“Meetings are as common as dirt and about as popular.”
–Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff
In my work helping clients to achieve breakthrough collaboration, here’s a question I often think about – How do we create conditions that help people with diverse perspectives come together to do their best thinking, make solid decisions, and mobilize shared commitment? Over the years, Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There! Ten Principles for Leading Meetings That Matter by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff has been one of my go-to books because it answers this question and challenges basic myths about how to lead productive meetings. Some of these misconceptions include:
* As the leader or facilitator, the success of this meeting hinges on me
* I need to control people’s motives, behavior, and attitudes during the meeting
* The meeting can’t move forward unless we resolve the disagreements in the room
* My job is to keep things moving – minimize awkward silence, confusion, and conflict
Do you relate to these statements? If so, there’s good news – liberating yourself from these beliefs makes you a better leader!
More good news- Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There! is less than 200 pages long. Despite its short length, the book is packed with practical frameworks and tips like six ways to share responsibility, how to get conflicting departments on common ground, and ten ways to manage anxiety. The authors are masterful storytellers who bring the theory to life.
The book is divided into two parts. Part one focuses on leading meetings or what I call “dealing with what’s going on out there.” This section of the book can help you plan, organize, structure, and facilitate a meeting so that participants take responsibility for the outcomes, focus on common purpose, and invite all relevant perspectives into the conversation. Part two of the book focuses on managing yourself or what I call “dealing with what’s going on within me.” This section of the book provides insights and practices that enable us to be less emotionally reactive in the face of conflict, confusion, and criticism.
Co-authors Weisbord and Janoff have 100+ years of combined experience. Some of the wisdom they share will fundamentally change the way you lead by:
* Refusing to squeeze one day of work into a two-hour meeting
* Designing meetings around a specific purpose and goals
* Making sure the necessary expertise, information, and authority is in the room
* Allowing meeting participants to find their own voices and own their own decisions
* Accepting dissension as a given and working on areas where agreement and action are possible
Beyond these practices, you will learn that to lead a great meeting you don’t need to have all the answers or intervene every time the group gets stuck. You just need to act less and do more listening and observing.
Photo Credit: Rikard Wallin
The coloring of this photo has been altered.