The first time I took a snowboarding lesson, I was taught one useful tip – point in the direction where you want the board to go. This physical and directional trick actually helps steer you. However, focus on the trees and the same thing will happen.
Author and marketing guru Seth Godin recently wrote a post about doing “checkins” just before a meeting. He suggests each team member speak up and talk about their fears. I understand where Seth is coming from but would offer a more holistic approach to launching a successful meeting.
I’ve been volunteering at a CAUSE, a non-profit focused on social and environmental justice, in preparation for an upcoming fund raising event. The facilitator, Dr. Roberto Vargas, leads the meetings with Conocimientos. Everyone at the meeting (even people who dial in via phone) briefly shares personally relevant community information and something related to accomplishing the meeting tasks.
Pronunciation of conocimiento.
[audio:http://www.jpluna.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/conocimiento1.mp3|titles=Prounciation of “Conocimiento”]
“Conocimiento” is Spanish for “knowledge and awareness” and a checkin may be something like this:
“I’ve been busily working on a new presentation for an upcoming community seminar. It’s progressing but am looking for volunteers for the event.
I’m also looking forward to following up with the 5 corporate sponsors for this fundraiser.”
Conocimientos accomplish the following:
- Fosters positive energy. Sharing is empowering. I blogged earlier about managing group energy and how it’s an overlooked resource.
- Allows everyone to speak at the beginning of the meeting. Raise your hand if you’ve been to a meeting where you’ve had zero chance to speak up.
- Gives attendees a chance to do some community building. In the case of the CAUSE planning meetings, there are participants from various organizations and interest groups. Sharing up front allows them to get their organization’s news out quickly. This would also apply to cross-team or interdepartmental meetings.
- Allows attendees to seek additional support. Someone might need help with another project and they can mention that. It’s not a time to pitch, but it’s a good time to quickly inform others. I’ve been mentioning my progress on my job search activities and have received a great deal of support.
- Allows participants to “ground” themselves and then focus on the meeting. We all go to meetings with “stuff” on our minds. Some of these things may be fears or feelings of being overwhelmed or even being jubilant after a positive experience. Sharing these things help clear a path to focusing on the meeting at hand.
- Shows that all attendees are equal. Since everyone gets to speak, it breaks down the usual hierarchy related to meetings. At CAUSE, one person starts then the person to the left speaks and that continues until everyone has spoken.
So if you’re looking to run more efficient meetings and open up communication, you may consider doing your own version of conocimientos.
Does your organization use some sort of “grounding” exercise or sharing activity before a meeting? How effective is it?
Related Reading: Transformative Knowledge