Behavioral scientists tell us that the culture in an organization is the culture that is tolerated.  If an organization has poor customer service, don’t blame the workers – blame the leaders for tolerating the culture.  Likewise, if an organization has bad collaboration skills due to poorly-led meetings, don’t blame the workers!

And, when an organization wants to transform to a customer service culture, the path is simple, though not easy – gain buy-in on the need for change; declare the behaviors you want and why; provide training in those behaviors; communicate, recognize, and reward the behaviors; and hold people accountable when those behaviors are lacking.

And, oh yes, creating a customer service culture takes leadership: leaders who passionately believe in customer service, steadfastly support it, and strive to exhibit the behaviors themselves.

As with the customer service example, transforming the culture of how groups meet and collaborate at an organization requires leadership buy-in, a vision of something better, skill building around the behaviors, effective rewards, and accountability. Facilitating Masterful Meetings provides a ten-step master plan for transforming meetings so that your organization will collaborate with higher levels of engagement.  The following key success principles are the basis for the master plan:

1. Gain support from your leadership team before taking any action.

For this change to be successful, every member of your leadership team must understand that bad meetings are hurting the organization and that bringing about change requires a focused effort. They must understand that their teams within the organization are not innovating because they are not collaborating – they are stuck in wasteful meetings that are unfocused, dysfunctional, and inhibiting results due to lack of meeting facilitation skills. They must understand that their role as leaders in the organization is to ignite a fire within their direct reports and to have their direct reports ignite a fire in their direct reports, and so on.

2. Establish a baseline to demonstrate the need for improvement.

Use a meeting survey to provide a baseline of the current state of meetings in the organization. The survey answers questions such as:

  • How much time are we spending in meetings?
  • What percentage of our meetings do we consider productive and effective?
  • What are the common problems in our meetings?
  • What are strategies we should consider for improving meetings?
  • Overall, how satisfied are we with our meetings?

3. Communicate a vision of what a masterful, collaborative meeting looks and feels like.

The vision defines how meetings in general should be planned, started, executed, and closed.  It describes the role of meeting leaders and participants.  It also provides good examples of ground rules, meeting notices, and meeting minutes. Masterful meetings create collaborative environments.

4. Empower every individual to actively participate in eliminating bad meetings.

By establishing meeting rights and encouraging people to exercise them, you put in place a mechanism for a grass-roots revolution that will serve as a driver for making bad meetings unacceptable.

5. Provide vehicles for improving skills of meeting leaders and participants.

However, granting a provocative list of rights could result in anarchy if you don’t provide meeting leaders and meeting participants with the skills to honor those rights.

For some, it will be sufficient to provide a meetings manual that includes best practices and a blueprint for preparing and running masterful meetings.  The meetings manual should describe the role of meeting participants and meeting leaders, and also cover strategies for resolving conflict, addressing dysfunctional meeting behavior, and leading “virtual” meetings and other special meeting types.

–     For most however, especially those who frequently lead meetings, a manual will likely not be sufficient.  It will be more helpful for them to have training, along with practice and feedback opportunities, to allow them to build proficiency in running masterful meetings in a safe, classroom environment.

6. Sustain momentum.

Sustaining a meetings transformation requires a focused effort on monitoring performance, communicating progress, rewarding successes, and taking corrective action when needed.  Establish a small transformation team who takes responsibility for continuing to raise the bar on meetings.

Break the Habits, Break the Norm

The next time you find yourself saying, “This is an awful meeting,” remember that we get what we tolerate.  Just look around the room and think about how much of your organization’s precious time and resources are being wasted every single business day.

When you have had enough, take action.  Begin raising the bar in a number of ways.  Get trained in essential meeting facilitation skills from Facilitating Masterful Meeting, the two-day course that will help you amplify the way your group meets and collaborates for better results.