Let’s face it; we spend a LOT of time in meetings – most of which feel like a death-march of “report outs” so that everyone is in the loop with what is happening! These types of meetings leave participants feeling drained and longing for that hour back to do something productive.
What if I told you that it doesn’t have to be that way?
- Asking open-ended questions is the key in soliciting ideas and encouraging participation. Resist the temptation to direct – even if you think you know the answer or have a plan for next steps. If you do all the talking, no one has a chance to offer alternative ideas and perspectives. It becomes a monologue vs. a dialogue. When the team is together, it’s a great opportunity for problem solving as well. Use questions like:
- What if … ?
- How is this impacting your team?
- How might we make this better?
- What are we trying to achieve and why does it matter?
2. Empathizing. Now that you’ve asked questions, the participants must feel that someone is interested and listening to what they have to say. Demonstrating empathy is critical. Empathizing doesn’t mean that you agree with everything the other person is saying/feeling – just that you hear their perspective and understand their point of view. Doing this can be tricky for some leaders because you have to park your opinion to the side and be open to hearing another perspective. Being fully present in the moment and NOT letting your mind shift into “what am I going to say next” mode is quite helpful in demonstrating empathy.
3. Being fully present is also critical for reading the room and recognizing if someone’s body language is out of alignment with the discussion. You can invite that person to speak up and share what they are thinking to get those unspoken thoughts on the table. It’s also helpful in noticing when the energy is waning and people need a break. Checking in with people to see how they are feeling and effectively managing the clock will keep the discussion on track and make the best use of the time together.
4. Clarifying and checking in for understanding. It’s important when people leave the meeting they are on the same page and tracking with the ideas, open issues and next steps. Paraphrasing is a good way to clarify. It might sound something like this, “So what you are saying is that the change in this procedure will go into effect immediately?” It also serves as an opportunity to summarize or highlight actions and key messages.
5. Affirming participant’s self-esteem. Another key in facilitating discussion is for each person to feel they are valued and have something to contribute. You must create an environment where it’s safe to ask for help or share your ideas without being shut down or embarrassed. Affirming self-esteem is easily done by:
- Thanking the person asking a question
- Asking others to share their experience, “I’d like to ask Bob to share how he is managing his new team since they are spread across the globe. We can learn a lot from him.”
- Acknowledging a strength: “You’re great at …. How can you bring your strengths to this challenge?
- Instilling confidence in the team: “Our success depends on the strengths of people around this table.”
How about it? Are you ready to make this month Fabulous Facilitation February? (I know, that’s probably too much alliteration for a Monday morning.)
Regardless, hope you are inspired to make your meetings less “Ugh” and feel equipped to get the room buzzing!
Martha Duesterhoft if a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.