We’ve all been to meetings where everyone sits around the table, staring at their papers, just waiting to get things over with and get out of the room.
Meetings like this are transactional and impersonal. With a packed agenda, they become rigid and inflexible, often running over and leading to a mass exodus as everyone rushes to their next engagement at the end.
It’s a trap many organisations fall into. Driven by targets and under immense pressure, leaders lose sight of the need to slow down and connect with their teams. In the long term, the organisations suffer as individuals simply go through the motions and fail to engage. But even in the most pressured environment, there are small - but highly effective - changes a leader can make.
I’ve recently been working with a senior leader who described her leadership meetings this way.
In our discussions, she shared how she was finding it difficult to engage with her team beyond the targets and agenda items. As the head of service, she had a lot to get through in each meeting, which was restricted to updates and quick decision making, with little or no time to discuss, explore and share ideas.
Naturally, this went beyond the meetings into the rest of her day. She’d been walking around with her head down, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone in case there was something else to add to her list. She spent her energies focusing on the negatives, which was draining her energy and affecting her relationships at work.
But something was starting to change.
Some of the work we’ve been doing together has involved taking time out to reflect. Using the “3 Good Things” concept, my client had been taking a small amount of time each evening to remember and feel gratitude for three positive things she’d experienced that day. She shared how she’d made it a habit to actively remember the little things that make her smile, and acknowledge and celebrate her achievements.
I could see how this simple daily practice of noticing 3 good things during the day was bringing her joy. She shared how she’d started to become more aware and appreciative of her surroundings, and started to ‘check in’ with her feelings frequently during the day. She noticed how much data she had access to, when she stopped for a minute and connected with herself.
What I love in my work is when my clients make a connection between their behaviour and what’s going on in their head. This leader suddenly saw how she had been focusing on the negatives and how, through re-focusing on the positive aspects of her day, she was experiencing a positive change in her internal thoughts and feelings. Ultimately, this led to a change in her behaviour.
She remembered the phrase, ‘what you focus on becomes your reality’ and could see how the focus of their leadership team meetings was having a negative impact on the team. In essence, their focus on targets and agenda items had moved beyond the meeting room and into their work. They had lost the space to connect with each other.
But understanding how her change of focus was slowly changing her reality, my client shared this concept with the team, explaining how her change of focus had impacted positively on her. The team fed back that they had noticed a difference, too. They loved the idea of 3 Good Things, and went on to explore how they could introduce it into the organisation.
They now have a new agenda item at their monthly leadership meeting:
“Time to talk, reflect and celebrate with each other”
My client’s change in focus had brought about a change in her behaviour which was noticed and appreciated by the team, who were then engaged in learning more.
I have no doubt that the switch from transactional, agenda-focused meetings to making time to focus on the positives within the team will see a change beyond the meeting room. But the change began with the leader, who modelled a different way of thinking and behaviour before inviting others to follow suit.