Author Archives: Lauren

Power and Voice

At this week’s boot camp we were tasked with reflecting on the power dynamics that could be shifted in our projects.

I immediately thought about the interviews with stakeholders in my project, the LLC staff, I conducted  last week. When I asked staff about what contributes to successful staff meetings, a common theme emerged around staff voice and validity of voices present in the room; the power to be heard and in front of the group without hesitation.

How do we increase staff voice and engagement in order to have more productive and successful team meetings?  As a result of our bootcamp exercise, I adopted a practice to try and shift the power around speaking our minds at staff meetings. I proposed  to break into small groups to discuss ideas and then report back to the larger group, fairly simple.

When I returned to discuss with the team and facilitate last week’s meeting, the collective was able to take the idea about equity of voice and power much farther. We agreed that in each operational staff meeting (which takes place every other week now as a practice), each team member would present 5 minutes on what they are working on.

Presentations would include:

  • Status Updates

  • Coordination Needs- Any help needed

  • Questions/Issues to discuss with staff

We practiced the 5 minute presentations during the staff meeting that day and I think this was an effective process. Staff shared what they were working on and as a team member said, “It was like old friends were catching up”. Creating the space for each member to share gave voice to the individual and to the team.

We were however able to break into pairs in another meeting facilitated by a team member at LLC. This worked very well especially since we were discussing big themes in leadership development. I think the team was energized by working together and pushing each other’s ideas forward. We also rotated partners to discuss different questions. This presented the opportunity to work with two different partners, which I think lead to breakthroughs around leadership development  and resulted in some team building as well!

Lauren Rodriguez

Taking a Step Back: A Framework for Optimizing Team Meetings

By Lauren Rodriguez

My project for Changemaker Boot camp is focused on improving  weekly staff meetings and optimizing our team process. Working at a learning community focused on transforming the way leadership leadership development, work is convinced, evaluated and conducted,  it can be tough to balance the staff brainstorming sessions with having a space to take care of staff business and organizational content.

Naturally, the stakeholders in  my project are my awesome team members. Since we are a small team, I was able to  interview  each member (Deborah, Miriam, Eleanor, Natalia in that order ) and get their feedback in order to create a framework around optimizing team meetings.

The question I asked the staff was, “What’s been your best experience in an LLC staff meeting where you felt the value of the team was best optimized”. I asked staff follow up questions to really probe their examples.

I tackled the analysis section by writing out key words or phrases mentioned in each of the interviews onto post- it notes and then clustered them into themes (just like in our class).  


And what emerged were three distinct but intertwining categories or processes that contributed to staff meetings with optimal levels of staff preparation : pre-conditions,  preparation and execution/goal setting.

1. Pre-conditions or Teamwork prep

This seemed to be a very important part of successful staff meetings.  Many staff members mentioned pre-conditons as essential. I think this is also an interesting issue since most of our staff is fairly new- hired within the last year or less. Staff identified areas in which they felt were needed to be in place and continuously worked on in order to carry out the work on a deeper level and solidify our collaboration as a team.

Some of these preconditions included:

  • The importance of trust and trust building

  • Compassion

  • The acceptance of our humanity

  • The creation of safe environments

  • Openness and and voice

  • Appreciation

  • A design thinking atmosphere

  • Trial and error accepted

An interesting theme here is that the staff is open to trial and error, testing ideas and bringing a design thinking mindset to staff meetings. This innovative mindset is combined with the need to create a safe space that foster other preconditions such as, trust, compassion and openness.  As one staff member said, “Each of us should feel solid, that our piece is valuable and valid”. In order to marry an environment of innovation and trust, these important components helped me to realize that we need more team building as a staff as we try to break new ground in staff meetings.

2. Preparation

Various levels of preparation was a major theme that staff mentioned. Some phrases included:

  • Having materials planned

  • Being prepared

  • Mapping it out

  • Being intentional about the meeting

  • Bringing in guest speakers/ outside experience when necessary

An interesting observation during the staff interviews was that each shared similar examples of meetings that worked best for them. But what was common about each example was having good preparation materials in place. Whether it be tools, exercises or bringing in someone from outside to further staff thought, planning was essential element to successful meetings


3. Execution/ Goal Setting

  • Clear outcomes for meetings

  • Strategic agendas

  • Voices are valued

  • Team is engaged and participates

  • Follow up and next steps

Being strategic about the goals of meeting and just as strategic about the products or follow up of that meeting were also a big theme. Testing approaches and really implementing design thinking was goal that as a staff we would like to move forward on.

Final Comments:

What I learned from the exercise is that as someone so wisely said in one of the interviews, “Good meetings really take a lot of prep work”. But maybe preparation work doesn’t just mean preparing for the team meetings. That maybe, by prep work, we have to take a step back before just the staff meetings and be really intentional around team building because we have new staff. We have started this kind out work with a recent staff retreat and other small lunch outings etc. But I think we have to be very intentional about building our relationships with one another. The idea of team relationship building really expanded my own framework about how to optimize team meetings.

Closing questions: What were successful elements of a team meeting that you have been part of? What are some good team building exercises or activities that have worked for you?


Shaking things up at LLC Staff Meetings

My name is Lauren Rodriguez and I work for the Leadership Learning Community in Oakland, where Eugene is our awesome board chair! We are a nonprofit, trying to create a more just and equitable society by changing and challenging the way leadership development is conceived, conducted and evaluated.

I am very excited to be a part of Changemakers Bootcamp because I have been looking for an opportunity to take my own skills to the next level and build my confidence as a young professional of color in the nonprofit world and in the evaluation research field.

My project has already changed from the first meeting with Eugene! I went back to the LLC office to “tell all” about my learnings at boot camp, and after talking with our ED and Managing Director, realized that my efforts might be best used to help make a breakthrough in the ways that staff meetings are conducted. And how we can best utilize staff time together to optimize productivity.

At first I was unsure if I wanted to make this my boot camp project. We discussed that we would get started straight away! That I could really be innovative and experimental with our whole 1.5 hours of staff time.  And then I got really interested…  I reflected on some of the core components of staff meetings –  we always start with a check-in, discussing content, getting caught up on cultivation projects.. I could go on but I am already bored! Why not change up our process to make staff meetings fun and a place to hash out ideas and get creative?

I had so many questions about changing our staff process around meetings and breaking out of our routines. Since we are a small staff (5 total), I think the biggest question for me is, “As a staff, how do we best utilize our time together to reach our organizational goals?”. This is a big question and I think it’s going to take a lot of trial and error and practice- hey aren’t these the central principles in our bootcamp??

To answer this question I realized that I am going to need patience and support of our staff as we try out new approaches and ideas. As of last Friday, I facilitated our first staff meeting, using a new approach and preparing at least one whole day in advance and being mindful of the agenda and time guidelines. As a staff we discussed how we want to use staff time and began to hash out ideas for working as a team together. We tackled 5 Team Agreement Questions that Eugene shared with LLC some time ago and structured our staff time to discuss:  

  • What are my experience with teams?

  • What are my hopes and concerned about this team?

  • How will we manage team meetings?

  • How will we make decisions?

  • How will we work through conflict?

We also discussed what transparency looks like for our organization, what it looks like to each of us. So I do think we accomplished a lot!

This week we are going to address our organizational goals and how each of our individual goals maps out on each of these with a visual exercise. I look forward to building my skills as a facilitator and getting creative together as a team to tackle big ideas and solution.  

I will sign off with a question: What are some of the techniques you have used to best utilize staff time and making breakthroughs as an organization?