For many of us, meetings are a necessary evil.  We need team ressources and support, so we have to meet.  And yet many meetings feel unproductive.

How does one organize and run a meeting for optimal teamwork and productivity?

Contrary to popular believe, efficient and effective meetings rarely start by jumping right into the meat of the matter.  That’s expecting everyone to have thinking, listening, and creative caps donned.

It’s rarely the case.

Here is inspiration from one of my most envigorating weekly meetings:  a Pilates class.

1. Define the Mindset

Tips from Pilates

Our teacher begins every class the same way.

“Breathe.  Stand straight.  Feet hip-width apart.  Shoulders above hips.  Tummy muscles squeezed tight. Let your chin drop towards the sternum and feel the stretch…”

Every time, I am caught by both surprise and familiarity.

Surprised because I’m slouching, am disconnected with my body, and don’t even realize it!

These regularly repeated words prime both my spirit and my body for stretching and muscle-building. It takes 10 seconds.

Positive Mindset in Meetings

How do you prime your team members for alignment during your meeting?  Model the behavior you seek.

For connectedness: Take 10 seconds to smile and look each person in the eye.

To tackle a challenge regarding the competition: Link your fingers and stretch your arms out in front of you.

To foster listening: Stay silent until the room quiets down.

2. Engage the Core Muscles

Tips from Pilates

“Tighten your abs. Squeeze the inside of your thighs …”

Engage the Core Muscles in Meetings

What will constitute a “firm core” for your meeting?  Let the group know the intellectual muscle you expect.

“Let’s put those creativity caps on!”

“We have a full agenda.  We want to hear from everyone who has something new and relevant to add.”

“Disagreement is OK. When we present our viewpoint, let’s stick to facts. I may request a moment for each of us to write our thoughts down before continuing the debate.”

3. Clarify Expectations

Tips from Pilates

“Feel the stretch in your lower back…”   It’s our cue for success; if we only feel the legs, something is out of whack.

Clarify Expectations with a Meeting Agenda

A shared written agenda helps keep the meeting on track.  It’s an agreed-upon tool to refocus.

“The decision we have to make today is ___________. You have a valid point and we still need to move ahead.”

Time indicators on your agenda adds yet another element of accountability.

“We had spent 15 minutes debating this issue.  Are we getting ready to decide or do we need to come back to this topic with additional information?  If so, who will do what?”

4. Maximize Results in Minimum Time

Tips from Pilates

“Let’s tone triceps.  For these push-ups, place your hands facing forward with arms next to your body.”

Standard push-ups build upper body strength.  This particularly positionning tones triceps.  Our goal is fit-looking arms to show off our summer wardrobe.  These forward-facing pushups get us the results easier and faster.

Stay Focused

Less is more.  Avoid distraction that generate lengthy, somewhat-related discussions.  Aim to define several concrete steps to move forward and assigning who does what.  That’s HUGE and motivating to all.

5. Self-Evaluate

Tips from Pilates

Between exercises, our Pilates instructor reminds us to align our body, to strengthen our core, and where to feel the stretch.

Oops!  I squeezed those glutes five minutes ago and then shifted my concentration to the movement.  In that short time span, I forget to keep those butt muscles engaged!

Invite Re-Alignment throughout the Meeting

In the same way, it’s helpful to return to meeting’s posture, purpose, and schedule to check in.

To avoid putting someone on the spot, invite self-evaluation.

“How are we doing on creativity/timeliness/mutual respect/?  What could you do to help us be more imaginative/productive/effective listeners?  Let’s continue…”

Read Turn Good Intentions to Great Teamwork for an example of self-evaluation during meetings.

 

6. Nourish your Brain

Tips from Pilates

Between exercises we rehydrate with water infused with lemon, ginger, or cucumber.

Serve Water during Meetings

Do you know that the brain contains 80% water?  Studies show that hydration contributes to memory and clear thinking.

Serving water also creates a pause in the meeting dynamic.  Try relieving tension between participants by offering a glass of water.  These nanoseconds allow the brain to receive nourishment AND to process emotions which boosts the ability to reason and rationally weigh alternatives.

The humble act of service demonstrates your care for the participants.  It’s a basic human need to seek belonging and significance.  A glass of water with a smile allows you to connect one-on-one with a person, even during a large meeting.

7. End with a Closing Routine

Tips from Pilates

“One last stretch before we go.”

Stretch the Value of the Meeting with One Word to Recap

“Let’s go around the table with a take-away from each of you.”

This is a gentle yet firm way of securing buy-in….at least on something.  Peer pressure encourages even the reticent participant to contribute.  It could be eye opening for them to realize the meeting held value to their colleagues.

If the closing comments fall below your hopes,consider how to prepare or manage your next meetings differently.  Take stock:

  • What went well?
  • When were the less productive moments?
  • How well did your respect the schedule (ie and respect the value of your participants’ time)?

Want to participate in a business meeting with these tips in action?  Contact me about organizing a conference in your workplace.

Apply to Life

These techniques work marvels with children around the kitchen table.  It’s the opportunity to address an elephant in the room and get the kids involved.

“I noticed that we have trouble getting out the door on time in the morning.”

Define the Mindset – Smile.  Reassure the children this is a time for solution-finding, not blaming.  “Around this table I won’t tell anyone to ‘Stop dragging your feet.’”

Clarify Expectations “Let’s come up with ideas to make mornings calm and joyful.  From our list we can choose one to try this week.”

Invite Self-Evaluation“Yes, your brother could ______.  What could YOU do?”

Stay Focused – When the kids squabble among each other, reframe.  “Hum. How is that pinching helping us get out the door on time? (Pause. Eye contact. Smile.) Another idea?”

Finish Strong“Let’s each say one phrase to share what you thought of our meeting.”

  • “I felt like a big person.”
  • “I know how to help.”
  • “We have great ideas!”

Cover photo from Unsplash

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