Meetings with a Mission, Part 10: Discussion

Thursday, March 20, 2014



10. Discussion

You'll need an important preface to this post.  You've finally come to the place in this series where you're now actually at the meeting itself, ready to get down to the business of business.  It's easy to skip ahead passed the previous nine posts in this series to cut to the chase, to the "meat" of meetings.  But if you've done this you've missed something vitally important to the nature of meetings themselves.  If you're having a team meeting worth having - one which determines the future of your business or organization in incremental steps - then taking the time to build a construct for a meeting is just as important as the meeting itself. 

It's interesting to note how much we love the places we spend time.  Whether it's the living room in our house, the veranda on the coffee shop, your favorite department in your favorite store, your favorite bench at your favorite park, the conference room in your company's office, or whatever and wherever it is, a lot of work went into building the construct in which you enjoy yourself and work.  And most of us have no idea just how much money and labor it took to build it.  All we know is that we enjoy it and use it.  There's a reason why we enjoy those things as much as we do.  And the reason is directly tied to the quality of work that went into building the space. 

A team meeting is also one of those spaces.  It is the space where we want to simultaneously enjoy lively, productive, and meaningful interactions with each other and the work God has given us to do, while we all move in the same direction on a mission.  The discussion portion of the meeting is the very heart and soul of the meeting.  It is the best part.  But it takes time to build the construct of a meeting so that it is everything you want it to be.  While the discussion time is really what the meeting is all about, everything you have done prior to the actual meeting itself has been a necessary part of ensuring that the quality of the meeting itself and the outcomes are productive and meaningful. Don't take that construction process lightly.  If you do, the foundation and framework of the meeting itself will suffer.  Consequently, the decisions and delegation that follows will also suffer.  In the end, your team and ultimately your business or organization will also suffer.  In short, the wisdom here that I've learned along the way is to definitely "sweat the small stuff" when it comes to meetings.  Again, if you think they're important enough to have, then they're important enough to plan properly.


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With a prioritized agenda prepared from the contributions of your team, you're ready to begin your meeting with the right team members you've invited, guided by your driving mission.  Remember to start on time in order to stay within the meeting time frame you've set. Assuming you've prepared these things adequately, it's time for a team meeting!

1.  Dedicate the Meeting to God

I strongly encourage meeting leaders to pray before beginning the meeting, assuming your business or organization is amenable to this. Why?  Because God is the one Who is the source of everything you're involved in.  He's the one who created the CEO or owner of the business.  He created the mind which produced the ideas which in turn created the business.  He sustains the life and breath of the founders and executives who run the company.  

God essentially is the one who founded and owns the business.  Everyone else borrows everything from Him!  It is fitting then at the beginning of a meeting with a mission that the team be led to stop and recognize this, not by way of some seemingly religious ceremonial display.  Rather, we do it because we give honor to whom honor is due, placing our recognition of the ultimate source of everything we do, including the money we make, at the throne of God.  As Jesus said in John 15, "without me you can do nothing."  That "nothing" includes meeting, making decisions, and making money.

2.  Discuss the Agenda Items

Set a tone for honest discussion around the brutal facts.  This feature separates good companies from great ones, as proposed by Jim Collins, in his book From Good to Great.  The discussion portion of the meeting is intended to be the safest place for each team member to openly and honestly express themselves, their ideas, and their feelings about discussion points on the agenda. There are four elements of a meeting that spring from Collins' ideas:
  • Lead with questions, not answers. This goes for every team member.  The goal for the entire team should be to culture of inquiry that forms the foundation for understanding more.
  • Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion. Team members should engage each other in finding data-driven solutions to the challenges the company or organization faces.  
  • Conduct autopsies, without blame. Team members should be committed to exploring mistakes in order to encourage each other to more deeply understand what has happened in the past.  A great example of this practice was demonstrated by Joe Cullman who set the tone for a discussion regarding Philip Morris’s loss after acquiring the 7UP Company. Cullman expresses, “I will take responsibility for this bad decision. But we will all take responsibility for extracting the maximum learning from the tuition we’ve paid.”  
  • Build red flag mechanisms. Team members should work with each other to create warning systems.  These systems should do two important things: (1) distribute the power among the team, and (2) honor the insights from key stakeholders in the company. Too often, business leaders and managers only want low performance and lost customers as the issues brought to their attention.  Instead, executives should create red flag mechanisms that allow the company to learn from methods and decisions immediately.  That should start in the team meeting.
Stick to the agenda you've worked so hard to prepare.  It's so easy for a discussion to head of into a rabbit trail very quickly.  It's the meeting leader's job to make sure this doesn't happen. Instead, the meeting leader and appointed note taker should be discerning enough notice whether a rabbit trail is important or not.  If it is, the meeting leader should...

  • Recognize it: state whether the side discussion is in fact important to the driving mission.  If it is not, then gently but firmly show the team why, dispose of it, and get back to the agenda at hand.
  • Record it: ensure the note taker makes note of the person and the issue, whether it's relevant or not, for future reference.  (If it comes back up again, it may in fact be important, and the meeting was simply not the time and place to address it.). If it was determined as important, then it should be recorded in the margin of the notes and later forwarded to the meeting leader or manager as something that may need to be addressed and put on the agenda next time.
Make notes on each discussion point.  This goes for every team member.  It's each team member's responsibility to record what they think is most helpful to them regarding the discussion about that item.  However, it is the note taker's job to try to record, as accurately as possible, the flow of the discussion.  If desirable, the team may agree that the conversation may be recorded (via audio or video), so that the note taker can focus more closely on specific items discussed and fleshed out, and so that the actual recording of the discussion can be referenced later if necessary.  This allows the note taker to actually participate in the meeting with his or her own contributions to the discussion.




About the Author: Rob is a follower of Jesus at Jubilee Church.  From there he pursues Jesus' mission at Revive Consignment as the Business & Operations Development Director, as well as at Jubilee Church of Atlanta, in Woodstock, GA. From there he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 20 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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