Using a Meeting as a Connection Opportunity

What’s your first reaction when you have to lead, attend, or organize a meeting at work? If you’re like most people, you probably roll your eyes, and maybe feel some mix of dread, anxiety, or irritation in your body before a meeting. While I wish this wasn’t the case, these reactions are all too common for people at all levels in any organization!

Why is this? Well, meetings often boil down to a few types.  The suddenly scheduled meeting when “something is wrong or change is coming”.  The regularly scheduled meetings that are dry, boring data-dumps. The regularly scheduled meeting that gets canceled because something else is more important.  

With these types of meetings, I’ll roll my eyes too. What if you reset your intentions for meetings?  Shifting your mindset to the belief that meetings are an invaluable communication opportunity for your team. 

Most leaders and business owners just don’t know how to determine what meetings are necessary, or how to successfully organize and facilitate meetings to be productive and meaningful. However, it is possible to create a meeting structure and strategy that turns those dreaded gatherings into a core method of successful communication.

The Purpose of Meetings

Before you can set about designing the perfect meeting, know the two foundational purposes of any effective meeting: alignment and connection. Alignment requires discussion focused on the challenges and opportunities within the company plus action plans for goal achievement.   The purpose of the connection is achieved when meetings are a dialogue in which all points of view are shared and discussed, conflict is uncovered and resolved.  

To increase alignment, leaders can implement the following strategies:

  1. Stop data dumps/status updates.  Provide data and other information before the meeting.  Now that you’ve got the “telling” out of the way, the meeting can focus on sharing thoughts, ideas and gaining alignment. 
  2. Stay focused on resolving conflicts and challenges.  Uncover new opportunities and how to go about achieving them.  
  3. Create opportunities for a feedback loop.  Let everyone know that they will be asked to share their opinions.  Use polls to gather input.  Identify and use a voting system (first to five or listing options and then people tag their #1 pick, etc)

To increase connection, try implementing the following strategies:

  1. Create dialogue, not a monologue. Aren’t you more engaged when the meeting is a discussion?
  2. Be consistent with the meeting schedule. 
  3. Keep the meetings you schedule – it better be the emergency of the decade if you cancel the meeting.  
  4. Set a repeatable meeting agenda so everyone knows what to expect and how they can participate.
  5. Give everyone the opportunity to share ideas, disagree, resolve conflicts and create agreement around solutions. 
  6. Recognize that every meeting is a chance to build a relationship.

Meetings are Integral when designing a People First Organization

Well-organized and engaging meetings can be the backbone to any organization’s success. I love what Patrick Lencioni says in his book Death By Meeting.   He goes so far as to say that if you’re a leader and you try to avoid meetings because you hate that part of your job, you’re missing the fact that meetings are the job. Whew! Isn’t that challenging for some of us leaders to hear?

Please, get rid of any preconceived notion that meetings are and always will be, the bane of your existence.  Every company exists because of the teams within it.  To have a People First company, you need to engage the people and meetings can be a highly effective (and efficient) way to do just that.

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About Amy Lafko

As a Physical Therapist, Amy spent years in school learning best practices for patient care and how to put the patient first. Like so many technically skilled clinicians, she advanced to a leadership role. Spending 20+ years in operational leadership, she had an epiphany: Putting the customer first isn’t the path to success or fulfillment. Rather, the most successful organizations and practices put their people first – and exceptional customer care, profitability, and effectiveness naturally followed.