Over the last year, I have received a growing number of inquiries about how to help teams operate better in meetings, avoid unproductive conversations, and engage in more effective collective decision making. The inquiry often includes a phrase like; “I need our team to be more strategic….” I usually begin by describing the three main factors responsible for shaping meetings that deliver better team decision-making…..
Yes, that’s right, I have come to the conclusion that there are only three, however these three are challenging and require a nuanced understanding of them to create the desired change. The three are:
1. How the meeting is structured.
Now, the right structure is important, but not quite enough…
2. The Social Context of the Meeting
Just how ‘safe’ participants feel in the meeting is a critical factor in determining how effective your meeting will be. Yes, its woolly, but it really matters. The less safe participants feel, the more “undiscussables” there will be, and the more “undiscussables”, the more ineffective the team will be. So, attending to the social context, ensuring the relational space within the group is becoming increasingly supportive, is simply essential.
What are some steps to take to build safety in your team?
- Spend a few minutes doing a check in at the opening of your meetings, and remember to retrieve your teams personal objectives for the meeting. Don’t assume you know what they need in the meeting!
- When ever possible, do a debrief, even if only for two minutes. Ask, did you get what you needed?, How could we have improved that meeting?, Was there anything left unsaid?
3. The System of Meetings
We agree with Patrick Lencioni, there are at least 4 different kinds of meetings that senior teams might plan. Mixing business across these meetings is common, and ineffective. Therefore, teams need to plan carefully which different kinds of meetings they need, the broad objectives for each, and when they will be scheduled. What are those four? Here’s a table that explains them in brief.