Setting group norms for a meeting that everyone can help to uphold can be challenging. We have all done those exercises at the onset to establish the rules that we want people to follow in order to have a productive meeting. Here are two alternatives to this straight-forward activity that might give the conversation more life. The second one comes directly from our “Beyond Facilitation” workshop last week.

First, using the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) approach, you can ask people what kind of “Freedoms” they would like to have, rather than rules or things that people should not do (rules are made to be broken, after all). For example, “Don’t be late” turns into the freedom to be on time, etc.

Second, you could set up an activity to identify “How to have a terrible meeting” (AI practitioners close your eyes…) You can ask the participants at the onset to think of all the things that they see at meetings that lead to poor or weak outcomes. List those on a flipchart, have a laugh, and then number them and post them in a obvious place in the room. During the workshop, whenever someone or the group does one of those things, notice it by number, “I think we might be doing number 5 here: not listening, what can we do about that?” That might help the participants take the responsibility to ensure that you actually don’t have a terrible meeting.

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