Have you ever led a meeting where you felt that participants’ minds were somewhere else? Maybe another galaxy?
Of course not. I’m sure your meetings are scintillating.
Read this, just in case.
By investing just a few minutes at the beginning of any meeting, you can greatly improve the results AND enhance teamwork and relationships.
Step One: Find Their Mind
The best meetings I’ve observed, attended, or run, always begin with a simple check in, where the meeting leader asks, “What’s going on in your life that has the potential to distract you?”
In one recent meeting, the group learned that: one person was hungry; another was nervous about a new boss starting the following day; another had a toddler at home who was getting over the flu; and another had a family member who was in critical care after being hit by a car.
Having all this messy internal dialogue out in the open helps in several ways. First, just by sharing it aloud, people are more able to let go and focus. Second, people gain a greater appreciation and empathy for others as whole people, not just colleagues or competitors. Third, it helps you facilitate the meeting with confidence instead of making bad assumptions about why someone is looking at their phone or the clock.
As a bonus, it helps you quickly assess how much trust exists on the team.
Step Two: Bring Them Back to Earth
Once everyone has shared, it’s time to orient them to the present moment and task.
First, have them focus on something sensory: their feet on the floor or ambient noise like the sound of a clock or air conditioning. This important step can take as little as 30 seconds and gets people out of the clouds of thought.
Step Three: Orient to A New, Shared Destination
In this last step, you set them up mentally for the best possible outcomes.
1. Ask them to envision an ideal outcome for the meeting as if it already happened.
2. Ask them to think silently about what quality they need to bring to this conversation. Possibilities include: patience, empathy, listening with curiosity, brevity and humor. Have them write it down.
When to Use This Process?
Do this anytime you want to enhance focus and cooperation.
Worried that you won’t have time? Ask people to share their distraction in one sentence. Then model it yourself. While they may think you’re a little wacky the first time you do it, it only takes once for people to appreciate this process. So if you’re feeling awkward, add that to your share.
As the leader, you calibrate the level of authenticity and openness when you share first.
Allowing people to be human for a few minutes at the beginning of a meeting will make a huge difference in your results.
We hire people for their skills but the whole person shows up.
- Chester Bernard
One Final Tip. Offer food and caffeine.
Have you tried this? How did it work? What would you add or change? Please share!