An Interesting Frame for Improving Meetings

People often come to meetings with emotions, be they good or bad.  Emotions are often created during meetings (be they good or bad).  Regardless of where the emotions come from, they can derail a meeting.  Or they can make it interesting – in a good way if controlled and managed or a bad way if unbridled).  Therefore part of running a good meeting is recognizing and managing emotions.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs offers a frame  for categorizing the emotions that might show up in the meeting room.  The most labile of emotions will come from those who don’t feel safe or secure.  A leader can create safety by using simple “icebreakers”, being genuinely thankful people are there, and/or being clear about the agenda and the process.  Safety is helpful but not sufficient.

A meeting can still get rocky if there is feeling of failure or lack of empowerment (low esteem).  The leader at this point must emphasize recent successes no matter how small.  Remind the group of their purpose and vision.  Be positive and encouraging.  Individuals need to feel confident in their ability to contribute and succeed for a meeting to have optimal participation free of distracting emotions.  Once this need is met, then the leader is ready to address the next hierarchy of need, which is cooperation or sense of belonging.

It’s easy to assume that cooperation exists among a group.  The person facilitating the meeting  may not be aware that there are people in the room who are resentful of one another and/or have lost trust in one another.  If there is lack of cooperation, then time must be devoted to a conversation where differences are discussed, shared values and purpose are mined for and brought to the surface.

The leader may want to remind the group of the diverse strengths people bring to the room, emphasize how working together will bring the best results, and perhaps discuss shared interests.

Those who aren’t feeling part of the group will become disengaged and their negative emotions may impact the effectiveness of the meeting .  Sometimes the work done on gaining cooperation helps, but when it doesn’t, the leader might call on those who might feel on the fringe to provide their thoughts about something, tell a positive story about a recent accomplishment of that individual, or openly praise them for something well done.

Only once the group’s hierarchy of needs have been addressed is the meeting ready to accomplish its goal –  to create new ideas, a new approach, a new way of seeing something, or a new plan.

Once the creating and growing begins its natural for divergence.  The leader’s role is to drive convergence, which can be accomplished by addressing the 5th emotional need in Maslow’s model: the need to be driven by core values and a purpose larger than oneself.  The perfect time to bring back the mission, vision, guiding principles, and shared values of the group.  This will drive them to come to a “final” solution or plan, to reach the goal of the meeting.

Having the results of a meeting wrapped around purpose and meaning gives it energy, which will carry it out of the meeting room and into action.