Sunday, April 3, 2016
The agenda is placed at each chair. Topics listed in the order they will be shared. Different people are at the meeting to report findings or topics. Each person goes around the table, sharing their information about the topic. A little discussion. Meeting adjourned.
This is the type of meeting I have been a part of and have also led. The meeting ends up becoming a laundry list of items to cover with little discussion. If a solution needs to be created on a particular topic, there may typically be a solution already at hand presented, discussed, and then agreed upon. I had created agendas and meetings like this for years. But I felt something was missing.
It struck me one day when creating an agenda for my leadership team. I would create the agenda about one week ahead of time, listing topics we would discuss, send it out to my team for comments, and then move on. However, this was not inspiring the discussion I wanted to have with my leadership team. I didn’t simply want a meeting where I would share information, push out a few questions to the team for us to brainstorm, and then walk away. I wanted a meeting where it was collaborative, all of the team contributing ideas and solutions to the questions we wanted to ask as a school.
So, how would I build this collaborative meeting culture?
I decided to create an agenda of questions. No more topics would be listed. Everything would be posed as a question to be discussed. The questions are broad, yet driven from our school action plan topics, opening conversation to solutions.
I still send out an agenda a week in advance, but now, my team can think about the questions ahead of time, pulling together thoughts and ideas to bring to the meeting. Once the meeting is started, I pose the question and then open the table for comment and discussion. Sometimes, we even have post-its for an Affinity activity or a Google Slides document so we can jot our brainstorming down, breaking into smaller groups.
Within one meeting, the vibe of the conversation changed. It was no longer one-sided. Yes, there was still some delivery of information, however, mostly each idea was discussed and the solution was collaborative. Our discussions have been more vibrant and collaborative, filled with meaningful discussion, ideas brought to the table, and it is much more inclusive.
One simple idea - changing a list of topics on a meeting agenda to questions - has transformed the culture of our meetings. Even more than that, when anyone has a question regarding our action plan or vision for the school, all I have to say is, “That is a great question. Let me put that on our next meeting agenda!”