How to have an awesome meeting?

It’s a short blog this week because I’ve been consulting for one of my clients and helping facilitate a vet project they have in the pipeline. I’m really excited for them and of course I’d planned my workshop meeting and facilitation well.

However, I didn’t expect quite the level of engagement I got and I thought I’d share why the meeting was so successful.

Plasticine

(A.k.a modeling clay or Mála if you’re from Ireland.)

All of the pictures in this blog are productions of people in the room, whilst fully engaged in a very important strategic workshop. Aren’t they awesome? Who knew that we’d have some many budding Michelangelos in the room?

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It seems counter-intuitive to actively encourage a person’s mind to wander whilst you want them “in the room” for their meeting. Surely you want them focused and on task?

In a creative workshop such as the one I ran this week, we started with a problem and a group of folks to try and solve the problem, or at least to come up with the first iteration of a solution. There’s lots of evidence to show that the average human attention span is in minutes and runs in cycles. In a room of several people the challenge is to let the natural variation in the cycle of attention run, whilst trying to engage the team in a flow experience, which you might recognize as being “in the zone”. When you get in to a flow experience, time passes imperceptibly and people become deeply absorbed in what they’re doing. The quality of work is high and the experience in pleasurable and highly rewarding.

Pleasurable meetings? Really?

There are lots of flow models, but essentially in the creative scenario that we needed, we had to let the mind wander outside of the room, to alleviate the risk of boredom and to stimulate creative thought. Massaging plasticine, building Lego, using a fidget spinner and doodling all fit in this category. It enables your higher unconscious thinking to flow freely, in a mindful way. The skill of the facilitator is to then harvest the creativity and focus the outcomes in a framework for the team.

Here’s a suggestion on how you can do that.

  • Agenda and prework: Have an agenda that people can align with in advance. Set a simple pre-work task to get people in the mood of the meeting in advance, e.g. “bring an example of something that interests you on the topic of the meeting.”
  • Set up the room and have your tools ready. A few quid on plasticine, a bucket of Lego and some high protein snacks will help. Schedule and stick to the breaks or perhaps even schedule a walk as part of the meeting to freshen things up.
  • Frame the meeting objectives: Ask for personal objectives for the meeting or use the prework examples to get people thinking about the subject matter.
  • Let the subject go wide: The facilitator lets the subject run in different directions, whilst keeping the end in mind. They should be asking open questions, coaching the team and helping them drill down on ideas. This is the plasticine section and the longest part of the meeting by the way!

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  • Consider an exercise in the meeting where the team get off their bums and move around. A Post It note ideas boards, a white board or flip chart scribble session helps consolidate ideas and move the team towards consensus. Get them to draw what success looks or feels like.
  • Focus: As the meeting nears completion, start to focus the team on the stated objectives. Build the roadmap or action steps coming out of the meeting and start to build SMART goals that the team can use to keep each other accountable.

Post meeting follow up is always a challenge. A dry set of minutes isn’t anything other than a record of the meeting. Consider what is required. Is it an action list, a project plan or activity tracker? Or is it to evolve thinking? Certain people will go home and continue working on the meeting subject on the train home, in the shower or at the gym as well. Consider how you’re going to capture that energy and thought productively too?

Having a great meeting or workshop is a skill and requires planning and practice. Start small and invest in how you gather people together to do work: It will pay dividends.

For small business coaching, facilitation and mentoring, the VBC can support you. Get in touch and you too could have a team of micro-mascots on your windowsill.

Why having a clearly defined role & accepting it are two very different things

I’m a mid level cycling geek. I love nothing better than being out on a bike, especially a mountain bike and when I’m riding I find it’s often a mindful experience. I don’t get the same kind of flow experiences whilst running or doing other kinds of sport, although skiing gets me pretty close too.

Over the years I’ve read all kinds of books on the sport, whether it’s about Lance Armstrong and the conspiracies around him or more recently about Team Sky and their stellar performance in world cycling over the last few years. Sir Dave Brailsford is well known in the public psyche as one of the architects of this success. As I was thinking about my blog this week, one of his quotes about clarity of role came to mind:

  • Do the guys understand the teams’ strategy and the plan going in to a race?
  • Do they understand their own role in the plan?

The final piece of the obvious jigsaw is Role Acceptance.

Ask Sir Bradley Wiggins about role acceptance as his team mate Chris Froome rode away from him at the summit of La Toussuire in the 2012 Tour de France. Sir Brad’s autobiography makes a cracking read on the subject.

The concept of a strategy, tactics to deliver and people with the responsibility to deliver them is not new. Role acceptance is linked to company culture, but in the context of the average vet clinic it requires us to ask us some challenging questions. I’ve written before on culture and recruiting for culture and this is an extension of that thought process.

Our specific veterinary problem is that the pressure brought on by urgency in managing the clinical cases exacerbates our cultural and people challenges. Urgency usually trumps importance when it comes to task management. Urgent can take over by accident, but one way to help manage it is to ensure the important stuff is well thought out before urgency takes over. That means taking time to work on culture, strategy, tactical delivery of tasks and ensuring all team members know their role in the plan. Team members should be held accountable for that role too.

So here is the call to action. Answer the questions yourself first. If you can, that’s brilliant. If not, you’ve got some thinking and planning to do.

  • Does your clinic have a clearly expressed strategy?
  • Does your clinic have a plan for delivering on that strategy?
  • Do you know your role in the delivery of the plan?

And critically: Do you accept your role in the delivery of the plan?

I’ve come across many situations in clinic and business over the years where the strategy is clear, the plan is sound and people have the tasks clearly delegated to them. Yet the plan has not been succeeding because role acceptance has been an issue.

If you or your team haven’t accepted your roles, for whatever reason, then trouble lies ahead. It can be a real challenge to manage a person who hasn’t accepted their role in the plan. Usually it stems from having a divergent vision or belief about why they do what they do. Most people can explain what they do really well. Few can explain why as succinctly.

If your team doesn’t share the same vision and the same “why” of why you do what you do, then it’s unlikely they’re going to pull in the same direction and become a high performing team.

There’s a famous phrase, “Get the right people on the bus first and worry about them being in the right seats later”. Have you got the right people on your bus? Are you on the right bus? Don’t get caught up managing the seats on the bus if someone’s on the wrong bus. You’ll never make them happy and it might be time for a grown up conversation with them. It’s scary to approach this kind of conversation but usually both parties benefit, even if there’s a parting of the ways. Get the wrong people off the bus.

Engaging your team in building a shared vision, strategy and tactical delivery can reap dividends. Ensuring everyone knows their role and has accepted it is the final piece to get right.

The VBC can run a facilitated workshop for your clinic and coach you through it personally. We can help you work out job descriptions, roles, and responsibilities and help you roll them out. We’re not legal experts but we can also help you work through some of those difficult conversations you might need to have.

Drop us a line to set up a confidential chat, we’d love to hear from you!

Are you a culture vulture?

A veterinary friend of mine was asking the other day, whilst you should recruit for culture, what happens when you’re desperate to recruit? Don’t you just get a person in the gap; what if you’re up against it?

She was very exercised about it, as she tends to be about most things, but it got me thinking. There are two blogs’ worth here for sure but firstly, here’s my perspective:

  1. 1. Yes you should recruit for culture, but most vet clinics haven’t got a clue about their culture.
  2. 2. No, you absolutely should not “just fill the gap”. The opportunity cost is just too high if you get it wrong.

So this blog topic: Company Culture and how to grow it.

Next week: Recruiting for culture and being the employer of choice.

Your company culture is what your team says and does when they think no one is looking. The trouble is, in this age of connectivity, someone is always looking. Your boss is probably looking the least but your consumer is most certainly looking and they’re tweeting it, posting it and blogging it. It can be highly costly to your business if you’ve got a cultural problem.

I believe the absence of company culture in vet clinics is one of the core problems with the vet profession right now. We’re a bunch of highly qualified individuals, working for a large number of small to medium enterprises. If we’re lucky, then the schools have stepped up and are teaching teamwork, leadership and those horribly misnamed “soft skills”. These soft skills weren’t taught to my generation or until recently and are the hardest and most impactful skills in the book. Clinical competency is a given whilst the other stuff isn’t. Developing culture is one of these skills but it cannot be contrived and has to be earned. To help you, here are a few things to reflect on, but if you’re really struggling, please get in touch and I’ll help frame it for you:

Culture starts at the top

It starts with the founding team. Your team looks to you for guidance, energy and validation. The health of your business is directly linked to the health of your leadership culture.

Culture is actions, not words

Actions speak volumes and consistent behaviours are essential.

Culture takes time

Built on clarity of purpose, passion and consistency and nurtured in an environment where your team can flourish, culture will develop. You must support it with careful, thoughtful decision making and this is often the challenge with partnerships or small groups of vet directors.

Values need to be lived daily

You should unfailingly live and breath the core values of your culture. They are the lifeblood coursing through the veins of your business. It’s what you actually do, rather than what is written down, that your team will take as the example. Think carefully; act deliberately.

Be a culture Vulture

New employees bring their own values to the business; meaning company culture changes over time. One of the key decisions to make when hiring is assessing how good a cultural fit a prospective employee will be. No chalk and cheese, it’ll never work out.

Consumers can spot fake culture a mile off

It’s the dissonance between what you say and what you do that will catch you out. You can’t impose culture or spin it. At best an imposed culture is a thin veneer of false promises.

A great company culture is the glue that bonds a team or a business together. It should be authentic, honest and lived. Without it, we’re just a bunch of people in the same building, doing roughly the same thing. That’s hardly a recipe for outstanding success.

If you need help herding cats, knitting your team or getting your head around your leadership group and establishing your company culture, drop us a line and I’ll call you back.