• joe@jhanderson.biz   
    (206) 351-5607   

  • When I led Workplace Mindfulness workshop for client last week, two participants came up to me afterward. “We really liked the material,” they said, “but we need help running better meetings. Can you please just tell us what to do?” As an empowerment-oriented, freedom-loving person it’s sometimes hard for me to get specific like that: I’d rather give people tools and empower them to build what they want. But it was clear in the moment that specific guidance was really needed. Inspired by this somewhat obvious realization, here is a set of tips for making meetings more mindful. Most of is just plain good meeting management practice; the mindfulness comes in because all of these things really do help you stay curious, non-judgmental, and focused on the present moment.

    1: Adopt a Mindful Mindset

    Be curious: No matter how great or terrible a meeting is, the bottom line is that you are always free to step back and observe what’s happening with curiosity. That will free to you to really see what’s going on and make good decisions about what to do in response.
    Be experimental: Curiosity invites the capacity to try new and different things and see what happens. It could be great! It could be terrible! Let’s find out!
    Be brave: Cultivating changes in group meeting behavior requires taking some risks. With curiosity and an experimental mindset, a lot of things become possible—but you do have to deal with the butterflies that may come when you try something new.

    2: Create a Mindful Environment

    Create a positive physical environment: Clear away any detritus from previous meetings, empty the trash with old pizza crusts, open a window if you can. Make sure there’s enough room for everyone to sit or stand comfortably and equitably.
    Create a positive virtual environment: If some or all participants are on a phone conference or video line, take care to ensure they can be seen and heard.

    3: Enter the Meeting Mindfully

    Set a clear intention: Send an agenda, meeting objectives and timing for each item to all participants beforehand—even if it’s a daily standup meeting, taking five minutes to review where things stand and what’s percolating helps maintain a clear intention.
    Selfcheck: Whether you’re the meeting facilitator or not, give yourself a few minutes to get centered and clarify your state of being before you join the meeting.

    4: Establish Mindful Ground Rules

    Devices: Set a clear policy for use of devices in meetings, and hold one another accountable.
    Respect the agenda: Stay aware of the clock at all times. Agree that you will close off discussion of agenda items when time is up and take followup items offline. If a topic demands further discussion, make a conscious decision as a group to rearrange the agenda.
    Parking lot: Agree that important off-topic items will be identified and addressed separately.
    One person talks at a time and everyone listens: Agree to avoid side conversations.
    Be on time: Agree to start the meeting at the agreed-upon time in all cases.

    5: Conduct the Meeting Mindfully

    One minute to arrive: After the meeting starts, spend one minute in silence for everyone to breathe, gather thoughts, let go of the last meeting, and be ready to pay attention.
    Commit to ground rules: Spend one minute to do a quick review of the ground rules and get agreement to abide by them and hold one another accountable.
    State meeting intention: Remind attendees what the meeting is for.
    Checkin/individual intention: Give each attendee 30 seconds to answer the question, “On a scale of 1-10, how present are you right now?” and explain why.
    Talk in rounds: When sorting through a difficult issue, have each person in the meeting speak in turn. After everyone has spoken (one round) do a second and possibly a third round. (see the book Time To Think by Nancy Kline for more about this practice)
    Respect the agenda: Make the agenda visible and front and center throughout the meeting, and stick to it.
    Keep muscles active: Build in stretch breaks, include activities that involve movement (breakout groups, writing on the whiteboard), hold meetings outside when possible.
    Checkout: At the conclusion of the meeting have each person spend 30 seconds expressing their state of mind as a result of the meeting. Very important even if (particularly if) meetings didn’t end up in a good place.

    6: Follow Up Mindfully

    Document the meeting: Capture what was discussed, what was agreed to, and open issues…even for a standup meeting.

    Here are some useful web resources on mindful meetings:

    • A good summary of mindful meeting practices is available from the Search Inside Yourself Institute: https://siyli.org/downloads/Toolkit_Mindful-Meetings.pdf
    • https://www.fastcompany.com/3033897/5-simple-steps-towards-more-mindful-meetings
    • https://meetingsimagined.com/tips-trends/keys-mindful-meetings
    • https://www.limeade.com/2017/10/10-steps-toward-more-productive-mindful-meetings/
    • https://www.ge.com/reports/mindful-meetings-how-to-bring-your-best-leadership-brain-to-work/
    • http://www.meetingsnet.com/blog/5-ways-take-meetings-mind-numbing-mindful/