Have you ever asked your colleagues about the best meetings they’ve attended? While most of us have war stories about mediocre and even downright awful meetings, stopping to think about the very best meetings you’ve attended can be instructive. What made those meetings so satisfying? Why do you remember them months, or even years, after they occurred?
Kokomo-Howard County Public Library (KHCPL) managers recently responded to those questions. There was surprising uniformity in the answers. Overwhelmingly, they chose moments that helped them to see their colleagues differently. Here are some favorites:
Whether it’s about personality type, leadership style, or something more specific, our managers have valued quizzes that identify our strengths, especially when used with people we already think we know. There is a seemingly endless number to choose among; one we enjoyed was “Your Leadership Orientation”, which we learned about at a Library Journal Lead the Change event. An activity that helped us process the results of the quiz was literally lining up by our numerical score for each of the four orientations. It was definitely helpful to find myself standing right next to a colleague with whom I thought I had absolutely nothing in common. We also benefitted from the chance to see each other as complex individuals with varying strengths.
A highlight of meetings we’ve attended has been when everyone around the table answers a question or completes a statement. After reading The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, managers used an exercise described in the book by taking turns sharing something that was hard during their childhoods. At least one of those stories created an “aha” moment for me that explains a lot about a co-worker’s personality. The activity doesn’t have to be entirely serious, however, to build relationships. Silliness can also be a great antidote to tension. Try asking, “If I were an ice cream flavor, I’d be _________ because _________.” or “If I could have any super power, it would be __________.” If you need something simple and easy to remember, our go-to is, “Tell us something good.”
Take the Challenge
One way to see your co-workers in a new light is to work with them on a team challenge. The possibilities for team-based tasks are many and varied: setting mousetraps and placing them in a particular order within a set amount of time, working together to navigate an obstacle course, or safely guiding a blindfolded companion to a destination without touching him or her. Working together on something totally outside regular, day-to-day duties will highlight all sorts of personality traits and quirks. Watch for problem-solving skills, risk tolerance, the ability to organize the team, and how individuals respond to the activity’s stated rules.
But We Have Work to Do
If you worry that spending time on personal histories or non-work-related exercises is a waste of time, consider how much time is stolen by poor working relationships. Avoiding working with a colleague can affect productivity in the short-run or outcomes in the long-run. A lack of trust can result in gossiping, complaining, or secret post-mortems conducted after meetings. Each of these not only takes up large chunks of time but are also likely to hurt morale.
Being proactive about building relationships and trust has proven to be worth every second at KHCPL. It has not only made work more fun but it’s also led to better cross-departmental teamwork, greater willingness to take risks, and all-around improvements in performance.
Try adding a seemingly impractical element to your next meeting. It could be an excellent use of time and become one of your best meetings ever.