Think of all the team meetings you’ve attended in your working life. Chances are that they didn’t represent a high point in your career.
Leaving aside the basic fact that managers tend to like meetings a lot more than ‘makers’ (programmers, technicians etc) who tend to view meetings as interruptions to getting their work done, most team meetings that I’ve experienced have been about working in the business (getting a never-ending list of tasks done) and not working on the business to be more capable (improving relationships, building on strengths, generating ideas, eliminating distractions, etc)
How do your team meetings typically start? When I ask this question of my Appreciative Inquiry students, I typically get answers like:
- minutes of the last meeting (zzzz)
- follow up on last week’s actions, or even
- biggest problems we face right now
While accountability is important, and problems need to be dealt with, the effect of starting meetings this way will be to activate the ‘Task Positive’ or ‘analytical’ networks in the brains of the participants.
This is great for hitting deadlines and agreed targets, but not great for deciding what’s the right way to go, generating trust in the team, or being open to new ideas.
For that you need to activate your team’s ‘Default Mode’ or ’empathic’ networks, to allow them to come up with new and creative ideas, fresh solutions to challenges, and to strengthen trust between team members.
Once they have come up with a choice of options and reconnected with their strengths, then they can shift into Task Positive mode to implement the chosen solution.
So how do you get your team into empathic mode? Start your team meeting with an appreciative question or two.
The easiest way to start is to ask what’s gone well since the last meeting.
Some coaches advocate asking each team member to share something that’s gone well in their personal lives. Personally, I think this might be experienced as intrusive, particularly if things actually aren’t going well at home (a sick child, a relationship on the rocks), but also if a team member is on the reserved and introverted side. So I prefer to keep this question within the realm of work.
Don’t go round the meeting pointing at people and asking “You! What have you achieved this week?”. Instead, invite team members to volunteer what’s gone well, without putting them on the spot.
What’s the effect of asking what’s gone well? It tends to put the team more into ’empathic’ mode, particularly if other team members are acknowledged for their contributions to making things go well.
With their empathic networks activated, for the rest of the meeting the team will work together more effectively, be more willing to listen and learn, and be more likely to engage and come up with better solutions to challenges.
What about those serious individuals who think that meetings are purely for talking about tasks? Try this little ‘brain hack’:
Say ‘Before we start the meeting…’ and then ask what’s gone well. Try it out!
Do you want to open up new possibilities for team coaching and motivating and engaging your staff?
What new ideas to turbocharge your effectiveness could you come up with, by applying Appreciative Inquiry to your existing expertise?
Book yourself onto the next Practical Appreciative Inquiry training starting soon).
Fancy trying some different appreciative questions to start your meeting? Here are ideas for ‘20 Appreciative Questions To Jumpstart Your Team Meeting‘ from Dr Lynn K Jones.