There’s a lot of benefit to be gained in digging a bit deeper into why you may be finding your meetings frustrating. People instantly get it when we encourage structure around meetings by emphasising the importance of Beginning, Middle, End and allowing enough time. But we’re often met with some surprise at our emphasis on the ‘soft skills’ approach needed for Facilitating Great Meetings. It seems they’ve been concentrating on the task and not how the participants work together.
We especially focus on what we call micro-skills; that’s where you get traction.
Here are some relevant traps:
Trap # 1: Discussion without decision
Endless talking without actions agreed upon, not getting through everything… People tend to repeat themselves when they don’t feel heard. A clear decision-making process and deft use of facilitation micro-skills make a significant difference:
- Summarising and clarifying “So I’m hearing a lot of people asking for more detail before making a decision.”
Validating “It makes sense what you’re saying, when you point out that -”
Listening to understand: “Wow, that’s big. No wonder it means a lot to you.
Trap # 2: People shy away from a difference of opinion
People shy away from difference or conflict – there are many reasons for this. When someone holds a different viewpoint, it can be really hard to speak up. If you shut down dissent and concentrate on getting a task done, vital wisdom goes unheard. The outcome will be all the poorer for it.
Time to reframe
Often if we call it dissent, we’re behind the eight ball – what if we reframe our language to move away from oppositional terms; “Are there any other thoughts? Let’s hear from other people – any other ideas?” Pooling all ideas and coming up with something that everyone can accept not only harvests the wisdom in the room, it’s also more likely to get sustained support.
As Glen Ochre used to say, “Great minds think differently.”
Trap # 3: Unconscious hijacking of the airspace
Sometimes an individual doesn’t realise the extent of their own rank and power; they may ride over others’ input, unaware others are holding back. People with less rank often end up switching off.
Power, rank and diversity need to be named
Consider new meeting members and any differing levels of rank in the room, so it’s easy for a ‘newbie’, for example, to offer something different. As the facilitator, your role is to try and equalise power, help everyone to listen to understand and invite discussion from many viewpoints.
Our experience consistently demonstrates our 80:20 rule. 20% is having a good meeting process and the other 80% is having the facilitation skills to bring it to life. If you’d like to develop your meeting skills further, you are welcome to join us on 25 and 26 July for our next short course in Facilitating Great Meetings.
Ed McKinley | Director | Groupwork Institute