We are spending our lives on Zoom and other video conferencing systems these days. What separates a meeting you dread and one that gets you excited about the work you do?
Even before we consider the challenges of meeting online, let’s consider what makes any meetings deadly.
So, review what makes any meeting work better. You can download my meeting planning worksheet to help guide you through the planning process.
Better online meetings
A couple steps for getting comfortable leading online meetings
This is important for any meeting but especially important when you also have to manage the technology you are using. As a first step, finishing the phrase – “By the end of this meeting, we will have XYZ” is a great place to start.
Online this is even more important. You will need to plan what tools you are using. You will need to make sure everyone can access the documents you will be referring to during the meeting, the files or system you will be using to capture notes and brainstorms, etc. Also plan for a lower tech plan B.
You need to familiarize with the systems you are using to run the meeting. Take some time to play with the system before you pull the group together. Consider testing some features with a colleague and see what you can “break.”
Want help educating yourself? Consider enrolling in my four-week group coaching program, Effective Online Facilitation.
Groups often fear working on a consensus basis because they are afraid of the time it will take to make a decision. They are afraid of being caught in a spiral of discussion, more discussion and yet more discussion and no resolution. They may be afraid of this because they may assume that everyone has to be 100% behind a decision for the group to move ahead.
When a group is considering an issue, ideally there is a discussion that considers a wide range of options. Then the discussion comes to a clear end point with a decision. Once a decision is made the group moves to action. This image illustrates this ideal.
Americans tend to be quite action oriented and in our culture we can get impatient easily, wanting to jump to a decision. And thus more frequently it feels like this:
Part of the group thinks a decision has been made and others thinks the item is still up for discussion. And still others may not be clear what decision is on the table.
Once the group is clear about what they are deciding, a useful tool for testing the level of agreement is the consensus continuum.
Applying the continuum
I was part of a board that used this continuum when it was deliberating about a very challenging situation. There was no good solution to the high stakes problem we were facing. There were only several bad choices to choose from. Which bad choice was better than the other? We deliberated for a long time. Deliberation happened over multiple meetings, over multiple weeks. Ultimately we were able to make a decision that everyone in the group could live with even if it was not their preferred option by using this tool.
How many people you need to have in the 1-3 zone will depend on how high stakes a decision it is. Using this as a check in can move along even decisions that may seem like they are low stakes but are taking a long time. You may find it is higher stakes for some in the group.
Making time for process
Groups often want to jump to action and resist taking time on ‘process’ issues. Being clear about how the group makes decisions is a core process issue that rarely gets discussed. Taking the time can actually save the group both time and angst in the long run.
Have a group that needs help with how they are working together? Reach out for a coaching session.
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