Welcome to the fourth and final post in our blog series, Reframing Structure. In these articles, we make structures visible so we can see their oppressive and nurturing components, explore how we try to use structures to eliminate discomfort, and describe ways we’re trying to lean into structures that build relationships.
We usually focus meetings on the conceptual and the practical–what do we need to accomplish and how do we get it done? Amidst all the details of who, when, and how, we still need space to imagine, create, and thrive together. That space can be built into our meeting structures.
We’re sharing our Leverage to Lead meeting structure with you today, as an example of a structure designed specifically to build and maintain relationships. It’s an example of how building relationships can and should be part of your organization’s daily operations. We can use our structures to support and facilitate connections.
Inside Our Meetings
In our meeting agenda template, there are of course practical goals and logistical details. Alongside those, we
- Name how we feel as we start the meeting
- Name how we want to feel when we finish
- Articulate the meeting’s purpose (we can’t count the number of times clients don’t know why a meeting is called or what they accomplished)
- Identify our working agreements to align ourselves with our values
Essentially, we agree on the process of the meeting–our approach, our needs, our goals, and our feelings.
We also begin by asking, “What are we celebrating?” Our answers bring a sense of lightness to our work, and we build emotional resilience by holding up our big and small wins. Especially when the work is hard or heavy.
And then we turn to topics people have identified as priorities, making space for what is important to team members.
Why Supportive Meeting Protocols Matter
We do all this to help us show up to the meeting together. We all share responsibility for showing up committed to our values. And we do it because checking in with each other allows space for our emotions and connection with each other. So that when there’s a disagreement, a conflict, misunderstanding, or unintentional hurt, we can rely on those connections to help us listen deeply, ask questions, get clarification, and share how we’re affected.
At the end of a meeting, we review what we accomplished, we plan and look forward to next steps, and we share an “aha” moment, an acknowledgment, or a gratitude. In other words, we end with more connection.
How Relationship-Oriented Meetings Impact Our Work
By focusing on the experience of the meeting as well as the content, we de-center the outcomes. We don’t ignore outcomes, but they do not drive the meeting. This is designed to get us away from trying to control the conversation. We can, instead, listen and be wholly present. We can hear what people are saying, including their doubts, hesitations, questions, and frustrations, rather than judging their words against an outcome.
Sometimes, this leads us to question the outcomes, because our humanity is leading the meeting. Without a relationship-oriented meeting structure, we might feel like we’re getting “off track” instead of doing the vital work of building our track together with innovation and creativity.
In this way, we’re building equity and inclusion as we work–creating psychological safety, making space for vulnerability, and inspiring trust.
Another beneficial outcome is fewer outside meetings since we don’t need separate times to debrief or resolve conflicts. The meeting is where we say what we need to say.
If your organization is ready to build supportive and nurturing structures that put relationships first in your culture, contact any member of our team today.