Almost everyone I meet seems to think they know how to run a meeting. The startup founders I coach are convinced that their ability to guide a process is better than almost anyone else. The coaches I work with are no different, they feel their ability to listen and reflect makes them master facilitators. And yet consistently when I sit in on a meeting that one of my clients runs, I have to bite my tongue to hold back my suggestions and objections.
The truth is: MOST MEETINGS SUCK.
This is despite the fact that there are numerous guides, books, and outlines for how to run meetings. The real problem is that running a meeting is less about the mechanics (timing, agendas, talking sticks, conches, wands, etc) and more about the ability to be with people while also leading them with grace to a place THEY want to go.
So after running thousands of meetings and sitting through even more, here’s the skills you actually need to be successful.
Part 6: You Have To Prep And Followup Like A Master
A big thing I see many facilitators miss is the importance of preparation and follow up. I can’t even tell you how many inspiring mastermind sessions I’ve run or strategic plans I’ve crafted only to have people take no action and forget about all the dope work we did.
As a coach I know that 90% of the work happens in between the sessions. As a facilitator it’s no different.
1) You need enrollment from the key players – If people haven’t bought into the process the session isn’t going to go well. With a mastermind group this means making sure members are engaged from the beginning and that they stay engaged throughout the group’s lifecycle.
Since you’re the facilitator that means establishing relationships with each of them and having them get clear on what they are going to create for themselves and also offer to others. As the group goes on they key is to foster relationships between members which will keep everyone engaged.
For groups inside a business, the main relationship is between members of a team so you need to understand those relationships and make sure you’re seen as a neutral player here to help everyone meet their goals. And you’ll also need to make sure you have the buy-in from your main stakeholder(s) which is usually the formal leader (CEO or founder) and the person who hired you. Very often this is the same person but sometimes it’s not. You need to make sure you understand their expectations and concerns, because their buy-in is what will allow you to keep working with that team.
2) You need to set the context and create the structure for the session –
As a facilitator the structure needs to be informed by the context. Ideally the structure will be flexible enough to handle any breakdowns but rigorous enough to make sure the team or group reaches its desired goals.
Some of this is “best practices” but often it requires having real tough conversations about what needs to happen at each meeting. Either with the key players or with other facilitators who can help you craft the session(s)
Even with a mastermind group that has a set structure, understanding how to set context for the calls and make sure members are engaged and focused requires attending to structure and learning how to tweak it formally (by changing the agenda) or informally (by shifting the time allocated or the way the agenda is set up).
One example of this is that often in masterminds I’ve run, the check-in section becomes pretty rote. People start to say they’re feeling ‘good’ and that their businesses are ‘growing’, which isn’t very helpful for anyone else in the group.
So I regularly have to recreate the context of the check in. I’ve been known to ban the word Good for any part of the check in and to remind people that this is their chance to express what’s really going on in their internal world.
If you prepped well the team or group will be ready for the meeting. If not, you’ll have to spend valuable in person (or online) time to get everyone on the same page.
Following up is another key area that most facilitators drop. They send a brief summary of the meeting and wish the members well.
For companies I’ve found that quarterly check ups are the minimum to track how the team is doing on the plan and often I need to get reports from several departments to discover the real story behind the scenes.
For mastermind groups I’ve found that if you don’t check in on what happened in previous meetings the same problems tend to crop up again and again without really dealing with the underlying issues.
In either case a summary of the session is a bare minimum. Even better is a set of practices to engage in and a way for the participants to report back on what is and isn’t working. This way they can get support on what they’re struggling with.
In addition you need to make sure you’re getting feedback and input from your key stakeholders after the session is complete. If they have a complaint or a concern you want to know that right away so you can deal with it rather than letting it fester and impact your relationship, or even worse, the planning you’ve done or the trust in the group you’ve helped to create.
When you combine preparation and follow up, you will start to see that your role as a facilitator starts long before the meeting happens and may last long after it has ended.
Members of groups I’ve run often reach out to me for support even when I no longer work with their teams and businesses often hire me to come back and work with their teams on a regular basis because of how valuable that relationship is.
The big takeaway here is that facilitation is much more like a relationship than a one night stand. And you need to consider how you’re going to deepen that relationship before you meet so you can sustain it after the meeting has ended.
Stay tuned next week for the final part of this series.
Check back in next week as we cover the final part of this series