Too Much to Get Through: Meeting Facilitation Tips for More Effective Leaders

No one wants to commit more than an hour for a meeting when they are dealing with data drills, scrutiny, and an influx of e-mails; but many find that one hour barely scratches the surface of an issue and a sequence of meetings can be spent rehashing previous meetings, preventing any progress.  Breaking the cycle can feel impossible, making leaders feel lonely at the top and staff feel like leaders aren’t listening or worse that they don’t care.

So let’s break the cycle.  Let’s accomplish something in one hour or less. I call this meeting facilitation tip “Musical Chairs.” Musical Chairs is a tactic that will allow you to:

• Brainstorm and hear from everyone in the room • Quickly identify and group a short list of your biggest issues or ideas • Generally understand the degree of importance of each issue or idea • Achieve your goals in an hour or less

How to do it?

1. Set Up: Put a large piece of butcher paper on the wall or reserve a space with a large white board; organize the chairs around the paper or white board.

2. Supplies: Markers, pens, and Post-Its.

3. Ask a great question based on the issue you want to resolve or the item you would like to brainstorm.  Give participants 5-10 minutes to clarify the question but not discuss answers. (An example: “What prevents you from being able to do your job effectively?”)

4. Give participants 15 minutes to brainstorm on their own; ask them to write one idea per Post-It.

5. When time is up, ask someone to post his or her best idea (An example: “I attend too many meetings”). Limit them to one.

6. Ask the rest of the group if anyone has a similar or related idea; read and place these Post-Its with the first.

7. Draw a circle around the group of Post-Its and develop a summary or category for the Post-Its as a group (An example: “Staff spend the majority of their day in meetings, taking them away from essential tasks” or simply “Too Many Meetings”); write this summary or category directly on the paper or white board; once captured, it’s done.

8. Move to the next person and repeat steps 5-7 until all the Post-Its are posted and categorized; this process should take approximately 30 minutes; limit conversations as needed to maintain this timeframe.

Why is it called Musical Chairs?

In musical chairs you take away one chair after each round. In my musical chairs, you discuss and take one thought off the table in each round. As you go, the amount of data that needs to be processed by the group decreases.  The good news is that unlike the game, no one gets eliminated from the meeting – although I am sure some would love to have that option.

Try it and let us know how it works for you.