Meeting Skills

An effective team composed of department
heads had a robust culture of respect and
communication. Nevertheless, they felt they
could move to another level of effectiveness.
They wanted to explore three areas:

· How to engage conflict constructively
· How to translate ideas into action
· How to extend the influence of the team in the larger organization

In response, I suggested that they all learn meeting and facilitation skills and use their meetings
to develop a plan for extending their influence in the larger organization. They would take turns
developing the agenda and facilitating the team meetings.

Before each monthly meeting, I met with the designated facilitator to help him or her develop
the agenda and select the appropriate facilitation method for each agenda item.

We replaced the usual language of goals and objectives with the single question, “At the end of
this meeting, what do you want to be different?” Once that question was answered, the agenda was
designed to bring about that change.

They quickly appreciated that the role of the facilitator is to create an environment in which good
decisions are made.

In the course of a year, the team learned to conduct their meetings using these principles:

• Set a clear direction and desired outcome for each meeting
• Develop an agenda to realize that outcome with suitable time allotments for each agenda item
• Select a facilitation method suitable for each agenda item
• Use an appropriate discussion method for each section of the agenda to ensure full participation
• Make sure that a specific individual is made responsible for each task
• Summarize tasks and responsibilities
• Circulate notes from the meeting
• Do a short evaluation of the meeting at the end of each meeting

Among the many ways the team extended its influence, two that had the most impact were:

1. Applying their new meetings skills to other meetings, both in their respective departments
    and in other company meetings.

2. Inviting senior executives as guests to the team’s regular meetings and giving them an opportunity
    to solicit views and perspectives from the team.

One of the senior executive guests was deeply impressed by the quality of the meeting, saying that
it was the best meeting she had attended in 25 years of working at that company. She noted,
in particular, that:

• The meeting started on time, with everyone present and ready
• They all had received the agenda beforehand and had prepared for the meeting
• They followed the agenda, engaging discussion on each topic in the set timeframe
• Differences of opinion were freely expressedÊwithout criticism or disparagement
• The differences were appreciated and were used as a basis for deepening the discussion
• As decisions were made, the corresponding tasks were assigned unambiguously
• The meeting ended on time with a short evaluation of how it could be improved
• The group was increasingly effective in extending its influence in the company