The 7F Model™ for Meeting Management
“Meetings are wonderful. I can’t wait to get to my next one.”
“Meetings really make my day. Who wouldn’t want more of them?”
“Meetings are the best things about this job. I wouldn’t’ stay here without them.”
Have you EVER heard anyone utter these words? I’m guessing that your answer is “NO”. But, why not? Why shouldn’t meetings be great? Why shouldn’t people want to go to meetings? Why shouldn’t meetings be the best thing ever?
Meetings get a bad rap. The very purpose of a meeting is to bring people together for a meaningful reason: to solve persistent problems, make decisions that impact all, solicit divergent opinions so that consequences are taken into consideration, engage everyone in planning, re-energize the team, build and re-set relationships, rebuild trust, celebrate successes, recognize stakeholders, and vision the future. All of these things are MEANINGFUL things; things that matter to greatly to people and to organizational cultures.
The problem is not meetings themselves. The problem is that most meeting managers don’t know how to effectively plan for or facilitate meetings. So, staff members and stakeholders are resigned to attend meetings that only steal away time, energy and motivation. Meetings should excite, energize, enthuse and engage people; not just be used to lecture or inform.
Here a process for re-engineering your meetings so that they are much more effective.
The 7F Model™ (copy, adapt, and use only with permission and proper copyright)
The function of a meeting is/are its’ purpose(s). So the key questions include: what is the purpose of the meeting? What outcomes do you want to achieve? What reasons-for-meeting would matter to your people? Here are some meaningful functions (e.g., purposes, reasons, rationales for meetings). Your agendas should accommodate at least two of these per meeting.
- Info sharing, progress updates, decision-making, problem solving, peer recognition, peer training, project planning, strategizing for managing up (e.g., getting advocates, allies, support), idea and insight contribution, consequence consideration, relationship building, relationship re-sets, onboarding and welcoming of newbies, vision planning, value discussions, service assessments, feedback offerings, celebrations, cultural sharing, change/transition preparation, etc. How diverse are your meeting agenda items?
How often should the type of meeting that you are facilitating take place and for how long? Well, that, in part, depends upon what you want to accomplish with meetings in general. For example, if you want to build relationships then the frequency should be more often, but if you want to simply provide updates about what’s happening at headquarters then the meetings can be less frequent.
Form and format refer to the methods you’ll use to ensure that you’ll achieve your purpose (i.e., meeting function). Most facilitators merely use monologue lecturing. The result is SILENCE from others. Silence occurs because the culture of the meeting-to-this-point has been one of non-inclusivity, autocratic leadership, dependency on the leader, or accepted avoidance of participatory responsibility. To shift this culture a facilitator must choose and change formats regularly for the first 6-8 meetings. New or alternate formats can include:
- Assigning agenda items to different people during the meeting, asking provocative questions and calling on the first few respondents, scheduling peer teaching modules during the meeting, engaging in voting on solutions or plans of action, use of problem solving tools, delegating meeting management roles (e.g., minute-taking, time-keeping) to various people, inserting icebreaker activities, facilitating team building/relationship building activities, dividing people up into dyads for brainstorming and peer coaching, flip charting, inviting guest speakers/listeners, engaging everyone in the reading of a report or article, etc. How diverse are your meeting formats?
The folks who are invited to attend the meeting should be the ones who are relevant to achieving the end purpose (i.e., function). Too often, because a leader seeks inclusivity and equality, she/he mandates that everyone must attend a meeting. The attendees who have no role, reason or responsibility for segments of the agenda then begin to resent the heck out of the facilitator and resist meeting participation. So, be selective about who should be at the meeting, for what agenda items. Ask yourself:
- Who should be at portions of the meeting? Can an agenda be established so that some people can arrive late or leave early? Who should lead portions of the meeting? Who must you hear from regarding certain agenda items and how can you prepare them in advance for active participation?
The word “facilitation” means to make something easier, to cause something to happen, to help something run more smoothly and effectively. If you are going to actually facilitate a meaningful meeting then you’ll have to ensure that certain things are in place and agreements held-to. These things and agreements include:
- Rules, timelines, participation agreements, boundaries around what will and will not be discussed/tolerated, techniques for dealing with monopolizers/detractors/debaters, use of tools for stopping or shifting silence, breaks, refreshments, shifts in your styles of communication, etc. Have you learned to facilitate?
All too often meeting goers falsely believe that their only job is to attend a meeting. They don’t realize that attendance infers active participation and furthermore may entail after-meeting/post-meeting work. Meetings are meant to begin conversations, begin planning, begin to finalize decisions and begin building or re-setting relationships. Rarely can any of these aforementioned tasks be fully completed at each meeting. So, follow through is required. This entails the divvying-up of assignments, action items and next steps. These should be divided evenly when at all possible. It is demoralizing to your more effective team or meeting members to be the ones who always are asked to ‘do the work’ after the meeting. So, do your best to set and abide by working agreements that include the divvying-up of:
- Assignments and commitments
Follow up refers to the recognition of contributions during, after and in between meetings. It answers the question: when, how and by whom will meeting items and member be ‘gotten back-to’? People want to know that their presence is valued. Lip-serviced promises cultivate distrust in a facilitator or leader’s promises. One of the things I hear most, from people who detest meetings, is “why go or speak up? Nothing ever happens. Nothing changes. They never do anything with our ideas or advice.” For meetings to matter people have to believe that their presence and contributions matter; that action is being taken. A facilitator or other leaders must provide regular updates to meeting goers about action that has been taken, is being taken, or is stalled at the moment. The updates equal recognition of people’s contributions. So, before ending a meeting, make sure that you:
- List what and how items will be followed-up upon and who is responsible for the follow-up
The 7F Model™ helps you create the foundation for more interactive, effective and meaningful meetings. There may still be other issues that rattle your meeting effectiveness (e.g., disruptors, senior management pressures, etc.) but begin by setting a solid foundation and you’ll be off to a good start.
[The 7F Model™ included in the PowerSkills seminar on Effective Meeting Management. For more information about bringing this seminar to your organization contact us at www.yourpowerskills.com. The 7F Model™ is trademarked and copyrighted by Robert J Schout & PowerSkills Training & Development, Inc. All rights reserved.]