Archive for the ‘build a better meeting’ Category

#19 build a better meeting (alone)

after last week’s build a better meeting (one-on-one) blog, matt guevara tweeted me saying that he had read several articles about scheduling a regular time to meet with yourself. i wanted to hear more about this idea, and and since the build a better meeting series is a collaborative project, i asked matt if he would share his thoughts in a blog.

enjoy matt’s notes:

four years ago i realized that i was so busy with life and ministry that when i had opportunities to focus on a project for any period of time, the thing that kept distracting me was the work i was NOT getting done.  has that ever happened to you?  thinking only about the projects you are not attending to absolutely erodes any sense of accomplishment in the things you are trying to get done.  those feelings led me to the book getting things doneby david allen. it was there i learned some best practices for organizing work and creating a system for collecting action steps for projects.  one of the best things i learned from the book was to set up a meeting with myself every week.  as Kelly Forrister writes on her GTD blog, “if you don’t have a systematic and thorough approach to reviewing your work, you’ll never break free from the busy trap of thinking you need to be thinking and worrying about your work all the time.”

so often leaders think of meetings in a tightly defined box.  meetings must require a group of people.  meetings require those people to sit down.  meetings require a leader and a group of listeners.  the more i experimented with the best practices of getting things done (or GTD to its avid followers), I realized that my definition of a meeting needed to expand.  i learned that it was okay to set a time on my calendar to meet with myself for specific purposes.  here are the things i put into place to make this meeting happen and what i use the time to accomplish (adapted from an article by kelly forrister):

i set a time on my calendar (typically 50 minutes) every week to reflect on a complete, current, and consistent inventory of my commitments.  this includes projects i am invested in, upcoming ministry events or speaking opportunities, family related events, and personal items. i hold the meeting in an uninterrupted space. i resist the temptation to stop the meeting and attend to some of the action steps that i uncover (unless they take less than two-minutes). i reward myself for getting through the meeting.

here’s another perspective on what you can accomplish with a weekly meeting with yourself (taken from a review of getting things done by josh kaufman):

  • Process and organize – anything you’ve collected but haven’t handled yet.
  • Review your active tasks – are there any to add, delegate, defer, or delete?
  • Review your active projects – are there any to add, delegate, defer, or delete?
  • Review your calendar – are there any meetings to add, delegate, defer, or delete?
  • Someday/Maybe – anything to add or promote to an active project?
  • Reference Files – anything you need soon? Anything to add or update?
  • Goals – are you moving in the right direction? Are you making progress? Are any changes necessary?

i know, it’s monday.  set a meeting with yourself right now for the end of this week.  you’ll find that this review time will set up your weekend nicely and provide a great foundation for you to get stuff done next week.

matt guevara blogs at the cory center and is always tweeting about children’s and family ministry.  he’d love to meet you (when he is not meeting with himself)!

#18: build a better meeting (one-on-one)

last week while meeting withsandythe brand new lemon lime kids’ intern-a thought occurred to me: most of the tips and ideas we discuss during the build a better meeting series apply to team meetings, and usually assume that a medium size group is gathered for a meeting.

but, for most of us, we also lead weekly meetings with only one other person in attendance. a one-on-one meeting is a perfect time to focus on just one employee or volunteer, and dig deeper into specific decisions and tasks.

a few tips for meeting one-on-one with an employee or volunteer:

  • create an agenda: even if it’s a less formal agenda, or it’s an agenda that lives in your head – still take the time to think through what needs to be discussed, decided, and planned. don’t treat it like a coffee date where you’ll just casually chat hoping that by the end, everything has been discussed. most likely, it won’t be discussed if you don’t have a plan!
  • encourage personal catch up: when you are one on one, it’s a perfect time to catch up on each other’s families, and hobbies, and vacations. but, just like you would in a larger group meeting setting, set a time limit for personal conversations and be sure to move on when time has expired. sandy and i share a passion for cooking and are big fans of aarti sequeira, so after a few minutes of catching up on our favorite recipes, we were back to our task list.
  • delegate action steps: it may feel strange to review action steps at the end of a one-on-one meeting, but it’s crucial that each person understand what to do next. at the end of the meeting, review the discussion, delegate next steps, and agree to an action plan.

enjoy your one-on-one meetings this week! and, please share your best tips for making the most of time with an employee or volunteer.

oh! and starting next week, sandy will be writing a weekly blog series called “diary of an intern” on her internship leadership learnings!

#17: build a better (on time) meeting

so, have i mentioned this before? i have aholy discontent for bad meetings.

along with chewed gum, and sloppy joes, and cold weather, i equally hate bad meetings.

but, i’ve been complaining about bad meetings for too long – figured i should turn my frown upside down and do something helpful. do something to encourage bad meetings to fall out of fashion. hence, the weekly monday series: build a better meeting.

today’s tip: start and end meetings on time.

it’s simple, really. but oh-so-hard to accomplish. i’m a simple girl. i believe that if a meeting is scheduled for 9-10 am, it should start at 9 and end at 10. but then again, i’m simple. i don’t like a ton of fuss.

most meetings i attend, start late and end late. i wish it weren’t true. and, i’m definitely responsible for my share of leading late meetings. maybe together we can fix this.

a couple (on time) tips:

  • start the meeting on time. even if only one person is there, or only one person is missing. and please please don’t say the phrase, “let’s just wait a few minutes until everyone gets here.” it devalues the people who made it on time.
  • make sure you can always see the time. wear a watch, or place a super large clock on the wall directly in front of you. if it’s difficult to lead the meeting and pay attention to the time, set an alarm clock that beeps when time is up. then, you can set it and not have to think.
  • end the meeting on time. even if you don’t get through the entire agenda, and communicate that to the group -“i value your time more than the items on this list. we’ll get to these things next time.”  it might encourage participants to work hard at the next meeting to help you get through the list. when they know there is not an infinite amount of time, they’ll feel encouraged to work hard!

cheers to on time meetings! oh, and i’m super grateful to my friends matt and dan who helped brainstorm today’s tip. after all, build a better meeting is a collaborative project – if you’ve got a great tip for building a better meeting, email or tweet me: | @adolan

#16: build a better (fall) meeting

happy monday! i apologize for the lack of posts this past week, i thought it would be an easier transition back to work from vacation – but i was wrong. it was a crazy, chaotic, busy week, that lacked any sense of normalcy or routine. but, now that i’ve had a week to collect my thoughts, unpack my suitcase, and reacquaint myself with my office i’m ready to jump back into work full force!

and so, just like that fall is upon us!  summer vacations behind us, it’s time to embrace fall and launch a brand new ministry season.

today’sbuild a better meeting is all about the fall volunteer meeting. i always love a great fall meeting-it’s the perfect opportunity to reconnect with volunteers, and share updates, information and training for the upcoming ministry season. there are a lot of great ways to do a fantastic fall meeting: all volunteers together for dinner and a vision talk, volunteers divided into age classrooms for an all day saturday training, and even a virtual meeting in which volunteers log online for an hour during the evening to receive updates.

but, i think every great fall meeting includes some components of vision, information, training, and community.  my most favorite fall meeting was a few years ago when we played off a carnival theme. we had a lot to accomplish during our meeting and wanted to do it in a fun way so we built a giant carnival. we set up booths where volunteers could play games to receive their information and training, get their pictures taken for their volunteer tags, and have fun re-connecting with each other! it was easy to find popcorn, carnival flags, and inexpensive prizes to make the carnival complete. it was a blast! [and sometimes i wish every meeting i went to included a carnival!]

today, let’s share creative ideas or simple tips for building and implementing a great (fall) meeting. what have you done in the past, or what are you planning for this year’s meeting, or what have you always wished to do but haven’t yet had opportunity?

and for extra incentive, i’ll randomly choose 1 person (who posts a comment with a creative idea or simple tip) and send you a small box of carnival goodies!

happy monday, and cheers to better fall meetings!

#15: build a better (iPad) meeting

i don’t yet have an iPad, but i’ve been dreaming about all the ways i would use it to lead better meetings. there are a million reasons why i think the iPad will be an essential part of our children’s ministry programs in the very near future, but for today – thoughts on how the iPad might help us create better meetings.

of course, the iPad is cool and hip, but i don’t want to use it just to show off. i really think it will help make our time more efficient and effective.

category 1: A Singular Device

the iPad would help me have everything i need in one place. instead of bringing my computer, iPhone, iPod, pen, paper, whiteboard, and flip chart – i would access everything from the iPad:

  • video & picture display: useful for training or weekend recaps
  • iPod : play music, audio books, or sermon clips
  • maps: we used to make gigantic maps on poster board to designate small group areas for kids
  • calendar: review dates and schedule events together
  • contacts: instead of promising to get the email or phone # of a volunteer after a meeting, all of my contacts are available for instant accessibility on the iPad.
  • keynote: presentations, video, graphics all controlled from the iPad
  • safari: research information on new toys, conferences, books, and basically everything we make note to look up after the meeting.

category 2: Apps

how do you (or would you) use an iPad to build a better meeting?

#14: build a better (one word) meeting

let’s play a game. it’s summer, that’s what you do in the summer, right? play games!

pick one word that you would choose to describe your ideal meeting setting. a word that describes both how you wish to be led in meetings and how you best lead meetings.

my one word: ORGANIZED!

a well organized meeting allows for an environment in which everyone can contribute their very best!

[here comes the fun game part!] post a comment with your word, and 1 sentence describing why it’s important to you. but, you can only choose a word that has not yet been posted. if you see that your word has already been chosen in a previous comment, you must think of another word! let’s see how many words we can collect describing our ideal meeting experience.

and, as always i’m grateful for your collaboration – if you’ve got a great tip for building a better meeting, email or tweet me: | @adolan

#13: build a better (mental) meeting

happy monday! finally, after a busy couple of weeks, we are back to the build a better meeting series. i worried that maybe the lack of posts communicated that i had lost interest or passion in building efficient and effective meetings, but rest assured – that will never be the case! i’m constantly thinking about how to create more beautiful and creative, and wonderful meeting environments! (exciting life i lead, right?!)

enjoy today’s tip!

tip: encourage mental focus by eliminating useless mental energy

my favorite conference producer and friend lori bethran once gave me great advice while i was preparing to give a talk at a large conference. right before i was to go on stage to talk about the spiritual formation of children, my husband was on stage hosting a silly game show. i told lori that as a fun transition, i wanted to say something about how that crazy game show host was my husband – and then i would proceed with my deeply profound, and challenging spiritual formation talk. lori kindly said that was not a good idea. she said that by me mentioning that kelly was my husband, i would encourage the attendees to spend the next several minutes engaging in useless mental energy. instead of listening to my words on spiritual formation, they would be thinking in their heads about my husband, and me, and our family, and where we lived, and if we had kids, and how we had met, etc, etc, etc, etc. and all the while i would have lost their attention for what really mattered – the spiritual formation of children.

i think we often do the same thing in meetings. without sometimes realizing it, we encourage participants to engage in useless mental energy. when we make a quick joke about our kids, or our spouses, or our weekend activities – we cause people to be mentally distracted at times when we most need their complete mental focus.

instead, when leading a meeting be aware of everything you say. during times when you need everyone’s complete mental focus (when you are planning, brainstorming, and evaluating), chose your words carefully and be sure not to allow distraction type conversations to enter. set aside separate times for catching up on each other’s personal lives and for engaging in casual conversation. but, when it’s time to focus – model and encourage complete mental focus!

it’s so easy to be mentally distracted. acknowledge this with your team mates, and let them know you will do everything possible to keep them mentally engaged. in return, ask for them to set aside mental distractions and stay fully engaged.

share your story! how do you encourage mental focus during meetings?

build a better meeting is a collaborative project – if you’ve got a great tip for building a better meeting, email or tweet me: | @adolan

#12: build a better (robotic) meeting

hope you had a great memorial day weekend. kelly and i had a fantastic couple of days, it actually felt like a mini-vacation! we spent time in the city eating at our favorite lunch spot, and enjoyed being outside at the lake, and spending time with family. the picture to the left is the chicago river on sunday – absolutely perfect!

so, after a really great weekend, i thought we should slowly ease back into the work week, today’s build a better meeting is fun! last week, jonathan cliff sent me this video – and i just about died thinking about all the possibilities for utilizing a robot for great meetings!

let’s have some fun today! if you owned this robot, how would you use it to facilitate a great meeting?

#11: build a better meeting (environment)

environments matter, especially when it comes to meetings. i always look forward to meetings when i know the environment will have been considered ahead of time, and i absolutely dread meetings when i know the environment wasn’t given the time of day! can you relate?

consider these simple tips when planning for a great meeting environment:

1. choose your location carefully: if you are meeting in a church building and have your choice of rooms, choose the best room for the tone of your meeting. if it’s a casual, conversational type meeting, choose a room with rocking chairs and sofas. if it’s a formal, take notes type of meeting, choose a boardroom or classroom. if it’s a creative, brainstorm type meeting, consider a location off campus where participants will be inspired. above all else, don’t default to whichever meeting room is available, think ahead of time and choose wisely!

2. rearrange the room: once you’ve chosen your meeting location, rearrange the furniture in order to make it best for your group. move tables, rearrange chairs, change the flip chart location, whatever it takes to make the room perfect for accomplishing your goal. most times when i request a meeting room be set up a certain way, i still make a few tweaks before the meeting because i can never fully anticipate what the room will feel like until i’m in the room.

3. fill the room with inspiration: once you’ve chosen your room, it’s time to fill it with things that will cause out of this world creativity and brilliant thinking! consider the goal of your meeting and how you can fill the room with objects that will help accomplish that goal. if your goal is to relationally connect with each other, consider adding baby pictures of participants as placemats. if your goal is to solve a problem, consider adding small mind games and puzzles so that the group can warm their minds up and be reminded of the goal. if you hope to brainstorm new ideas, consider adding art supplies and fun toys so that participants have tools for creative thinking.

your environment matters! when people feel great in a meeting environment, they will fully engage and add fantastic contributions. build a better meeting is a collaborative project, so share your ideas!

what is your best build a better meeting (environment) tip?

#10: build a better meeting

today’s build a better meeting tip comes from jonathan cliff, the children’s ministry pastor at trinity church in lubbock, texas.  jonathan is a meeting genius expert, and is committed to doing all he can to make meetings effective and efficient.

tip: please steal from others!

i have a team meeting every two weeks, and it’s a chore to keep it exciting. a few tips that are obvious, are to always come prepared and smile when you talk!  but the biggest tip of all is to steal all the great content you can from anywhere you can get it.  i’ve heard it said that plagiarism is the highest form of flattery, let’s see if i can prove it.

i always give credit where credit is due, but i’m not above telling my team, “i read this on a leading kid’s ministry website, and i’d like to talk about it here.” i then read through whatever i have, and try to end with the question, “now…how does this apply to us here at trinity church?” (i can’t overstate this question, it’s imperative to get the discussion going.)

this isn’t rocket science, but i try and get the energy of all the great content that exists in magazines, books, and the internet and then transfer it to my team.  energy isn’t always easily created on my own, and every little bit helps.  to really mix it up, i assign this task to somebody on my team from time to time.  this way they’re responsible for bringing something to get the creative energies flowing with everyone else.

meetings don’t have to be boring, they hold the potential to bring the catalyst for change that will effect everything that happens during a weekend experience!

thank you, jonathan! build a better meeting is a collaborative project – if you’ve got a great tip for building a better meeting, email or tweet me: | @adolan