Hacks for Engaging Collaborative Meetings: Part 1

By Cecile Green and Rebecca Fisher-McGinty, republished and edited from Round Sky Solutions blog.

Enlivening Edge Magazine has republished Part 2 of this article here.

So many of us have experienced bad meetings ranging from mildly frustrating to intolerable! In fact, bad meetings are so common, it’s easy to assume they are an inevitable part of the status quo. If you have a small business, a nonprofit, board meetings, organizing meetings, a worker cooperative, or are interested in democratic or teal workplaces, you likely have to participate in meetings that drive you nuts for a variety of reasons. If so, you are in the right place, we wrote this post for you! In Part 1, we’re going to focus on some of the things that come up during these meetings and then part 2, we’ll share some solutions.

To name just a few top examples of bad meeting culture from experience:

  • People getting offended and defensive.
  • People being accusatory and snide.
  • People disengaging during the meetings and at all times.
  • Updates that go on forever and are not helpful.
  • A few people that have too much responsibility.
  • Only a few people doing all the talking.
  • Well intentioned people delivering inconsistent accountability.
  • Agenda items that only reflect the needs of a few.
  • Agenda items that take way too long and don’t lead to meaningful outcomes that move things forward.
  • Meetings with no clear ending that drag on for hours.
  • And the list goes on!!!

Since bad meeting culture is so endemic it’s easy to think that it’s normal or unavoidable and I’m here to tell you that while it may be normal, meaning that it happens all the time in all kinds of organizations, it’s not healthy and it is entirely avoidable!

The problem with accepting bad meeting culture is that it:

  • Saps organizational energy and focus. There’s nothing like an argument in the middle of a meeting for making everything worse.
  • Wastes time. Meetings are the most efficient way to sync up and align. When they are wasted with no clear decisions or next actions, people still have to obtain that information or risk doing bad or useless work. The work of obtaining that information outside of meetings represents a waste of time.
  • Sense of being stuck increases. It leaves people feeling powerless and frustrated leading to disengagement.
  • Underscores the sense of being overworked and underappreciated. When we don’t have good mechanisms for redistributing work because we can’t really see what other people are doing or not doing, it’s easy for people to feel unseen and unappreciated for their work.
  • Makes it harder to address important issues and get good work done. When meetings are wasted on conversations that go on way past any point of usefulness for the organization, the time we have to discuss and decide on important issues dwindles.

Getting to facilitating effective, collaborative meetings can be challenging but is well worth the effort. Imagine what it might be like for you to have a organization full of inspiring leaders, with tools that enable you to hack your meetings into flows and effective outcomes? Well, for one thing, improving your meetings will save you time and energy and open up the space for everyone on the team to be more of their full selves, which simply feels better, and frankly gets better results.

With a generative meeting culture, here are a few things you can look forward to, including what some of our clients and students have shared about our work!

Engaging and efficient collaboratively-led meetings. The power of joy and fulfillment that comes from productive efficient meetings goes on to infuse all of the work we do with that same motivating force, bringing much more meaning and productivity to everything that we do.

Working together productively with flow and satisfaction. Collaborating with others can be profoundly frustrating, and that frustration is a drain on both the organization and the individual. Getting to flow and satisfaction produces a host of benefits including longevity, in other words, people sticking around to contribute to an organization’s success.

Not getting stuck on issues. The feeling of being stuck in one’s work with others is corrosive, especially if it’s a consistent feature of meetings. Being able to move forward even on difficult issues is like opening the windows in a stale room and letting the light and air in.

Better innovation and problem solving. Working together is all about facing challenges and surmounting them with each other. Being equipped to do so efficiently, creatively,  and innovatively is critical to organizational success in the complex and constantly changing business environments that we all find ourselves in today.

Mutual support & accountability. One of the biggest challenges of collaborative work environments where we are explicitly sharing power is accountability, both how we support each other in getting our work done, and how we hold each other accountable in the process.

A real distribution of power and voice. This one is huge! If you really want to get innovating and feel some meaningful engagement from your team, try giving them real power.

Meaningful, satisfying participation.

And the best part about learning all this is that you are going to be able to use these skills over and over again in all kinds of different contexts. It’s like you’ll have cracked the collaboration code and have super powers for enabling people to get along and do better work together.

What’s Next?!

Stay tuned for part 2 that will include 4 hacks and tangible tools to make your teal and democratically led meetings more effective and engaging.

Do you resonate with the challenges of collaborative meetings? Who hasn’t sat through a meeting that was poorly facilitated?? It can really put a damper on the work. That’s why we’ve created this online training to support and train collaborative facilitators to really hone in on what’s needed to get the work done in a collaborative and meaningfully inclusive way. And, meetings are such a big part of that.

Come learn more about this online collaborative management training and the community of practice we’re nurturing.

Sign up to explore leadership stories with others at the FREE community building introductory session on January 10th!

Enlivening Edge is an affiliate partner of Round Sky Solutions.

Republished with permission.

Featured Image from Round Sky Solutions.