Meeting Skills: Using Innovation to Drive Team Dynamics MODULE #4 Kavya Shankar Harvard University Class of 2014
<ul><li>Meetings are at the core of our daily routines. Managers will spend over one-half of their working life attending, conducting, preparing for, and following up on meetings. In fact, over 17 million meetings take place every day in the United States alone. Lynbrook High School has over 250 hours worth of meetings every week. </li></ul><ul><li>Think about the number of meetings you personally attend every week as well as the number of meetings you organize. Almost one-third of all meetings are considered unnecessary by the people who attend them. </li></ul><ul><li>Your challenge is to be amongst the other two-third. </li></ul>Your Challenge
<ul><li>A Strong Talent Base </li></ul><ul><li>To make your meetings successful, you need to establish a competent team. Your team should be made up of your allies, those who share a common passion, vision, and goal with you. Your team should be diverse in that it brings different skills, experiences, and leadership styles to the table. Work on constructing a team that has those who are visionary, analytical, action-oriented, and interaction-driven in order to have a full spectrum of ideas and talents. </li></ul>
If you ask me There is absolutely nothing more important than developing a strong team. You can be completely passionate about an issue and ready to innovate and take the organization to new levels, but, as cheesy as it sounds, there is no I in team. You need people who will tell you when your ideas suck, who will feed off of your excitement, and most importantly, those who will help you deliver and implement. Sometimes, these people can be your friends, but many times, I find that there ends up being a conflict of interest with your friends, especially because it’s hard sometimes to be viewed as an authority in their eyes as well as is hard to tell them what to do. Choose people who prioritize your activity, who are passionate about what they do, and who are reliable.
#2: Create a working space conducive to discussion
<ul><li>Productivity at its Finest </li></ul><ul><li>Work on having your meeting space structured in such a way that everyone is seated in a circle, and most importantly, everyone can see the person running the meeting. Put away laptops until the meeting gets to the point where the laptop is crucial. Have someone other than the person who is running the meeting to take notes on the board or on a flip chart so that everyone can see the ideas and progress from the meeting. </li></ul>
If you ask me The workplace is crucial to productivity. The absolute worst thing ever is when everyone is on Facebook during your meeting. It gets to be incredibly frustrating and slows down the progress. Build in works into the meeting, but make sure that the workspace is such that everyone can hear everyone (eliminates side conversation) and so that everyone is an active participant. Sometimes, it works well to get to your meeting early and to move around the desks in the classroom so that it is a circular formation. That way, everyone feels included and it’s hard for side conversation to start. Additionally, this way, everyone can see the board.
<ul><li>Capitalize on Crowd Wisdom </li></ul><ul><li>There is a tendency for individuals to gravitate towards the opinion of the facilitator of the opinions of the loudest members of the group. Taking this into consideration, as a facilitator you should send out the agenda ahead of time and specify the discussion points so that meeting participants are prepared with their ideas and feedback. This way, their own ideas serve as a buffer against persuasion. As a facilitator, try to balance discussion so that people on both sides of the issue have opportunity to speak, to give people as much information as possible to make an informed decision. </li></ul>
If you ask me I admit, I cause group polarization a lot of times. I voice my opinion very loudly and make it awkward for people to express something against my ideas. This is definitely not conducive to making the best decisions possible. You want to make sure that those who are louder don’t make all of the decisions. Give everyone a chance to speak and to think about what they want ahead of time by sending out the agenda. Additionally, you can sometimes go around and ask everyone for their opinion before free-for-all discussion. This lets you really synthesize viewpoints for the best possible decision.
#4: Create an innovative and specific process for brainstorming
<ul><li>Innovation Driven Ideas </li></ul><ul><li>Give time at the beginning of the brainstorm for participants to simply shout out all the ideas that come to their head without filtering for quality. Then, go back through the ideas and determine the ideas of quality. After this step, working on refining multiple ideas until it’s clear what idea the group is in favor of. Always set a time limit for the initial brainstorming step so that the list of ideas doesn’t grow too long and the quality doesn’t decline. </li></ul>
If you ask me You want to create a working environment that is conducive to idea generation. If you set the standards way too high right from the start, people will be nervous about freely giving their ideas for fear of judgment or saying something stupid. Let the team know at the beginning that any idea goes at first and that you all will work on filtering and narrowing down the list afterward.
<ul><li>Achieving Quality Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>All group members should have the opportunity to speak. Allowing everyone the opportunity to speak allows each member to feel valuable and invested in the team. Someone may be quiet because s/he has not had an opening to express a very good idea. After the initial free-for-all brainstorming, keep asking if anyone has more ideas until those who are the quietest speak up. </li></ul>
If you ask me Sometimes, there’s the quiet person who is afraid of talking. But other times, the person seems quiet but actually has something to say. The problem is that the louder people are dominating the discussion. The best way I’ve seen to get around that is to sometimes go around in a circle and have everyone express his or her opinion. Another option is to single people out (nicely) such as “Bob, do you agree with that?” Finally, another option is to ask at the end “Is anyone NOT okay with this?” That gives the opposition a chance to speak out without feeling bad about being negative or pessimistic about an idea.
<ul><li>Taking Advantage of Side Conversations </li></ul><ul><li>It’s important to ensure that work gets done, but small talk is inevitable. The best way to deal with the small talk is to set aside time at the beginning of the meeting for people to talk about their lives. Then, every time a random topic comes up during a meeting and people seem to be getting off task, let them know that their life story is still important, but that it’s not the appropriate time. Instead, stop their story, add it to a list and go back to that list during breaks or at the end of the meeting. </li></ul>
If you ask me Side conversations are awful and while they are typically somewhat entertaining, they definitely detract from the meeting. You don’t want your meetings to be boring, but you still want to get work done! What I’ve done in the past is when someone says something off-topic, you write the topic on the side of the whiteboard. Then, at the end of the agenda, you guys go back to the different points and talk about them.
<ul><li>Majority Doesn’t Always Rule </li></ul><ul><li>Majority doesn’t always rule, especially if the minority feels angry about the decision made and thus doesn’t want to fully contribute towards the success of the project. Group consensus doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone agrees with the decision made, but that all members of the group understand the decision made, support the decision, and are willing to work towards the success of the project. Make sure every participant knows that his or her opinion matters and will be incorporated as much as possible into the final product. </li></ul>
If you ask me It sucks to have about half of your team feeling upset with the decision that is being made. To avoid something like this, be sure to ask “Is anyone NOT okay with the decision?” If nobody speaks up, that hopefully means that people at least understand the decision even if they don’t support it. The goal is to make sure everyone is invested in the project, so another option is to give each person ownership over a component of the project so that there is a strong sense of responsibility and accountability.
<ul><li>Sharing is Caring </li></ul><ul><li>People are more supportive and cooperative when they feel invested in the decision that is made. Don’t just delegate tasks based on your own discretion; instead, work with your teammates to distribute tasks based on interests and skills. Work on incorporating a part of everyone’s idea into the final product in order to ensure personal investment in the project. </li></ul>
If you ask me This goes back to the idea of making your teammates happy. Ask them what part of the project interests them the most and assign based on that. I’ve found that the best work is produced when the team is excited about the idea, and this excitement starts with you as the leader. If you are truly passionate about your cause or about what you’re working on, then that passion will become contagious.
<ul><li>The Work Doesn’t Stop When The Agenda Finishes </li></ul><ul><li>Send out a summary of activity and accomplishment as well in the form of minutes directly after a meeting. The truth is, people tend to skip the recap. Thus, in the body of an email, be sure to include next steps or action items coming out of the meeting, specifying who is in charge and what the deadline is. Support your teammates offline by shooting the emails reminding them of their deadlines, providing ideas, and offering any assistance that you can. Start off the meeting with check-in on responsibilities to ensure that everyone is on the right page. </li></ul>
If you ask me A lot of times, you’ll have a fantastic meeting, but then nothing will happen between that meeting and the next meeting. To avoid this, that evening after the meeting, send out the minutes with a list of exactly who needs to do what by when. Then, follow up a day or two before that deadline specifically with that person to make sure that they are on track. This ensures the highest amount of accountability. Sometimes, I ask individuals to give report-outs at our next meeting. This adds accountability because it’s embarrassing if you haven’t finished your work and everyone knows it.
<ul><li>Meetings for Learning </li></ul><ul><li>Be sure to consider the positives and the areas of improvement coming out of each of your meetings and work on fixing those issues in the future. Don’t just rely on your own ideas about the success of the meeting; ask your meeting participants for feedback as well! Consider taking the last two minutes of the meeting to facilitate positives from the meeting and deltas, the aspects of the meeting that can be changed for next time. </li></ul>
If you ask me There are a lot of different ways to do this. One thing I’ve done is a midyear evaluation of the officers. This is done anonymously and the feedback is used to constructively build a plan for improvement. Additionally, doing pluses and deltas helps find out what can be changed about the meeting structure. Finally, make sure you develop a culture that is conducive to feedback so that your teammates don’t feel embarrassed or awkward telling you to change something.
<ul><li>Meetings are at the core of any extracurricular. Spend the time to master the art of leading meetings so that you can make your team happier, more innovative, and more productive. </li></ul>In Conclusion
THANK YOU! KAVYA SHANKAR HARVARD, CLASS OF 2014 [email_address]