• Dr. Paul Metler

Are Your Meetings Actually Exhilarating, Or Do They Drain People?

Updated: Sep 8


WELCOME TO THE PEOPLE BUSINESS

It’s Tuesday morning, and you know what that means.


The Tuesday morning meeting begins the same way every week. Six people are seated around a spacious conference table with their chairs angled toward a screen mounted on the wall. Three faces are visible on the screen. The muted participants on the screen match the engagement level in the room. All nine people appear to be mesmerized by their phones.


No one speaks.


There’s no human connection.


When you see this meeting on your calendar, you roll your eyes. There’s no joy, no positive energy in the room. It’s hard for you to believe it will improve anytime soon.


You’re in the room. What are you thinking? How are you feeling?


It takes some real courage to turn around unhealthy meetings. Leaders must reach the tipping point. The pain of remaining the same must be significant enough to embrace the pain of leading change. Is it worth it? The rewards are remarkable. Imagine how levels of engagement transform. Meetings, both formal and informal, become your best leadership development platform.


There is a way forward. How do you transform a dull meeting into invigorating engagement? The ingredients are already in the room. You can become a catalyst and unleash the talent in front of you. You transform meetings when you awaken people. Everyone has natural leadership and communication strengths.


Transformation happens when every leader in the room brings their best energy, leadership, and communication to your meetings. It won’t happen without a significant personal investment. It’s easy to blame a lousy meeting on the plan or the other people in the room. Instead of feeling like you are a victim of another bad meeting, take a risk and move forward.

Here are three things that will help you.


INVEST IN EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

What hinders positive change in your culture? Simply put, emotional intelligence is a way to tap into what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling and translate that into engaged, proactive leadership. It hinges on both self-awareness and social awareness. When team members lack emotional intelligence, they lack the essentials for success because the real issues that everyone is thinking about remain hidden under the surface.


As humans, we share the same basic needs. We need safety, meaning, and a sense of belonging. Frequently, the problems you are experiencing in meetings signal a need to improve emotional intelligence. If engagement is poor in discussions, it’s very likely that meetings outside the meetings are unhealthy as well.


Effective meetings are great because people feel safe and valuable, and they understand their own strengths and recognize and value the strengths of others. That enables team members to put issues on the table.


Ask yourself, “What would happen if I brought my best leadership and communication to the table and others did the same?” If it seems like better experiences in meetings could significantly contribute to your quality of life, it’s because it’s true. And It’s not just about life at work. It’s about transforming an energy drainer into an energizing experience. Emotional intelligence matters, and it’s on display in those weekly meetings.


It would help if you had a plan to enhance self-awareness and social awareness. When you acquire talent, newly hired team members expect you to provide a roadmap for success some tools to help them avoid failure. They arrive with predictable expectations:

  1. Help me understand myself and others

  2. Help me understand the dynamics of our team culture

  3. Help me improve my ability to lead in real-time situations

  4. Help me contribute to the organization through better decisions and better problem-solving

Why is this kind of help so important? To maximize your organization’s potential, you must create the right environment. The right environment for innovation is rich with team members who know how to bond, belong, and contribute.


On the other hand, when employees are disconnected, they languish. Without understanding how they connect with the things that drive team success, they drift. And they rarely drift in a positive direction. They drift away from meaningful engagement. They drift away from solutions and toward drama. Eventually, they will drift away from the organization altogether.


Meetings provide a microcosm of organizational life. It’s the perfect practice field for developing emotional intelligence.


LEARN HOW TO GIVE AND RECEIVE FEEDBACK IN REAL-TIME

Do you tend to talk about your feelings before or after a meeting rather than during one? Is it safe to share your thoughts and feelings in real-time? Are you prepared to engage in real-time feedback in a kind, direct, and respectful manner? These are common challenges. If you struggle, you’re not the only one. Overcoming our worst tendencies toward defensiveness is one of the most powerful steps toward an energized and empowered leadership culture.


Improving how you give and receive feedback will drive organizational leadership and learning. More specifically, if new and incumbent leaders learn how to master feedback, you will be able to address issues in real-time, including those challenging meetings that drain your energy.


Problem-solving depends on accountability. Decision-making depends on accountability. Your best decisions and solutions stall when honesty is withheld. Feedback flows when emotional intelligence improves. If you cannot give and receive feedback, you have limited the potential for making a meeting successful.


Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone recommend that we “Cultivate growth identities. Talk about the differences in how people process positive and negative feedback. “Float the concept of honest and supportive mirrors and get the grapevine actually to grow something beyond rumors - peers helping one another to see their blind spots and process feedback for what’s right, not just venting about what’s wrong.”


Learn to recognize your triggers and find a way to learn - discussable during feedback conversations. People get better when they practice and can practice more productively when both people in the exchange are aware of feedback challenges. Discuss reactions to feedback, confusion, defensiveness, blind spots, and interpretations regarding where the input is coming from and going - these should all be part of everyday conversations on how to do things well.


PRACTICE LEADERSHIP WITH POSITIVE INTENT

You need a practice field. You already have one. It’s your meeting.


Edward Hess emphasizes the need for intentional practice. If you want a better culture, you need to create opportunities to learn together. “Learning well is not done carelessly. Learning skills are improved through intentional practice with contemporaneous feedback that focuses on improving specific weaknesses.


Every meeting is a practice field. Every formal and informal discussion of two or more people provides a real-time opportunity to practice, learn, and improve. We can learn alone, but we rarely do. It’s nearly impossible to transform your leadership without enhancing your emotional intelligence. And you can’t do that alone. Carol Dweck champions the benefits of learning. If you want to remain stuck, hold on to a fixed mindset. If you desire to learn, utilize your meetings to practice these qualities:

  • Embody a growth mindset

  • Engage your zest for learning

  • Put critical issues on the table

  • Maximize open and honest feedback

Positive intent matters. Leadership is about you, but it’s never just about you. The best leaders bring out the best in others. Feedback may be challenging, but it’s not demeaning. Feedback may be uncomfortable, but it’s delivered to elevate and not diminish. Learning is a team sport.


What comes to mind when you hear leaders describe themselves as lifelong learners? Is it all about new technology, skills, reading more articles and books, and listening to podcasts? Or is it about transforming yourself and others? What if your meetings became a leadership laboratory?


We can help guide you to new levels of leadership. At InitiativeOne, we transform organizational potential by accelerating personal and professional development. One meeting at a time.

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