Words of Wisdom for
Leadership, Learning, and Life in
Exactly 99 Words
99's On the Go

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2012 Brian Remer
Updated March 2012


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99's on the 9th


Ideas based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.

March 2012

Taking a Stand
In some organizations, no one is allowed to sit during meetings. The idea is that if we have to stand, we'll finish the meeting and get back to business. The problem is that this assumes a limited use for meetings: giving orders or reporting. Both could be accomplished as easily in an e-mail!

If the meeting is to analyze, create, learn, solve, celebrate, then make a place for dialogue. Spread the table with linens, flowers, coffee, and snacks and have a meaningful conversation.

Shape the environment to your needs. Don't force people into your well-oiled machine.

 

You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization

 

There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.

Wouldn't it be great to look forward to meetings?

Some companies are reporting more satisfaction with standing-up meetings that keep conversations short. A recent article in the The Wall Street Journal (Feb. 2, 2012 "No More Angling for the Best Seat; More Meetings Are Stand-Up Jobs" by Rachel Emma Silverman) lists additional tactics to keep meetings brief: meeting in a cold stairwell, meeting right before the lunch hour, or having latecomers and long-winded members pay a fine or sing a silly song. Unfortunately, this article does not make a distinction about why some meetings might need to be longer.

Standing up may make a meeting shorter but is "short" really what we're looking for? Perhaps we are focusing on short meetings when what we really want is productivity. If a facilitator said at the beginning, "By the end of this meeting you will have shared what you've done since yesterday, identified the roadblocks you've encountered, and listed the help you need." Everyone could sit down, focus, and be just as efficient as if they were standing.

Lost in all this talk is the reason to hold meetings - and there is only one reason: to do work that a single person cannot do alone. Perhaps you want to solve a problem, invent new ideas, share information, or complete a project. Maybe you want to do these things in an hour or maybe you expect them to take several months. In any case, you are gathering people in one place (either physically or virtually) because you need their assistance for success. And if you need each person's effort for success in the long term, you also need their input during the short term of the meeting.

To get that input, consider how you might make your meeting productive without resorting to coercion, intimidation, embarrassment, physical discomfort, or manipulation. A critical strategy is the establishment of an outcome based agenda for your meeting. Give your meeting guidance with a statement such as "By the end of this meeting we will have (identifiedů, analyzedů, listedů, decidedů, etc.)." Learn more about outcome based agendas from Guila Muir. Your meeting will also be more productive when you determine procedures for gathering ideas and making decisions, choose someone as recorder, use facilitation skills, and ask for feedback when the meeting is over.

Of course, meetings are just a metaphor of what's going on in the organization as a whole. If you want your organization to achieve its goals, set up the environment so people can do their best work. Help them be successful by taking away the barriers to productivity. Include the elements that will contribute to creativity, and a relaxed, social atmosphere. Provide the tools and resources essential for the task. Give people the freedom to ask probing questions, make mistakes, and experiment with alternative ways of doing things.

Facilitated poorly, meetings can run everybody down. But run them well and they can be the oil lubricating your whole organizational machine.

 

Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.

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