How to improve your meetings?

What I’ve learned about improving meetings in my client work aligns with Dan Mezick’s tips to “game your meetings”. Mezick learned this as a Scrum consultant who helped organizations adopt this agile approach to software development. The Scrum methodology aims to create a learning climate that values quick testing and experimenting, inspection and interaction to avoid the expensive, lengthy software development that finally delivers a system that no one wished for.

Scrum’s five core values resemble those of positive cultures: Respect, Commitment, Focus, Courage (to identify problems, ask and receive and offer help), and Openness (to be accessible without concealment).

Game your meetings

To game your meetings, you need a clear goal, rules, opt-in participation and progress.
Co-create the code of conduct with your group. Ask: How can our meetings be meaningful, efficient and pleasant?
Agree on clear rules regarding start and stop time, cell phone and lap top usage, breaks, the purpose, agenda, preparation (reading and reflecting?), attendance, roles, and how to have one conversation at a time.
Next, invite people who may be interested but don’t make meetings mandatory.
Track progress in a simple and sweet schedule, not with tedious written minutes. Check back in the next meeting. What’s the update?

Scripted roles

Is it hard to have an honest conversation or dialogue in a meeting? Does no-one dare to disagree? Or is everyone disagreeing all the time so there’s no constructive outcome?

Even though scripted roles and speech protocols sound like “role-play and ritual” they can enhance honesty and openness!

If people find it not easy to communicate well and keep the other open, if they are not used to speaking truth to power, to object against an idea or say No to someone – scripted roles can be very helpful to voice what is difficult to say.

What did you do to date to make your meetings more positive and productive? Click To Tweet

Roles help people to interrupt, to challenge ideas, to defend someone else, to think out of the box. It’s not them personally. It might help the others to not take these interventions personally as well.

I have often used roles to spice up meetings – especially in cultures where people wanted to keep things nice but sacrificed critical thinking and progress. When you separate “the soul from the role” it’s easier to share objections or ask critical questions.

The devil’s advocate role that challenges ideas provocatively is well known but an advocate’s role works just as well – to voice what is working well and what is valuable about an idea. In teams with too much competition and lack of support – assign everyone the role to defend their neighbor’s interests and ideas – regardless of what they really think, and see what happens and how much people learn.


Another recommendation is to invite a process facilitator who has no interest and authority in the “what” but is trained to notice the “how”. A group can learn fast to make it safe with a facilitator, and a facilitator can see to it that all voices are heard, that all ideas are respected regardless of the source, and that no one dominates decision making.

This does not have to be expensive or difficult. You can invite a socially-skilled colleague from another team to facilitate your meeting and return the favor if needed.

What did you do to date to make your meetings more positive and productive?

This is book post #71 – Part “WE”

For more insights and advice, order my book Developing a Positive Culture

Check out the online Positive Culture Academy. Let’s be Positive Agents who do revolution by evolution: one interaction at a time, one person at a time. Subscribe to the Academy’s mailing list so I can keep you posted!

Here’s the earlier post
Here‘s the next post

If you’re confused, check the Positive Power overview and read the Positive Agent Manifesto.

By the way, if you want to contribute to a positive workplace culture, my next open workshop on Positive Culture Change Leadership is scheduled for September 2018! More information and registration is only a mouse click away.

© Copyright Marcella Bremer, 2018. All rights reserved.

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