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Align purpose, technique, attitude

Craig reflects on a recent meeting where some people were very frustrated because they couldn’t solve their problem! Yet problem solving wasn’t the purpose of the meeting.

In this video Craig explains how important it is to align the meeting purpose with facilitation techniques with participant attitudes.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley here. I was in a meeting the other day and the purpose of the meeting was to gather input, for us to learn from each other, and for the organizers of the meeting to be able to learn all the different perspectives of the people in the meeting. Think: a Town Hall kind of meeting, or public input meeting. Sometimes corporate managers might have a meeting like this where they want to gather input from their staff.

The thing was, in this meeting, I set up a ground rule. It was something like “Everybody gets to talk once before anybody talks twice.” The idea being that I wanted to hear — we wanted to hear — from everybody in the room; all the different perspectives.

But some people in that meeting were quite frustrated. Somebody would speak and then this person wanted to build on that idea, or somebody else would speak and they wanted to critique that idea, and we had a few people that were chomping at the bit to talk twice before everybody had a chance to talk once! And I got to realizing afterwards that it’s probably because their expectation was mismatched with the meeting purpose.

You see, I think it works well to let people build on each other’s comments or critique each other’s ideas when the purpose is problem-solving. We might call it brainstorming. That’s what we call collaboration, or you might have other names for it. You know, when we let ourselves go and even allow each other to interrupt and we’re just, you know, building on the momentum and energy in solving a problem or making something new.

But when the purpose of the meeting is to collect information and hear all the different perspectives, that’s not the right time for interrupting each other and critiquing each other’s ideas. In fact, I think that the “problem” that those people were trying to solve was: they wanted other people to see things their way. They went to that meeting to try and work on that problem, but that wasn’t the purpose of the meeting.

So I’m just naming that there are different reasons for having a meeting. There are different techniques and ways of calling on people to match the purpose of the meeting. And there are also different attitudes and expectations that we bring to a meeting.

When these three things are aligned — meeting purpose, facilitation techniques, and participant attitude — we have a really good chance of having a great meeting and making good group decisions.

Thanks for listening everybody!

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