Dr. Jim Bohn – The Blue Colar Scholar
The Group Dynamics of Meetings – or, all is not as it seems. Part I – Leadership
Meetings are the bane of civilization unless of course they are effectively managed and obtain strong outcomes. A meeting is a place where hearts, minds, wills, and bodies come together to achieve something greater than individuals could attain on their own.
Meetings are excessively high-risk activities, given the sacrifice of time and human effort, along with sunk-cost, is involved in the moments spent together. But meetings are also a fact of life. Great leaders know how to use meetings to achieve successful outcomes. This series of articles discusses the Group Dynamics of meetings, looking a bit more deeply into how groups of people do or don’t work together to get things done.
Meetings, after all, are about people, not just process, and as we all know, people are complex and not always predictable. The more people we put together, the more complex the situation and the more difficult to obtain a useful and meaningful outcome.
What could possibly go wrong?
In this article, I argue that meeting leadership is more than getting a bunch of people together around a table for a couple hours until everyone is tired. A good meeting, well-led, can do remarkable things for organizations. A poorly led meeting is not only a waste of time, but destructive to the credibility of the leader.
Meeting Leadership – what it is not!
- Meeting leadership is not about power. Although leaders with high levels of authority can lead meetings, dropping the power card is simply a non-starter. If the power card is used, people will nod graciously and “approve” of the leaders actions. But make no mistake, simply being in power and barking directions without asking for (and listening to) input is not a meeting — it is a propaganda session.
- Meeting leadership is not about entertainment. There are some in the business world who are known for their constant levity, sarcastic comments, and eye-rolling gestures. While it may be hilarious to be in the same room with them, gathering with them is more like a party than a meeting. And inevitably, people treat the content of the meeting with the same seriousness that the leader projects.
- Meeting leadership is not about the treadmill of routine. Simply meeting every Monday at 8AM because it has been done since time immemorial. Routines are valuable for management, but they can cause boredom to set in. Keep it fresh.
- Meeting leadership is not about simply ‘showing up’. This type of leader is someone who knows there are issues to solve, but hasn’t taken the time to prepare for the gathering. There is no agenda. There is no goal. There are only dead-ended questions like “What’s the status of that boiler installation, Bob?” or “Do we know how many orders we shipped out last month?” Questions like that can be answered in an email in less than a minute.
- Finally, meeting leadership is not about donuts and food. While those wonderful treats can mean a stronger attendance (who doesn’t like free food?), if the dietary delicacies are the primary reason for the meeting, people will be focused on which bakery items they can eat on their current diet or the guy next to them that stole their favorite Danish. The other issue is people sometimes get tired from eating all kinds of carbs so their attention spans drop even more.
Meeting Leadership – what it is!
Great meeting leadership is about … drum roll… influencing others to achieve useful outcomes.
- Great meetings are the byproduct of effective planning and careful thought. Even spontaneous meetings can have an agenda, a goal, and an outcome. Thus great meeting leadership is about intention — about getting something done.
- Great meeting leadership is about developing an agenda in the room if necessary to ensure the proper points are covered and decisions are made.
- Great meeting leadership is about ensuring the right people are in the room to make the decisions necessary to move forward.
- Great meeting leadership is about effectively managing personalities (more about that in the next blog post).
- Great meeting leadership is about driving toward the goal and not getting lost in the minutiae.
- Great meeting leadership is about documenting decisions and assigning responsibility.
- Great meeting leadership is about ensuring people are attending to the material — a big task in this time of personal devices.
- Great meeting leadership is about planning to ensure the right equipment and tools are ready to move forward with discussion. (Think AV).
- Finally, great meeting leadership is about ensuring people are physically comfortable so they can think about the task and not think about how miserable they may be. This includes finishing a meeting as soon as the work is complete. No need to stay an hour if you’re done in 15 minutes. Dragging out meetings is a waste of time for all.
All of the elements I have listed, both pro and con, are about a leader’s awareness of others. It is about a leader being able to self-monitor and use their own behavior to influence others toward an outcome. Thinking about other people in this day and age may be counterintuitive, but it is always effective. Others are what meetings are about, not you as the leader.
What prevents us from being good meeting leaders?
As leaders, we are often so focused on ‘getting stuff done’ that we forget the basics of good meetings. Yet when we put disciplines in place that we turn to again and again, they become part of our meeting repertoire and soon we are tacitly leading good meetings again and again.
Want to be legendary in your organization? Design and manage your meetings so well that people want to attend them. Be a great meeting leader.
More about Dr. Jim Bohn
“Working in the real world, I have had to live with the change management decisions I have made, both good and bad, and I believe that experience has given me insight into the best ways to approach change.” Having retired after several decades with Johnson Controls, Dr. Bohn launched his own Change Management and Organizational Transformation Practice. http://proaxios.com/
As a writer, His book on managing change “Architects of Change: Practical Tools for Executives to Build, Lead and Sustain Organizational Initiatives” was released in July 2015. Available at Amazon.com. Many of his LinkedIn posts exceed over 1,000 views and some have received nearly 12,000 views, acknowledging his expertise in organizational thinking.
His recent book entitled: “The Nuts and Bolts of Leadership: Getting the Job Done” is available on Amazon.com.
Dr. Bohn is currently completing a book entitled, “Getting I.T. Right: A leader’s guide to installing the organizational App.”
As a leader, Dr. Bohn has personally led significant change management projects including IT implementations, mergers, and reorganizations. He has served in roles ranging from the shop floor to design, engineering, sales, and service. “I consider my early operations experience to be invaluable for understanding change problems.” His pedigree includes global experience in change and operations.
As an educator, Jim has taught Organization Development at University of Wisconsin’s LUBAR School of Business, Business Ethics and Strategy at Concordia University and Leadership at Marquette University. He is currently an adjunct teaching Organizational Behavior at UWM-Lubar School of Business.
As a social scientist, Jim is deeply passionate about learning, developing and practicing organizational research in the context of change.
As a published scholar, Jim’s interest in Organizational Efficacy began during his Ph.D. studies at the University of Wisconsin. “The idea that people might be able to evaluate the power of an organization to control outcomes was very intriguing.” His groundbreaking research in Organizational Efficacy was published in Human Resource Development Quarterly, vol. 21, no. 3, Fall 2010, and has been translated into Russian and Italian. Jim was interviewed by Business Week in 2006 on the subject of Organizational Efficacy. [PDF]
He is a Master Facilitator who has led hundreds of workshops with audiences ranging from front-line mechanics to Senior Vice-Presidents. In addition to his work in organizational transformation, he has spoken at the National Academy of Change Management Professionals, and led workshops for SHRP and Wisconsin I/O Psychologists, ASTD-Twin Cities, MNCMN, MNODN, Atlanta Field Service Conference, the Chicago Corenet Real Estate Group, SHRM SIG group, Metro Milwaukee SHRM Annual Conference, PMI Group International, the Plant Manager’s Association, OFB, HR.COM, and PRSA International among others.
In addition, Dr. Jim Bohn has a passion for helping those in need. He has served on the Heroin Task Force of Ozaukee County, with Advocates of Ozaukee County (for victims of domestic violence), Habitat for Humanity, Safe Families of Minnesota and Family Sharing of Ozaukee County.