Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Are we just not clear about how to hold a fruitful meeting?

Comment from Garvin Chow to our blog

"It is interesting to know how one can take a step back from contributing towards a boring and unproductive meeting. I've encountered countless number of such meetings but have yet to find a way around it. Could it be that we are lacking a meeting facilitator, themeweaver or are we just not clear about how to hold a fruitful meeting?"

Great question Garvin -- "are we just not clear about how to hold a fruitful meeting???" And if we have to participate in them, what can we do to turn a boring meeting into a productive one? How can we "unbore ourselves" enough to make a difference? My first question to you is what is the purpose of one of these meetings that isn't going anywhere? Is the purpose clear to all who are there? Sounds simple, I know, but when meetings are held routinely without a clear goal, it can be deadening. Instead of stepping back, step forward and check out whether everyone knows why the meeting is being called and what you hope to get out of it. The second question, and this is a big one, are the right people there to get this job done? One ingredient of a fruitful meeting is that the people present can learn something new, create more innovative solutions and build relationships that take things to the next step. Check if you often have people missing from the conversation -- for example, people with authority to take action, people with key information or people who will be impacted by your decisions. When the same people meet regularly, you can find that you are recycling the same story, same ideas and same dynamics. It's no surprise that such a meeting goes around in circles. You can step forward with this point as well and ask, "do we have the right people here?" You ask about a meeting facilitator and if you can know one who appreciates the impact of structure on the meeting's output, it could be very helpful.

I'm curious at this point to find out if these ideas have meaning to you or to others who experience Garvin's frustration. Let's continue the conversation -- there are other ingredients to a good meeting that are worth exploring as well. For now,


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A SOB Story to help you "Get Used to Projections"

I heard the late Jack Gibb tell this tale at an OD Network meeting. It shows how your self-image ("percept" or projection) determines your behavior. Imagine Dodge City, 1875. A cowpoke rides into town, ties up his horse, bursts into the saloon and bellies up to the bar. He’s 6’5”, 290 pounds, a week’s worth of whiskers, mad as hell. “Gimme a beer!” he orders the bartender. The cowpoke chug-a-lugs, wipes a sleeve across his mouth and shouts, “Gimme another!” He guzzles again, dribbling beer down his vest. Suddenly he spins to face the room, hands poised over two huge six guns in studded holsters. The card players go silent. The piano dies. The dancers freeze. “All right,” bellows the angry cowboy, "I want all you SOB’s outta here!"
People dive under the bar, out the door, through the windows, sending whiskey glasses crashing. In seconds everyone is gone, except for one little guy sitting in the corner with a ten-gallon hat pushed back on his head, still holding his cards, watching the action in amazement.
The cowpoke means business. Hands on guns he leaps across the room, towering over the little guy. “You!” he snarls. “Didn’t YOU hear what AH said?”
“I sure did, mister,” replies the little guy, flashing a big smile. “And weren’t there a lot of ‘em!"

In Chapter 8, "Get Used to Projections," we tell you how to make this phenomenon work for you. Here's an excerpt--
"Put on a uniform or clerical collar and people relate differently to you than if you were in shorts and a T-shirt. That’s projection. Or notice what happens in you the next time a leader stands up and says, “My name is so-and-so, and I’ll be running this meeting.” Whether you resist or cooperate depends largely on what you project on that person’s looks, demeanor, and tone of voice.
"We see, hear, or sense in others what our own psyches wish for us to see, hear or sense, apart from any motive or intrinsic qualities in them. When we project on other people, we find in them clues that remind us of parts of ourselves. These could be parts that we detest or deny, or parts that we like very much.
"This much of the projection concept is widely known in a post-Freudian age. At the same time, we often remain unconscious of the projecting we do. Nor do we realize the extent to which others project on us, especially when we assume leadership. We grow up believing that others 'make' us feel one way or another, and that we do the same to them."
Our colleague, the late John Weir, invented a "percept language" that helps you experience your projections. Master it and you will be less likely to "take it personally," whatever IT is for you. In Chapter 8 we tell you how. Go to http://www.bkconnection.com/pdf.asp to download the e-book version.
--Marv Weisbord

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Future Search & Team Building - Different Goals

A friend said he wanted to recommend Future Search (our collaborative planning process) for team-building with a 15-person work group.
Here's our reply--
Sandra and I are delighted you want to recommend FS for this purpose. However, what we would like you to tell these folks is that although their meeting cannot be an actual Future Search, the techniques used in Future Search (e.g. mind map, time lines) could be useful team-building tools.
You also could point out that two of the four FS principles can be used successfully in team-building: (3) focus on the future/ common ground (problems and conflicts as information, not action agendas); and (4) self-managing their own small group discussions, generating their own data, and drawing their own conclusions. (If they use an outside consultant, they would need somebody who knows how to work this way, rather than a consultant who interviews and organizes the data for them.)

The first two principles would NOT apply, thus making it impossible to do an FS. You will not have (1) the "whole system in the room," since those who constitute the team's environment, e.g., customers, suppliers, other functions, are not present. Therefore, you also can't (2) "explore the whole elephant," since you only have the head and the trunk. The first two are the defining principles of FS. They make systems thinking experiential, bringing the environment into the room. System transformation occurs only when you change a system's relationships to the larger system of which it is a part. In team building all you can change are the relationships of team members to each other and to the boss.

--Marv Weisbord

Monday, April 27, 2009

Making Stress While the Sun Shines

Having for the second time in 20 years spent nearly 3 days with 86 people from 20 countries in a windowless, poorly-lighted hotel ballroom with an inadequate sound system I hereby testify that such rooms may serve candle-lit banquets but are harmful for serious work. The meeting was vital to the health care of third world countries. Given a deadline, we had no choice of rooms. And people, a tribute to their commitment, worked with good humor, intelligence and extraordinary patience under intolerable conditions. It was a non-stop battle against an environment that we could, with a little forethought, control. You could say we compromised our own short term well being for the long-term sake of those in greater need. But why? If I were king, I’d declare hotel dungeon rooms off limits for serious meetings. Since I’m a commoner, I beg my fellow citizens to rebel against dungeon rooms given the persuasive evidence that people ought not meet like this. Don’t rely on my prejudices. Check out the vast literature on the centrality of natural daylight to human health. Still, some people choose to work in the dark ages. I’m done with it folks. This time I really mean it!

Here are two items from last Sunday's paper that stiffen my resolve--
A team of University of Washington researchers put 50-inch TV screens showing a live view of nature into windowless faculty offices. “People liked this,” said the writer. “but in another study that measured heart-rate recovery from stress, the HDTV’s were shown to be worthless, no better than staring at a blank wall. What did help with stress was giving people an actual plate-glass window looking out upon actual greenery.”
--Bloom, Paul. “Natural Happiness.” The New York Times Magazine, April 19, 2009, pp. 11-13.
And from the same magazine, bottom of page 35--
18 Average reduction in stay, in hours, at a suburban Pennsylvania hospital for patients recovering from gallbladder surgery whose window faced trees rather than a brick wall, according to a study in 1984 (Science magazine).”
--Marv Weisbord

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Do You Know Your Meeting Leader Style?

Take the Meeting Leader Fitness Test
By Marv Weisbord

You have called a staff meeting to consider the 2009 budget. You need 100% support. Below are participant concerns that might prove distracting. Choose the best solution for each person consistent with your objective—

Person A forgot to put out the dog. You would—
a. Send him home in a company car.
b. Point out that many dogs would be glad to be alone in a home like his.
c. Report him to the SPCA.
b. Support his feelings. “I once forgot to put out my cat. Fortunately, she used the litter box."

Person B misplaced her cell phone. You would—
a. Offer her yours.
b. Suggest she use a pay phone (if she can find one).
c. Give her a discount coupon for Advanced Memory Supplement.
d. Support her feelings: “I misplaced my glasses once. They were on my nose.”

Person C says the room is too cold. You would--
a. Call the janitor.
b. Move the meeting to another room.
c. Point out that global warming affects everyone.
d. Support his feelings: “I often am too cold. That’s why I wear a sweater.”

Person D has the room being too warm. You would--
a. Call the janitor (again).
b. Postpone the meeting until Fall.
c. Ask who else feels too warm while removing your sweater.
d. Have D and C dialogue until they both feel comfortable.

Person E is fuming because you forgot her birthday. You would--
a. Apologize and ask what the date was again.
b. Say your email greeting must have got lost in cyberspace.
c. Note that she is looking younger than ever.
d. Support her feelings: “I forget my kid’s birthday too.”

Person F hates meetings and wants this one shorter. You would--
a. Say the meeting is shorter. You planned four hours and cut it to three.
b. Tell her you can make a budget without her. Is that what she wants?
c. Offer to drop two future meetings if she stays for this one.
d. Support her feelings: “I too wish it were shorter, but it already is.”

Person G is competing with H for a promotion. You would--
a. Reassure them that they are well qualified and the best person will win.
b. Note that you like them both and may toss a coin to decide.
c. Point out that backing your budget can’t hurt their careers.
d. Support their feelings: “There are winners and losers in life, and you should be able to have a drink together anyway.”

Person I must leave early. You would--
a. Remind him that he left early last year. Is this a pattern?
b. Offer to pick a more convenient time if he gets everyone to agree.
c. Ask him (wink-wink) if he has another meeting he can’t talk about.
d. Support his feelings: “I wish I could leave early too, but it’s my meeting.”

Person J forgot his lunch and has a strict diet. You would--
a. Send for the dietician.
b. Arrange a lunch delivery from a kosher deli.
c. Alert the company physician.
d. Support his feelings: “It’s not easy to work on an empty stomach.”

Your answers reveal your MANAGEMENT STYLE (MS).

If you are a Decisive Authoritarian Leader (DAL), you would ignore the dog, alert the doctor, give Persons C and D three minutes to agree on room temperature, wish E a happy birthday, and inform G and H that the promotion goes to the one who impresses you the most in this meeting. Tell F, I and J that if they don’t stop whining you’ll add back the extra hour and reduce their summer vacations.

If you are a collaborative democratic leader (CDL), you would support everybody’s feelings, emphasize the goal and time constraints, ask G and H to agree who gets the promotion, and remind everyone that you are buying lunch. Have each person hold up a little card on which they have written an ideal room temperature. Average their numbers and call the janitor. Finally, have them write their desired meeting length on the other side of the card (saving trees, as the company is now green). Have a volunteer average these numbers. Announce that you too hate meetings, but you will meet daily with them for their ideal average time until they ratify the budget.

If you are a libertarian laizzez faire leader (LLF), you would say, “I realize each of you have concerns I unfortunately do not share. Take responsibility and deal with them as you wish. Just stay out of each others' personal space and have breaks when you want. I’ll do the budget with or without your input. Or whatever.”

--Marv Weisbord


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sandra and Marv Audio Interview

At the bottom of this blog, left hand side, is an item titled Relevant Links.  Click on Sandra/Marv NetSpeed Interview to hear us talk about the principles of "Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!"  Let us know your thoughts.
-- Sandra and Marv

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Warrior as Leader!

In his comment to our last post, Rick Lent told how indigenous cultures weave the archetypal role of the Warrior into their stories of empowerment. The characteristic of the Warrior is to "show up and choose to be present."  A necessary act of leadership, he added.

Last week we had such a 'warrior' at a meeting we facilitated. This person, the meeting sponsor, appeared calm and assured throughout the meeting, though the energy of the group was intense and opinions were flying.  During the debrief, she told me what was going on for her.  "There was so much happening inside me," she said. "At first I felt like the host of a party, wanting everyone to be happy.  Then I realized that the best I could do was let go of that feeling. I just settled in and paid attention to the experience I was having for the rest of the time. The conference was probably more of a success because I kept out of their way and trusted them to get to a good place." 

--  Sandra