How to Lead Collaborative Meetings

agile teams collaboration
Collaborative Meeting

by Ryan Fullmer

August 26, 2022

Let's face it, you spend a lot of time in meetings. I am sure you have attended meetings that felt like a waste of your time. It’s frustrating to suffer through meetings that lack purpose, structure and aren’t well facilitated. 

It Doesn't Have to Be This Way

Meetings can be dynamic, worthwhile and result in valuable deliverables that help drive you forward. They can be spaces where people engage, share ideas and work together to achieve a shared purpose. In short, meetings can be collaborative.

It's important to get clear on what collaboration means. People say they are collaborating in meetings when they are actually just sharing information.

To better understand collaboration, consider it in context to the ways teams and groups work together.

  • Coordination: This is the simplest way to work together. It involves people aligning or synchronizing their separate activities. The goal is to be more efficient.

  • Cooperation: This is a bit more complicated than coordination. It involves people working together by performing a piece of a shared task or activity. The goal is for things to go as planned.

  • Collaboration: This is a complex way to work together. People co-labor to create something from everyone's contributions. As I mentioned earlier, engaging and valuable meetings are collaborative. This ensures that everyone’s perspective, skills and talents are utilized. This in turn helps the group get to the best answers and decisions.

An Approach To Collaborative Meetings

In a collaborative meeting, you need to have clarity to the purpose, deliverables, plan, and work together as a team to meet the goal. Follow these steps to lead a more collaborative meeting:

  • Get clear on the purpose: Meet with the sponsor to understand what is needed and the goal. This ensures there is clarity on what needs to be accomplished.

  • Identify the team: Define who to include in the meeting. Ensure that you have the skills, knowledge, and experience to be successful. Take time to prepare the meeting space and tools.

  • Plan the meeting: Make time to plan your meeting. Define the goal for the meeting and the deliverables that need to be completed. Share this with the sponsor and participants in advance to get feedback and buy-in. Develop a meeting plan to provide the team with an effective process to follow to complete the deliverables.

  • Conduct the meeting: Facilitate the meeting based on your meeting plan. The participants establish norms for working together during the meeting. You support the participants in collaborating together to complete the deliverables and accomplish the goal of the meeting.

  • Close with a retrospective: At the end of the meeting, you gather feedback from participants on how the meeting went. You debrief with the sponsor to identify what worked well and what to do differently in the future.

Create an Environment for Success

The primary responsibility as the facilitator is to create the right environment for the group to be successful. The facilitator takes a neutral stance and focuses their attention on the context (how the people are working together) rather than the content (what the people are talking about).

The facilitator ensures that the team has an effective process to follow, works well together, and stays focused on delivering value. Here are some things you can do to create the right environment for collaboration:

  • Model curiosity and prioritize engagement and hearing everyone’s voice
  • Listen attentively and ask questions that encourage further discovery
  • Use maps/canvases to make it visual
  • Post the meeting purpose and agenda
  • Identify meeting norms at the start of the meeting
  • Plan frequent breaks to keep the group energized

Take Action

Now that you know more about taking an Agile approach to collaborative meetings, it’s time to take action.

  1. Identify a meeting that would benefit from more collaboration.
  2. Choose some ideas for how to make the meeting more collaborative.
  3. Develop an action plan to implement your improvements.

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