Re-claiming Meetings as Powerful Generators for the realization of Human Potential

Doris Gottlieb
Apr 20 · 5 min read

These days in business, at least here in the Netherlands, there is an idea going around that meetings are worthless. There is a whole movement that preaches getting rid of meetings in organizations in order to make them run better. Of course, it is still understood that sometimes we need to talk to one another, but meetings that more than a half hour are discouraged, not to mention “long” meetings. I find myself having to work hard to convince people to get together for more than an hour. Meetings are inefficient they say and in the quest for efficiency — they tell me — we need to meet less.

Now, given the way many meetings are run, I can understand the frustration people are expressing. Many meetings are exercises in futility. Often people come together with no understanding of what their purpose is, nor what the desired outcome of the meeting may be in terms of action. We meet to tell one another things that we already know. We because our agenda says that every Wednesday at 9:00 we meet. We meet in ways that don’t engage us as people, and so of course people get bored, don’t listen to one another and feel our time and energy is wasted.

I agree that this sort of meeting should be done away with, but who said that any meetings should be like this? I believe that what is being expressed is a desire to get rid of this perversion of meetings, and in the rush to escape this we risk throwing away the baby with the bathwater.

“Meetings are usually terrible, but they shouldn’t be.”

Patrick Lencioni

The ability to cooperate to work together is one of our human superpowers. Throughout our history, we have worked together. Humans are group animals, not solitary. I am convinced that throughout the ages it is our ability to harness our collective knowledge and will that helped us get through all the great challenges we have faced. Meeting together has been our way to build connection, with one another, to extend beyond ourselves, in short, they can be wonderful parts of human life.

Instead of getting rid of this superpower in organizations I think it is time to reclaim them. In order to do that we need to learn about the architecture of a good meeting, the structures, beliefs, and methods that ensure that people can meet well together and in ways that benefit themselves, their projects and their beneficiaries. Within the Genuine Contact™ approach we have a belief that people are precious, and meetings should reflect this. I know that every time I am asked to hold or facilitate a meeting people are giving of their valuable energy and time, and therefore the meeting should contribute something. People should go away knowing something that they didn’t before, whether this is valuable information, a good idea of how to move forward on a project, or new insights and connections among one another, when people come together there is a chance for great things to happen. This translates into at it’s most basic making sure that there is a purpose for the meeting that is known.

In bringing people together with respect I also know I would like as much as possible for those people in the room to be able to contribute all that they would like. Great meetings have the potential to harness the wisdom and insight of the group as a whole beyond any one participant. Because of this, it’s vital to design and facilitate meetings that allow people to fully participate and to bring in their wisdom as whole people, using their emotional, spiritual, physical and mental intelligence to address issues.

This is why within the GC approach we pay so much attention to our facilitation methods. We work predominantly with two methods. Open Space Technology for when we want people to get together in life nurturing ways to address an issue where they don’t have a clear pathway forward, and Whole Person Process Facilitation, when they want to get together in generative ways when they do have a clear set of outcomes and predetermined results.

Over the years using these methods I have found that I seldom have a bad meeting, and people always leave feeling like something worthwhile has taken place. I have seen people come together in 4-hour meeting in which they exclaim with surprise that they didn’t notice the time flew by. I have watched people address what felt like impossible challenges coming out with deeper connection, great ideas, and increased will and ability to address and surmount what seemed impossible. I have been privileged over the years to witness our human superpower of collective wisdom/collective will in action that comes when we meet under the right conditions.

You can make a start on improving your meetings by attending to the following things when going planning your next meetings:

  • Do you know the purpose of the meeting you are planning? Does it involve some sort of ‘learning’? If yes, that’s great, if no, ask yourself if you really need to meet to communicate the information?
  • Do those people coming to the meeting also know the purpose?
  • What is the physical environment in which the meeting is taking place? Is it comfortable? Does it lend itself to sharing ideas, or is it more suited to one way communication?
  • When people arrive to the meeting, can you give them some time to arrive and land in the space? Do you provide a chance to focus on the purpose?

Starting with these simple things, you can already improve the way you meet together. If you want to dive deeper reclaiming the power of meetings and learning how to facilitate them to make use of this incredible human superpower, I can highly recommend you dive into learning participative meeting methods.

In Fall 2019, I am l happy to offer two workshops that teach the most powerful meeting methods I have yet to encounter: Learning to Work with Open Space Technology from 3 -5 September and Whole Person Process Facilitation from 16 to 18 October

Doris Gottlieb

Written by

Independent Consultant Facilitator Coach working to connect people to their potential.

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