I hear it often. “I have way too many meetings on my calendar, and it is not a good use of my time.” “ I bring my laptop to meetings so I can be productive.” “Meetings here are long and boring.” “When I meet with my team, people don’t speak up.”
Most leaders spend the majority of their day in meetings. And the meetings are pretty predictable – present something, talk about it, talk some more, assign tasks, run to the next meeting. Repeat. What if you had a set of tools to make the most of your meeting time and get people energized to solve problems and collaborate? What if you could bring fresh thinking and new approaches to your team meetings? There is lots of advice on how to have effective meetings – having an agenda, managing time, assigning roles, etc. But to truly have a productive meeting, you need to get people engaged and draw people in.
Several years ago, a coach colleague shared a link to Liberating Structures, a set of highly interactive tools to facilitate group conversations. I was intrigued by the 33 activities I found on the Liberating Structures website and was excited to learn more. Since then, I have incorporated several of the structures into my facilitation and have shared them with clients, colleagues, and friends. Here are a few examples of how Liberating Structures can breathe new life into your meetings:
- Looking to create consensus? Try 1-2-4-All. We helped a client create a customer service statement by starting with each team member writing a customer service statement. They then paired up and came up with joint statements. The pairs then found another pair and again came up with one statement they could all get behind. We then heard from the four groups of four and came together to draft a customer service statement that could be shared and fine-tuned later.
- Want to generate greater connection and ideas? Try Troika Consulting. A group of tech team leads at one of our clients had the opportunity to get input from their peers in this high-energy activity. In triads, each team lead had a chance to present their biggest challenge to their triad partners. After sharing information about their challenge, they answered clarifying questions from their partners. The team lead then turned, facing away from their partners, and listened in as the partners brainstormed ideas and input about the challenge. The team lead then turns around and shares what they found most valuable. Three rounds take place so that everyone has a chance to get input on their challenge. This is a great exercise for helping team members solve problems and build on their ideas.
- Need to jumpstart planning work? Try Ecocycle Planning. We facilitated a strategic planning retreat for a nonprofit and used several Liberating Structures to help the team think about their work in new and innovative ways, analyze their current operating environment, and determine priorities for the next few years. Ecocycle Planning uses a lifecycle framework through which the team could examine and consider current projects and the future direction of those projects. Working in small groups and them as a full group, they used post-it notes to place projects along the Ecocycle based on whether the project was growing, maturing, or ready for “creative destruction” or renewal. By stepping back and seeing the full Ecocycle of their projects, the team could determine priorities, identify action steps, and discuss how best to allocate resources. This activity can be used by any team to look at a set of products or projects and consider what needs more attention, what can be expanded, and what needs to end.
There is a strong community of Liberating Structures practitioners, and the tools and exercises are available to all at no cost and can be used by anyone at any level. The structures work with small groups, and many can be used with groups of hundreds. It’s easy to get started using Liberating Structures. To learn more, visit their website, www.liberatingstructures.com or download the app.
For those of you who have used Liberating Structures in the past and want to dive deeper into their use, I will be co-facilitating a three-module Advanced Facilitation and Design Jam with my colleague, Dana Pylayeva, where you will explore more complex structures and create your own workshop design. Drop in a comment for a promo code and sign up here – https://lnkd.in/dRJgvWi.
If you want to reimagine your team meetings and conferences, check out Liberating Structures and share these tools with your colleagues.
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.
To discuss ways to revamp your meetings and increase the energy in the room, contact Robyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Photo Credit: Liberatingstructures.com