Focus on what works well and do more of that!
How often do you start your team meetings with what’s gone well? In my experience, I’d say not very often. This is usually because we want to get on with the task of solving the next presenting problem. Acknowledging what has gone well since last time seems ‘fluffy’ and not really hard work therefore seen as not worthwhile. So what is worthwhile, tough negotiation, convincing others to see things our way, knocking heads together and driving challenges forward? Well yes, but how often do you think – ‘there must be a better way?’
Well, there can be, if you take a little time to get the team into the right frame of mind first.
Imagine starting a meeting in a positive and relaxed frame of mind, rather than in a negative and stressed one. Try asking ‘what’s working well since we last met?” This creates an appreciation of achievement and success, focusing on positives and acknowledging what works well sets the scene for a more positive outcome.
I was ‘briefed’ recently for a meeting I was due to facilitate and warned of the ’troublemakers’ who would try to convince everyone else that their ideas were better than everyone else’s, by taking over the meeting, getting louder, opinionated and more demanding until others gave in and resentfully agreed in order to bring the meeting to a conclusion quickly. Decisions weren’t unanimous and not much happened in between meetings. The process was repeated at the next meeting. I could see why they brought in facilitator!
I spent the first 20 minutes on a feedback exercise – this was a board-level meeting and they wanted to ‘get down to business’ to feel like the time spent at the meeting was worthwhile. With a few sighs initially, they participated to humour me and get the ‘fluffy bit’ out of the way then they could get on with the arguing and shouting others down. We came up with a list of what good feedback is; constructive, honest, backed-up with evidence, respectful etc. We also had a list of poor feedback, vague, rude, attacking the person in order to get your own point across etc. This completely disarmed them by reflecting on what works well and how they wanted to be treated. Reinforcing the view that people respond better to respectful, constructive feedback set the scene for a positive meeting. We used this to act as the 'ground-rules'. Only then, when they had created an appreciative environment, did we move on to the ‘real business’ – and within an hour had agreed on a way forward with harmony and without acrimony.
I don’t know what would have happened if they’d just gone straight into the issue, I suspect they’d have felt the meeting was worthwhile as they were doing really hard work - and that they’d have still been arguing about the way forward hours later. I’d say the 20 minutes of creating a positive mindset paid back several times over.
Whether this is coaching or facilitation is open to debate, but I think all conversations, whether they are one to one coaching sessions or working with a group, have “better” outcomes when they focus on what’s working well – then do more of that!