I have a theory that if I listen well enough, everything I need to know about business I can learn from my kids.
The latest example involved a simple truth about why adults hate business meetings, and it inspired me to share some thoughts on how to take the pain out of corporate get-togethers, including training sessions, and turn them into gatherings people leave saying, “That was a fabulous use of our time, money and energy.”
When my daughter started high school, she came down heavy on one of her teachers in critiquing one of her classes for me: “All he does is talk. He never lets us do anything.” Keep in mind this is a course she wanted to take and a subject she wants to master. The pain is complicated by disappointment.
I’ve felt the same way when leaving many seminars and training sessions – well-intentioned affairs with too much talk and too little do.
So I developed a process I call LOOP Learning (Linkage, Obstacles, Opportunities, Plans) because it helps create sessions designed with real-world business issues in mind, and because it actively involves people learning about and dealing with those issues.
First, I abide by the need for good meetings and training sessions to be built around a well-developed agenda, an agreed-upon schedule and a group commitment to keep on track. But I’ve discovered four things more fundamental that, if accomplished, create high-energy, highly productive meetings:
Linkage. A vital early step is to make sure the session creates a sense of ownership in the participants about why they are together, and to assure the agenda connects to a specific business issue. Help people answer the question, “Why is this important – to me, to our team and to the company?” Linkage lifts responsibility for the challenge off the shoulders of “the boss” or the trainer who called the session and shares it with everyone in the room.
Obstacles. Sometimes the most important thing you can do in a meeting or training session is identifying what´s blocking your goals. Acknowledge there are barriers, and examine the risk in not overcoming them and of not challenging the status quo.
Opportunities. Once people understand the challenge and the barriers, turn them loose on generating ideas for improving, changing and innovating current successes and creating new possibilities for growth and success. An important element of identifying opportunities is to challenge the mindset that there is only one right way to do things. It’s critical to keep asking questions, knowing that solutions always will be a moving target.
Plans. The final step is to clarify priorities and to make plans and commitments for what must be done to achieve the desired business results. Determine who will do what and by when, to move toward the goal. Commitment and accountability built into the learning process help to achieve sustainable results.
The length of a session influences what can be accomplished and how, but in almost all sessions this model allows for a blend of interactive exercises, stories, activities, video vignettes, music, metaphors and illustrations related to the business objective. Perhaps the only “rule” for using LOOP Learning gets back to my daughter’s lesson: Give people plenty of chances to talk to each other and share ideas about how to deal with the challenge.
The objective in designing worthwhile meetings is to create an environment that encourages people to think differently, build on each other’s ideas and develop high levels of communication, commitment and collaboration. Think about a classroom full of teenagers. Energy and intelligence abound, as in every work team. When we bring people together, the challenge is to tap them, not to turn them off.
Reprinted with permissions from effectivemeetings.com