The secret of successful meetings? It is you.

Tomasz Kaczanowski
Apr 10 · 3 min read

This post was originally published at http://tomek.kaczanowscy.pl/2019/04/the-secret-of-successful-meetings-it-is-you/

A skilled facilitator once told me: “My skills don’t count. What really matters are the participants. Artful participation is the key.”

I’m not 100% convinced as I think a skilled facilitator makes a huge difference, but it definitely made me think. And what he said boils down to few points:

  • everyone who attends a meeting is responsible for its success,
  • each participant can make a meeting more (or less!) effective,
  • participation, similarly to facilitation, is a skill that you can master.

Sociocracy 3.0 has a pattern that explains it (in fact, this pattern is for every type of collaboration, not only meetings). It is called Artful Participation and it urges us to:

Commit to doing your best to act and interact in ways that enable effective collaboration.

Imagine

“Is my behavior in this moment the greatest contribution I can make to the effectiveness of this collaboration?”

Imagine Mark not going into details when you discuss high-level vision. Imagine Mary speaking up when she has something valuable to say (everyone knows she does, but for some reasons, she never speaks on her own). Imagine X & Y not going into “who is the alpha male” type of contest. Imagine Z not interrupting others, A not clicking her f*(#& pen and B not rolling his eyes every time C speaks.

…your world would be a much better place, wouldn’t it?

My list

“is what I’m doing the best I can do for this collaboration?”.

Very often the answer is no. Then I try to change my behavior. Sometimes I succeed.

I have my personal list of things that I should (or shouldn’t) be doing so that I help to achieve effective collaboration. It includes:

  • giving other chance to speak (AKA “shut up and listen”),
  • not taking part in “who is the smartest/funniest guy” contest,
  • restraining myself from telling a joke/anecdote,
  • telling a joke/anecdote (sometimes this is what is needed!),
  • not interrupting others (very hard when I’m oh-so-in-love with something so smart and witty that I plan to say),
  • not interrupting when the discussion doesn’t go as I expected to (sometimes a sidetrack discussion can lead to some very interesting places),
  • reminding others (often by interrupting them) about the goal of the meeting when discussion drifts away from the topic (and it doesn’t go into interesting places) and I feel we won’t reach the meeting goal or any reasonable goal at all,
  • demanding we finish with clear actions (“OK, so we talked, now what are the action points?”),
  • not allowing others to report to me (when I’m facilitating),
  • engaging others to participate,
  • demanding that we start with facts (so that everyone understands the context),
  • leaving the meeting if my presence doesn’t bring any value (very hard to do!),
  • … and so on

Just do it

Tomasz Kaczanowski

Written by

Dev, team lead, agile coach and organisation builder. http://kaczanowscy.pl/books/