are you working on now?
    3. WHAT kind of impediments or challenges might you have that any of use can help you out with?

Use the link below to listen to Jason’s interview with Terrence, listen directly Jason Bader’s website.

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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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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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