August 2019

Is there any hope for our meetings?

Dear Leah M.

Managers meetings... ours are just reporting out in a circle about things we already know and a huge waste of time. The CEO is probably not open to something better since he likes decisions to be top down, not made with a group. Any hope for our meetings? Any advice to move towards getting things done in meetings instead of reporting on past work? Are there other ways you know of to do reporting out that are interesting?

Roberta the Report Out Robot

Dear Roberta,

There is definitely hope! Meetings (and robots) are capable of so much more than spewing out bullet points. Productive meetings are typically a combination of sharing important information, making decisions, and learning from one another. But when group decision-making isn’t possible you can still get a ton of meeting value by maximizing learning. 

Add a twist to your “circle time” with a prompt that will make your meetings more learning-focused. For example: “In this past month, what was a solution you or your team tried when solving a challenging problem? Describe the problem and the solution.”

Here’s how you might go about using this prompt:

1.    Let the other managers know in advance about the change so they can prepare.  

2.    During the meeting, start by sharing your example or prep another manager to go first. Lead by example and be brave in your story choice. 

3.    Give people time for feedback and to ask questions. 

4.    If you really want to amp it up a notch, have everyone anonymously vote on who provided the best example, and offer a prize. Week-after-week, this will encourage your managers to become more thoughtful and courageous. 

5.    Repeat during each meeting.

Now, let’s discuss your CEO…

Have you or anyone else in your tedious circle-time report outs ever actually tried to mix it up? You say the CEO is probably not open to change, so I’m assuming you have good reason to believe that. But, on the off chance that your CEO is open to new and innovative ideas, checking with him is a good place to start.  You might be suggesting improvements that other managers and your CEO have simply never considered. Go ahead and open that door to change first – you may be surprised by what it brings about from your fellow robots!

Of course, if your CEO is truly change-resistant, you will need to think through some strategies to get him on board. Whatever your CEO’s priority messages are (e.g., fundraising, big ideas, cutting costs) appeal to those. For example, “I was thinking about how you are always encouraging us to [insert message] and have been exploring how we can do that even more. One opportunity might be through our manager’s meetings….” You get where I’m going?

And hey, if your CEO doesn’t see the benefit in these types of changes, then at the very least, during your next dull meeting you can spend your time imagining what it would be like for your robot-army of managers to eventually learn so much that they become more powerful than their human CEO overlord, and take over the organization that oppressed them. I mean, that would solve your problem, right? 

Luckily, even without a robot revolution, there is a reason for hope. Despite the drudgery, you are looking for a better way. Your curiosity and desire for improvement is the real reason why things won’t stay so stale forever. 



Leah M. 

Are you looking for other ways to improve your meeting facilitation skills?

Join us on February 3rd and 4th in Washington DC for our next public workshop. From regular managers’ meetings to lengthy strategic planning sessions, we will share our best practices for facilitating meetings to help you maximize your impact for animals, people & the environment. Register here.

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Have a burning question about work for Leah M.? Ask HERE.