Designing Transformative Meetings: Agreements
Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Transformative meetings inspire ideas, action, and accountability. Sounds like a meeting you want to attend, right? Although the idea of designing transformative meetings sounds out of reach, I assure you anyone can do it by including five simple structures – agendas, roles, objectives, agreements, and timekeeping. Collectively, these pieces lead to meeting success every time. In this blog, I'm going to explore the subject of meeting agreements. Never heard of them? At first, it can feel awkward to create and introduce explicit agreements to your co-workers, but the results will be well worth the effort.
Meeting agreements are the rules of engagement that participants set to generate collaboration and productivity. They are part of the overall scaffolding that lets people focus on the important stuff – ideas, creative thinking, and critical thinking – because they aren't distracted by feelings of worry and annoyance. The agreements also create a process that everyone has bought into, giving people permission to redirect others without it seeming personal. This creates efficiency during the meeting and limits emotional responses after the meeting.
So, how do you go about setting these important meeting agreements? Start by reviewing the list of examples below. Select and refine the wording based on these considerations:
How can agreements support the organization’s culture and values?
Where have meetings gone off track in the past?
What needs to change to get things on track?
The phrasing of the agreements should always be positive. For example, if your group has had concerns with people talking over others and making the same point several times in one meeting, you could make an agreement that says: Everyone has a voice and states their position once. With this example, the agreement is not only about being effective; to the end user, there is an emotional piece of feeling heard, safe, and that their ideas matter. For more sample agreements, click here.
There should be some baseline meeting agreements for the organization that reflects its culture and values, but some could change based on factors such as the number of participants, meeting duration, and the meeting's objective. I recommend posting the agreements in the meeting room and including them on the agenda along with the purpose statement, which defines the meeting objective. If it's a longer meeting (more than two hours) and when your group is new to the process, it is important to revisit the agreements throughout the meeting. It is easy to forget what’s been agreed to it is a good way to reinforce the behaviors the agreements are meant to cultivate.
For optimal results, it's important to develop agreements that fit your organization, team, and meeting objective. If you're interested in learning more or scheduling a facilitator to help you create core meeting agreements, feel free to schedule a time to chat with me one-on-one.