The summer is over. Ugh. Back to making lunches, following schedules and lot and lots of meetings. So many meetings.
As an ex-bureaucrat I have been to my fair share of meetings. Some meetings where people are there to gather information for their own benefit, some where there is one person literally giving you information that could have been in an email, some where nothing is really said that is meaningful (that all happens outside the meeting), and others where the conversation is simply circular or unintelligible.
We have an obsession with meetings in our workplaces, but rarely do we dedicate time, effort or training as to how meetings could be the single most effective way to shape culture. I have believed this for a while but was pleasantly surprised when I found a kindred spirit online who voiced similar ideas – in Trinidad and Tobago! Tricia Conyer’s piece in Medium clearly articulated how meetings can be much more impactful than we make them. Meetings can be the way in which we shape culture.
This concept makes intuitive sense. Workplace culture is defined by Edgar Schein as “…a pattern of basic assumptions that the group learned through solving it’s problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems” (1985).
How a group runs its meetings will give you clear clues as to the culture of the organization. Who talks? How many people contribute? How are decisions made? Who makes decisions?
Tricia highlights a distinction between meeting effectiveness and meeting engagement. Meeting effectiveness is the technical and procedural knowledge and ability to design and run a good meeting. The second level is about meeting engagement. It is how you show up to meetings. It is how you look to arrive at what is right, not who is right. It is how you believe in the collective wisdom of everyone at the table is important to hear. It is how you show up as an adaptive leader.
This means truly impactful meeting marry the art and science of human interaction. It is having the technical skills of listening, paraphrasing, and asking questions. It is not only understanding meeting design, it is how you hold space for others and show up.
It is not surprising that it is challenging to make meetings shape and drive culture.
Its not simple, but it is not something you can ignore. It is easy to start and takes a lifetime to refine.
So start your journey. Maybe it is taking a coaching skills course, maybe it is about meeting design. Maybe it is about meditation so you can better reflect. Maybe you just come to our Campfire Chat this month (hint - we will be talking about this!) You choose. But start. You won’t be sorry.