Friday, May 28, 2010

power to convene

This past week saw me calling together 3 different meetings of various peoples - meetings that were not regularly set but came up as a result of having to dialogue and/or make decisions. I even had the pleasure (?) of being referered to as the "King of Convening" - not quite sure what that meant, but I think it had something to do with a) thinking convening is a good thing; and b) actuallly being able to get people to come together and talk. I had read somewhere earlier in my career that one of the benefits of being in a leadership position is that one has the power to convene others. I think that is very true, because when someone can bring people together to talk, they are actually facilitating communication and, from my experience, those who facilitate good communication are "gods." People are always complaining about communication - I think what they are really saying is that they do not know what is going on, they want some say, and they want some decisions. What better way to do that than to bring people face-to-face for dialogue and discussion.

This blog contains 2 parts: first - how to convene people; and second - what to do when they are convened. Read on...

Convening people requires several things:
  • a mindset that believes bringing people together to talk about issues is a good thing
  • a willingness to step up and ask people to come together
  • the ability to define or reframe the important question that needs to be answered
  • a knowledge of what the multiple people in any organization do, have authority for, what their talents and gifts are, and what they are passionate about
  • the freedom to invite people to a meeting (or the ability to get permission to invite people to a meeting)
  • the willingness to say "I don't know the answer to this problem, but I believe collective wisdom can get at a solution"

When convening people, the meeting should include:

  • a time frame - people are busy and want to know what the time commitment will be (be sure to STICK to the promised time frame)
  • an agenda - people want to know why they are coming together and what is to be accomplished - be sure to frame the question well and set out how you believe the process will work toward answering the question - give assignments beforehand if people need to bring something with them
  • an optimistic atmosphere - give people hope that their time spent together can actually arrive at a solution or answer
  • others talking, not you - the convener is there to listen and observe, not to pontificate. Refrain from doing all the talking and listen to others, asking clarifying questions
  • a good "wrap-up" - this includes what was decided, what the next steps include, and who is responsible for what
  • follow-up - people want to kow that the time they spent was worthwhile and what happened as a result of that time - communicate with them afterwards

I do love convening people - I love the interaction that takes place, the problem solving that occurs, and the good feeling people have by working together. If that's a part of leadership, then count me in!

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