Friday, August 17, 2012 room at a time

This coming Tuesday, August 21, I will be presenting at Seton Cove, an organization that describes its mission as providing a welcoming place of solace and hospitality where people of any faith may nourish and foster their spiritual growth and journey towards wholeness.  When I was invited to be a part of their program for this fall, I was asked what I would like to speak on.  I am not sure whether it was because I was teaching on the topic at the time...or I had just left another miserable meeting, but I asked if I could address how to make meetings more meaningful - and through the process help people become more whole.  So I chose as my topic: Changing the World One Room at a Time: Designing Meeting that Make an Impact (shameless commercial here: there are still seats available...register here).

Please understand that there are many factors that go into making a good meeting run well, including an agenda sent early, arriving on time, having a well ventilated room, being sure to make action lists, and following up with good minutes.  While those are all wonderful "things to do" for having good meetings, there is also the "unwritten" rules that help to make the meeting meaningful and ripe for changing people's lives and the worlds in which they live.  Not wanting to spoil the essence of what I will be saying this coming Tuesday, here are but a few thoughts on this topic:

  • as the convener, have you considered the WHY of the meeting, and what you believe should be the one big thing that will arise from the ensuing conversation?
  • as the convener, have you thought about the room set-up, and taken the time to design the space for the bests possible interaction?
  • as the convener, are you entering the room really believing that everyone there is bringing their unique gift into the conversation? 
  • as a participant, are you entering the room emotionally ready to engage in deep conversation?
  • as a participant, are you ready and willing to share your unique gift with the group?
  • as a participant, have you considered what the un-named elephant in the room might be and carefully thought through how it might be named?
  • as convener or participant, are you willing to lay aside your own assumptions to truly listen to what others will be saying?
This short list is but a beginning of thoughts and ideas that, if considered prior to meetings, really can change the world:
  • when participants understand the WHY of the meeting, better solutions can be reached
  • when participants can interact at a deep level, they feel that their voice is important and will speak from their hearts and souls
  • when participants are allowed to use their gifts, they flourish in other aspects of their lives
  • when participants prepare themselves ahead of time (both emotionally and spiritually) they are more able to embrace the "other" in the room
  • when participants have considered the bumps that may lay ahead, and thought about how to speak toward them, people are treated in a more kind manner
  • when assumptions can be laid aside, listening takes place at a higher level and better solutions can be reached
Perhaps what I am most excited about in this session is that I get to speak to people's inner lives.  We all have to attend meetings, and for so many of them we leave feeling drained and frustrated.  I believe there is a better way...I believe that meetings should uplift and restore...I  believe that meetings are holy ground and should be treated as such...I believe that committees and teams, when functioning properly, deeply affect people's lives...and I believe that meetings can change the world - one room at a time.

For further reading on this topic, I invite you to explore the following resources:
  • Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  • The Wisdom of Teams by Katzenbach & Smith
  • Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Community by Margaret Wheatley
  • The World Cafe: Shaping our Futures Through Conversations that Matter by Juanita Brown
  • Don't Just Do Something, Stand There: Ten Principles for Leading Meetings that Matter by Weisbord & Janoff

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