What are meetings for? We don’t just gather to drink coffee and work our way through a dry agenda. Meetings are meant for discussion, new ideas, and even conflict, says Philip. But how can we engage without tearing each other down? Philip discusses principles that can help you go from sitting through meetings to thriving in them.
The willingness of your team or committee or board to engage in a meaningful and respectful dialogue will greatly affect the outcome of the meeting.
Remember, the outcome of the meeting is really why you’re here. The outcome of the meeting not only affects the people around the table, it affects your school staff, it affects the students, it affects the entire school community, parents, the homes. It affects the church community, it affects future generations. Think of it in that regard is the outcome of this meeting, it’s going to have a ripple effect. You should think about that as you engage in meetings.
This is the meat of the meeting where you engage each other. This is the fun part. In the school setting, you are elected to this work, thinking specifically of board meetings, you’re elected to this work, and it is your obligation to take it seriously. The Bible parable of the talents comes to mind on this right here. Each of us around the table have been given talents. In the parable, there was talents given out to individuals, one to five talents. Those individuals were called to trade them, and that’s our call. We’re given talents. We’ve been elected to the work. We’re together to trade our talents in this marketplace of ideas around the table and to generate returns for the kingdom. As we choose to take our responsibility seriously and fully engage in meetings, not for the sake of our own agenda or our own ego, but rather for the sake of the good Master that gave us the talents in the first place.
This is why we’re here, at board meetings. We have talents. We’ve been asked to trade them in this marketplace of ideas. It’s for the good Master that we do this, it’s not for our own ego, not for our own agenda. Think of it this way. He’s looking for a return on his investment. He gave you talents, he wants return.
We’re at a meeting, we’re ready to engage. What are the rules of engagement at a meeting?
First off, I’d like to say, understand that in meetings we are called to tackle ideas, situations, behaviors possibly, but never people.
We need to find clear and respectful words to communicate exactly how we feel, no beating around the bush, no gaps, hoping that others will understand what I’m thinking. You need to be crisp and clear with your communication.
You need to be honest with your thoughts. That’s what makes engagement possible. For some that’s more natural than others.
Also be okay to challenge other’s ideas. Now, this one’s a little tough. You can actually do this in a respectful and godly manner. Remember, you are not assembled to simply agree with each other. That’s counterproductive. You’re obligated to challenge each other for the good of the cause, and in your case, the cause is the school. You’re obligated to challenge each other. You need to do this. This is why you’re assembled.
Decision, simply the word “decision” implies the end of deliberation and the beginning of action. Decision means we’re done deliberating, we’re now going into action mode.
For a fully researched and well discussed and fully supported decision to become reality, there’s likely going to be a messy period somewhere along the way where there’s conflict. That’s just how it is. For a really good decision to be reached, somewhere, as we journey towards that decision, there’s going to be a period where it’s messy. We don’t quite know where to grab ahold of it. Meetings are not always just smooth, structured conversation. There’s going to be a messy period. Be okay with a little bit of that mess and that dynamic.
There may be some emotions. Healthy conflict in meetings is a good thing. You should never shy away from healthy, respectful conflict. For conflict to be good and to be possible and to be Christ-like, you need to be completely honest. You can’t be holding back because you’re afraid of what others think, you have to be completely honest.
You need to be personally vulnerable. You’re sometimes going to say that might expose you, you’re going to be vulnerable. You need to have low levels of ego, no ego and high levels of humility.
Conflict is a display of passion. Passion leads to good decisions. As Christians, sometimes we struggle with this because we’re taught, from young up, not to have conflict. We try and minimize and avoid conflict at all costs. Conflict is different than an argument. If we avoid conflict, this will take us to the passive extreme all the way to the point where all we have left is a social huddle of men that sit together, maybe we drink coffee, and at all costs, we avoid conflict. Good decisions are hard to reach, and the outcomes will be very weak.
There’s another dynamic that is much harder to talk about, but I’m going to touch on it a little bit. This dynamic is not limited to school meetings, but it does happen at board meetings. It does happen in the context of Anabaptist meetings. In life we have this hierarchy of leadership and influence. That’s good. That’s fine. That’s what the structure is all about. Yet, in our meetings, we go to lengths to make pretense of group decision. I’m not going to unpack that too far, other than I will say this: if you are at a meeting and you are self-aware enough to know that your voice would carry the day, if you re self-aware enough to know that that’s how it is, then the others around you, the others at the meeting are most likely hyper-aware of this. You will need to work extra hard to deflate fear of others sharing their opinion. You’re going to have to work extra hard.
When you have a group of men that are just waiting for me to talk, because my opinion is going to rule the decision, that’s not a meeting. That’s not healthy. Yes, there are meetings where certain voices will hold higher weight. I understand that. I think that’s Scriptural, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, you don’t want to stifle conversation and input from others just because of who you are and because of your trump card. You need to be very aware of this. I’ve been on both sides of this equation. I speak business setting, I speak school setting, I don’t make a good puppet, and I have no interest in making other people puppets.
This is why we have a meeting: we want everybody’s input. We have an obligation to do this in a very constructive manner.
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CONTRIBUTOR: Philip Horst