What’s the point of a group of staffers sitting in a room, working through a meeting agenda? Why do board members need to gather? Are meetings just inefficient ways for people to avoid emailing each other?
Philip spends nearly one third of his working day in meetings. In addition to working in the corporate world, Philip also serves actively in his church’s school effort. In this video, he calls us to see meetings as difficult, fruitful, and fun opportunities to build school culture and discern wise paths.
Meetings wear us out. They do, they wear me out. Meetings are hard work; they should be hard work.
Different people have different views on meetings. For myself, I actually enjoy meetings. I just do. For me, personally, in the business world, I spend about 30% of my working day sitting in meetings. There’s something that’s thrilling, or even rewarding, about being able to come together with a group. A group of minds that has the ability to take even a contentious subject, and difficult questions difficult content, discuss it, turn it inside out, dump it upside down, recount history, draw from parallels.
We bring all this together into a more united and positive action plan that will bless others. In the business world, it’s about progress and growth. In the school it’s not much different: it blesses others. The outcome of meetings should bless others.
Meetings are biblical: When we read verses like Proverbs 11:14, let’s say, “Where no counsel is the people fall. In the multitude of counselors there is safety.” That’s a meeting. That’s a meeting right there. “In the multitude of counselors, there is safety.”
There’s been times when I have been preparing for a meeting. I saw the agenda. I saw the agenda item. I had a strong opinion on a particular item on the agenda. I was going to the meeting to basically help the other board members see it my way. I went to the meeting and as the discussion progressed, what happened to me was something like this: I became less and less sure of my stance. I listen to others, the discussion progresses, and I become less sure of my stance. In the end, I actually vote against my own idea. I vote against my own stance. This has happened to me. The verse in Proverbs comes back: “In the multitude of counselors there is safety” and this is what meetings are all about.
This is the premise and the reason why we have meetings, it’s to gel together as a group, and there’s safety in that.
No action, activity or process is more central to healthy organization than the meeting. If someone were to offer me one single piece of evidence to evaluate the health of an organization, I would not ask to see its financial statements, review its product line, or even talk to its employees or customers. I would want to observe its senior leadership team during a meeting. This is where values are established, discussed, and lived. This is where decisions around strategy and tactics are vetted, made, and reviewed.
Bad meetings are the birthplace of an unhealthy organization. Good meetings are the origin of cohesion, clarity, and communication. -Patrick Lencioni
When I read that, I immediately thought of school board meetings, because in a sense, the school board meetings are the senior leadership team of the organization. We do well to look at it that way. When you sit at a school board meeting, you are the senior leadership team of this organization. I have come to truly believe that that statement is not only true in business, but also true in schools. Our school culture, and organizational health is birthed right here in our meetings, in our board meetings, if you will. The next time you head to a board meeting, pause and say to yourself, maybe ask a little prayer for God to guide you during the meeting, because we know that the outcome of this meeting will establish the health of the organization. This is where school culture starts, right here at the board meetings.
Meetings of any kind in the business world, anywhere, there’s really two reasons that meetings are called: they’re either tactical or problem-solving meetings or they’re strategic and forward-planning meetings. Now a lot of meetings actually have a mix of both. That’s just the nature of meetings. We tend to mix this stuff up, I would comment that that’s not always the best way, but that’s how it is, especially in the school setting. We tend to mix the tactical problem-solving subjects in along with the strategic and forward-planning content.
In regards to technology and how we use technology to run efficient meetings: In the setting that I’m in, currently, we do a lot of web conferencing, where we have multiple people join from all over the place, and that adds a dynamic that we don’t have at board meetings. We do meetings on the screen in that case, and it’s great, it works very, very well.
Even though I’m a tech guy by nature, and I enjoy technology, (I believe that) technology’s an accelerator of healthy meetings, of effective and efficient meetings; it’s not a driver. Technology should be on the sidelines.
I’ve used simple things like cloud storage. I use cloud storage. I use Dropbox, personally, (but it) could be anything: could be Google Drive, could be OneNote, could be Box, to store your communication around meetings. If you have a board, the secretary does meeting notes, drops them into cloud storage, everyone can see them. You can interact with them. You can pull them up at any time. That’s effective because it allows everyone to see everything. As a chairman, I tend not to put some of my notes in there because my notes are messy as I build up to a meeting, but the official documents should be filed where everyone can see them. That should be a clean central repository.
I’ve tried using things like OneNote. Those are very effective tools. I personally have never got on to that.
Laptops in meetings: different people have different opinions on that. I’m a tech guy and I do, I like to have my laptop there. I feel like something’s missing if I don’t.
Technology should not be a distraction in a meeting, phones should be silenced. There’s a number of things like that. Technology should take a backseat role, an active, but a backseat role in a meeting.
There’s a couple good books that I’ve enjoyed. Patrick, I mentioned Patrick Lencioni, he has another book called Death by Meeting. It’s a fable. It’s a great read. Everyone that does meetings should read that book.
Meetings have got a bad rap over the years, in the sense of, “Aw, do I need to go to another meeting?” Throughout my career, I’ve heard this numerous times: disgruntled and, “Man I need to sit through another meeting.” “That was a boring meeting.” If meetings are boring, do something to make them that they’re not boring! Have some more conflict. You should enjoy meetings.
Meetings should wear you out, meetings should not be a social huddle. There’s times to have social interaction, but meetings should be hard work, but they should be fun, they should be engaging.
No one should be ever tempted to fall asleep in a meeting. If that happens, you either have the wrong team at the meeting, or you have the wrong chairman or you have the wrong setting or… there’s a number of things.
Or you should never have the meeting. I will absolutely not get myself involved in a situation where I know the decisions are going to get made outside of the meeting and the meeting is simply a guise or a facade of group decision, and yet the decisions are being made by key individuals that may or may not be at the meeting. I’m not going to involve myself in that setting. I want to own the decisions as a group, as a board. Never ever make puppets out of anyone.
Meetings should be engaging, meetings should be fun, but they should be hard work.
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CONTRIBUTOR: Philip Horst