We all know meetings can bring out the best and the worst sides of people out in the open. If a meeting is not one of those dull and time consuming ones, it might be the one where the games begin and egos start clashing against each other. Nobody likes to lose an argument, or to have their ideas ridiculed in front of others. Therefore, some people seek to dominate the conversation to have the upper hand in a meeting. On the contrary, some people decide to flight instead of fight so they withdraw into their shells to feel safe.

These safety mechanisms are part of our built in features. But by creating a non-threatening work environment, where we don’t get paralyzed by the fear of looking stupid or weak, or feel the need to get ahead, we can prevent the thresholds from kicking in too soon and have a genuinely productive meeting. A meeting, where collaboration, open conversation and everyone’s strengths unite.

“Our egos love meetings. One more reason to reinvent how we do them”

Frederic Laloux, (Reinventing Organizations book, illustrated version)

Self-managing organizations tend to have less meetings, due to the lack of trivial bureaucracy. But, in order to have fruitful and productive meetings, specific meeting practices must be in place to help the participants to keep their egos under control and to cooperate/communicate with each other from a place of wholeness. This can take some practice and adjusting, but keep an open mind and remember the purpose of this all when trying these few examples.

At Sounds True, every meeting starts with a minute of silence to let everyone organize their thoughts by relaxing, grounding and focusing on the upcoming conversation. You can also think about listening to a song or a watching a TED Talk related to the topic in hand to get everyone tuned in for the meeting. Another idea is to have someone telling a relevant story or recapping the current situation and acknowledging what is ahead. This could then be followed with a moment of silence to let it marinate a bit, so everyone is ready for the upcoming discussion. There are reasons behind clichés, so stop what you are doing, smell those roses and head to the meeting with a clear mind.

Another idea is to use the “check in/check out” method in your meetings.

At “check in”, everyone shares their current feeling at that moment. It allows everyone to know where your mate’s mind is that day and clears the air for understanding others better. Sometimes saying the emotion out loud is all it takes to put it behind. Or, if someone is feeling freaking fabulous maybe that rubs off on others and creates the much needed momentum for the day!

At “check out”, the unspoken emotions or feelings that came up during the meeting can be brought to light. Feelings such as gratitude, excitement, ambition, frustration and concern can oftentimes be forgotten at the end of a rushed meeting. If concerns or frustrations arise during the meeting, why would you wait for the next meeting to bring these worries up? Speak up and listen.

The “check in/check out” method encourages a culture of direct feedback and truth telling about the quality of the team’s cooperation and communication skills.

“Even when you’d rather stay silent or correct a business problem on your own, don’t lose sight of interaction with your team. At worst, you’ll make an effort towards transparency and collaboration, at best, you might create your company’s next big win.”

Tori Utley (on a Forbes blog post “The Importance Of Open Dialogue With Your Team)
Runar, Helsinki (Photo by Antero Semi)

This last example showcases the reasons and the effects behind these methods and why I’m keen to implement some Teal practices into today’s hospitality world:

“FAVI, for many years, had the practice of starting every meeting with all participants sharing a brief story of someone they had recently thanked or congratulated. The practice had a beautiful effect on the meeting: it created a mood of possibility, gratitude, celebration, and trust in other people’s goodness and talents. Focusing on others and their accomplishments can also help people to shift their concern away from self-centered goals they might have come into the meeting with (“I need to get X out of the meeting”) and reconnect with the broader needs of the organization. After a few years, this practice started feeling staid to people at FAVI, and was dropped. It might show up again, perhaps in another form; these practices must feel fresh and meaningful, not formal and staid.”

Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage in Human Consciousness, 2014 (page 163).

It’s good to remember that not everyone has to say something in every meeting. The forcible questioning where everyone has to take turns just for the sake of it is usually time consuming and unproductive. Not everyone wants to share a personal anecdote or come up with a compelling story. Listen to your mates and adjust the process to suit your band of brothers and sisters.

You can also combine these ideas, by having a moment of silence and a story, a song and a recap or an anecdote and a joke, to lighten up the start of a meeting. As long as you remember that a meeting shouldn’t be a monologue held by management and fueled by the ego, you’ll get there. Simply pick your poison and set your team for the right headspace.

Consider posting all the upcoming meeting agendas in the company’s intranet (or team chat) so that anyone can attend any meeting that interests them. Everyone from barbacks and food runners to chefs and bartenders should have the opportunity to attend all meetings across the board (financial, strategic, marketing meetings etc.). Being transparent, letting people participate and simply letting them be involved as much as they want (even as a listener) builds trust and openness between all the roles you have in your venue. Not to mention the learning opportunities this creates in it’s entirety, which can really be a great motivator to many hungry hospitalians.

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Mika Ammunét Written by:

Bar Manager, Future Bar Owner

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