Please note: This is not a sponsored post. I was not paid anything from FNS to write this.
Here’s a question for you.
How important do you think running effective meetings are?
It’s not a trick question.
The challenge of running good meetings
But think back to the last time you had a good meeting. Where you went out of the meeting feeling satisfied, feeling like you had contributed something useful, and feeling like you got somewhere.
How many times have we come out of meetings and thought,
What was that about?
What a waste of time.
Why you need to run good meetings
Running effective meetings are a super skill. If you want to get ahead in your career, or for that matter, anywhere in life.
If you think about it, meetings are where agreements are made. And being able to lead and guide an effective meeting tends to show your boss that you’ve the skills to move a project, and get things done.
So it was my fortune to meet Janice, the cofounder of Facilitators Network Singapore.
Before I met Janice at the Advanced Certificate for Learning and Performance, I had no idea what process facilitation was.
I proposed to write some articles for them. They then gave me a chance to attend their SPOT training in September 2021.
That’s when I finally found the light.
How do you lead a meeting from start to end?
Maybe you’ve never learnt this. But there’s actually a model to lead effective meetings from start to finish.
FNS calls it their 4D model. And it’s useful for helping you to plan every single aspect of the meeting, such as:
- What room will use?
- Is there sufficient natural light in the room?
- How will people be seated? Are they facing each other? In a round table?
- What would the meeting cover?
- What’s the purpose of the meeting?
- Actions moving forward
- How will you build alignment on the actions people will take after the meeting?
You just can’t wing it for meetings
One big reason why the meetings you attend are so bad, is because most people wing it.
They think it’s just a meeting.
But if you look at meetings, they are one of the most resource-intensive items in a company or organisation. Just multiply the number of people, by the hours spent in the meeting, and you will know why.
It’s why the likes of Jason Fried, the CEO of Basecamp, is so insistent on running better meetings. He describes meetings as the place where your workday gets absolutely sliced into pieces.
Don’t do that to your colleagues, please.
What FNS teaches about meetings
The beauty of FNS isn’t just about running meetings.
But it’s actually the framework of thinking that will be helpful in your career, or whatever you go on to do.
You’re not the expert, you’re the guide
Often when you first start in your career, and you’re suddenly asked to lead a meeting, you might be scared.
You’re scared because one of these thoughts might be running through your brain.
- I’m not an expert on these matters!
- I don’t know how to bring out the best in people!
- How do I even know what to say?
Think of yourself as an air traffic controller.
You’re there to guide the different planes (representing the ideas raised by the group), to safety on the runway.
Your role is to land all of them, without crashing.
Relax. You’re not there to fly the plane. You just have to give clear instructions.
Now that you’ve got this, let’s move onto the nitty gritty of planning the meetings.
Your role is to build a safe space
Google had a question.
What differentiated the best teams from the rest?
Listen up. Because when Google wants to solve problems, you will see the likes of their search engine, appear.
They found that beyond managers, team members, the most crucial element was…
You must be wondering what that even is. Why would safety even matter?
Imagine walking into a room, and feeling scared of sharing an idea. Maybe you had an experience where you shared an idea, and a manager laughed at it.
Well, I’ve had times like that, many times. During the first job I had, I shared an idea on having a dance programme for the kids we were working with. My colleague shared with our team lead.
Moments later, the team lead wrote an email copying the whole team, and reminding me:
You have to tell me when you have new ideas so I can support you…
As cliche as this sounds, there is no ‘I’ in team.
After that, I feared sharing new ideas. I thought they would be put down, and shamed openly in front of others.
When you run a meeting, your role is to build a safe space where ideas can be generated, discussed, and eventually agreed on.
How do you do that?
Know the objective, outcome and output of what you’re doing
First you need to help people to know what you’re trying to do as the meeting leader.
This is where the FNS framework helps.
- Opportunities – what the challenge is
- Objectives – what you’d like to achieve
- Output – what you will produce (like a report)
- Outcome – what the envisioned end state would look like
Imagine going to a meeting without all these. Yup, that’s why your meetings are so bad.
Be diabolical about the details
When I started working with Janice, I remember an instance where she gently reminded me to use a black marker. To fold the paper so that there were indents where we could align on the writing of the points.
To draw number columns.
Initially I thought it was nitpicking.
But then I saw how important these were.
A black marker would ensure that people could read.
Numbered columns ensured that we could refer to a certain point if we wanted to.
When you run a meeting, you’re the centre of attention. Whatever you do will be watched by everyone else in the room.
You need to be on point, on form, every moment.
That’s why you need to have the details sorted out.
Being a better process facilitator influences all walks of life
Often we ignore skills like facilitating a good meeting because we think it looks easy. It’s not.
That’s why you can’t remember the last time you had a good meeting.
You might just want to try the FNS SPOT programme. It was transformational for me, and I think it will be for you too.