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
The acceptance of our humanity
The creation of safe environments
Openness and and voice
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.
Various levels of preparation was a major theme that staff mentioned. Some phrases included:
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
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.
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?