I was in several meetings this past week, both one-on-one as well as group meetings. Some were wonderful...and some were painful. As I reflected on them, I realized that good meetings have little to do with the SKILL of running meetings (though that helps) and more to do with the ART of running meetings. Let me explain...
The SKILL of running meetings can be found in many books, articles, websites, and blogs written by very smart people and very efficient people. All of these skills are necessary, from having an agenda to starting on time, to having action items, etc. What's often missing is the hard part of running meetings - the PEOPLE ASPECT...and this is where the ART occurs.
The ART of running a meeting includes reading the people around you and keeping them engaged. When a meeting is artfully run, participants will leave the meeting excited and energized...they will leave the meeting ready to get back into the fray...they will believe they, and the organization, are better because of the meeting...and they will leave the meeting looking forward to the next one. How does this happen? Here are a few thoughts for those of us who runs meetings:
- Be really good at the SKILL of running meetings
- Know (and let others know) your strengths and weaknesses in running meetings
- Allow participants to hold you accountable to your strengths and weaknesses in running meetings
- Watch people's engagement levels
- Watch people's body language
- Watch people's eyes
- Monitor the ratio of how much you speak to how much the other participants speak
- Create an atmosphere where people can disagree with each other -and with you
- Check in with people who are TOO QUIET- don't assume they are not engaged, and let them have a voice as needed
- Quiet down people who are TOO ENGAGED - don't let any one person dominate the conversation
- Invite - and take - criticism from the team
- Keep the internal check going all the time, asking if what you wanted to have happen is actually happening
- Live with the tension of keeping on track and getting off track
- Live with the tension of wanting the participant's full attention and knowing that they also need to be giving their attention to other things and people
- Live with the tension of getting things done and building stronger relationships
- Live with the tension that this is serious work and that teams should also play together
Special kudos to a great team of people who allowed me the privilege of practicing the ART of meeting this past week - the Concordia University Texas Remote Sites Team. This group has a hard job in ensuring that the mission of our University is delivered in formats and spaces away from the traditional program on our main campus. Thanks to Alexandra, DeEadre, Mary, Rebecca, Renae, and Tammy for their work, their dedication, and their willingness to meet together to move forward our mission of developing Christian leaders.