I love facilitating good meetings

I recently told Mike Vardy over at the Productivityist how much I love facilitating project meetings and he told me I had a to write a blog post about it. It hadn’t occurred to me how unusual I might be until he asked me if I knew anyone else that feels the same way. Don’t miss Mike’s recent podcast about meetings that has some good stuff in it.

So what is it that I love about facilitating project meetings?

I love that I get to experience and live so many of my values. What personal values are and how we define them is a much deeper subject for another time. The short version is that “values” are things that are intrinsically important to us. They make us feel good when we honor them and out of whack when we don’t.

The values that come out for me when I facilitate meetings are:

  • Forward Progress — things are getting done and moving forward (or at least trying to)
  • Clarity — everyone leaves with the same understanding even if they didn’t share it at the beginning
  • Connectedness — we’re all in this together and building relationships with each other
  • Collaboration — we’re trying to make it successful together
  • Purpose and meaning — we’re only focused on and talking about things that matter for shipping and completing this particular product

Last December as I was contemplating moving back to program management from product marketing, it kept coming back to me how much I missed running meetings. This was a result of attending unproductive meetings and realizing as an invitee that my ability to shape a meetings’ effectiveness was limited.

But not everything about meetings can be shaped. I also like the mystery of running meetings. You never really know exactly what is going happen. I’ve lost count of the number of meetings I was positive would turn out a certain way, only to turn out the opposite. I rarely create an agenda or start a meeting without envisioning what I think will have the best outcome while also holding onto that vision lightly.

You just never know what what you’ll discover, particularly when, if you’re like me, you ask those hard direct questions that need answers. Sometimes it’s negative surprises and other times its positive surprises like learning that a release schedule we thought was completely broken is in fact viable after really digging into the details.

I enjoy bringing people into the conversation by encouraging participating from everyone at the meeting. This often changes the outcome of the meeting as more perspectives get factored into the discussion. Sometimes it’s trying to figure out how to ship a product on schedule and other times it’s trying to figure out how to ship at all. One common ingredient in the success of all these meetings is that in a majority of them the entire cross-functional team is looking for ways that the entire release team can win and not just themselves.

There’s no secret formula to the way I run meetings. Each one is different though there are several tried and true techniques that rarely fail. I’m working on a series of posts that explore different angles of meetings and how to make them really work. Along the way I’ll also continue to share why I enjoy them so much.

I Want to Know, What You’re Thinking

What’s one question you have about leading or facilitating well run project meetings (or meetings in general) I could answer for you in a future post?