Posts Tagged 'effective meetings'

Designing productive and energizing meetings

For many educators meetings are an unwelcome but inevitable part of their workdays. 

When skillfully facilitated, however, meetings are an essential means of accomplishing important goals and creating strong, collaborative relationships. 

This post from February 2013 offers suggestions for faculty meetings that are also applicable to many other types of meetings.

Four essential ingredients of successful faculty meetings

Successful faculty meetings contribute to the momentum of the continuous improvement of teaching, learning, and relationships within the school community.

They add value by deepening understanding, spreading effective practices, and building relationships.

On the other hand, poorly planned and facilitated meetings deplete energy and can bring innovation to a standstill.

In my experience, successful meetings have four essential ingredients:

1. Celebration of one another and of accomplishments within the school community. While it is certainly appropriate to note student accomplishments, it’s also important to draw attention to the accomplishments and strengths of the adult members of the school community. To that end faculty meetings can routinely begin with a few minutes of recognition and celebration. Such rituals can deepen relationships and energize the school community.

2. Professional learning focused on the school’s most important goals. The kind of professional learning I have in mind would occur as staff members analyze various types of evidence regarding student learning, explore professional literature, and share effective practices. It would seldom include what we think of as training or presentations.

3. Thoughtful deliberation regarding significant challenges and decisions that the school community faces. Because these conversations would be structured through the use of protocols or other small and large group activities, they would be focused and deep.

4. “Next action thinking.” Momentum would be maintained because meetings would always conclude with clarity about individual and collective responsibilities. As a result, there would be no confusion about who will do what, by when, and to what standard.

Administrivia, of course, would be eliminated or minimized. Administrative items would be distributed through email with clear explanations about what is expected from staff members.

Question: In your experience what are the ingredients of productive and energizing faculty meetings? What things have I missed?

Consider ways to create positive energy

The beginning of a new calendar year is a good time to consider ways of creating positive energy in ourselves and others, which is truly one of the most important fundamentals of leadership and resilience.

This post from September 2013 points the way to the positive emotions at the core of positive energy. 

8 ways to create positive energy in the school community

Visitors can often sense in a matter of minutes the positive or negative energy of a school. 

Some schools feel welcoming, calm, and joyful. Others feel angry, stressful, and even foreboding.

Fortunately, administrators and teacher leaders can influence the energy and emotional tone of classrooms, schools, and school systems. 

Here are 8 suggestions for creating positive energy:

1. Bring authentic positive emotions such as enthusiasm, hopefulness, and joy into the school community.

2. Use  formal and informal processes to celebrate the accomplishments and strengths of everyone in the school community.

3. Honor those who are not present by refusing to engage in gossip and other negative interactions.

4. Make certain that all meetings are engaging and productive.

5. Ensure that professional development produces meaningful professional learning by putting an end to “mindless” professional  development.

6. Make certain that all requests are carefully considered before making promises, and that once made, those promises are kept.

7. Whenever possible, use careful planning to prevent or minimize problems and the stress they cause. 

8. Maintain an unwavering focus and consistency by ensuring that continuous improvement efforts are based on a compelling vision, shared community values, and clear long-term goals and strategies.

What ideas or practices would you add to this list?

A plague on the educational landscape…

Dennis Sparks

Bad meetings. Bad professional development. They are a plague on the educational landscape.

How is it possible that after decades of complaints so many educators continue to experience boring, unproductive meetings and mind numbing professional development?

More specifically, why is it that:

• so many teachers who complain about poorly-run meetings become administrators who conduct poorly-run meetings?

• so many teachers who protest meaningless, ineffective, and often demeaning professional development continue to offer the same kinds of professional development when they become administrators?

Cynics might say that it’s a process akin to fraternity hazing—if I had to endure it, so should you. I don’t think that is the reason, though.

Here are some possible reasons:

* Many leaders do not know what they do not know. Having never experienced well-run meetings or well-designed professional development themselves, they simple repeat what was done to them.

• Leaders who have experienced the processes and benefits of well-designed professional development are not clear about what made it effective. They cannot repeat what they do not deeply understand.

• Leaders do not deeply understand the principles of good teaching. Those who do may not appreciate that those principles apply to adults as well as children. As a result, the least engaging and effective “teaching” methods are used—lectures, endless PowerPoint slides, and so on.

The solution: Whatever the cause, things will not significantly improve until leaders are explicitly taught how to design and implement meaningful, engaging meetings and professional development.  And, of course, that means they have the will to do the demanding learning and planning that are required to ensure high-quality professional learning for all educators so that all students experience high-quality teaching every day.

What is your diagnosis? How is it possible that after decades of complaints so many educators continue to experience boring, unproductive meetings and mind numbing professional development? Or do you disagree with my premise, believing instead that meetings and professional development for most educators are efficient and effective?

Meetings add energy or deplete it…

Dennis Sparks

Meetings add energy to the school community or they deplete it. They seldom have a neutral effect.

Meetings that energize:

• Have clearly stated purposes that community members care about, with agenda items and outcomes matched to those purposes,

• Produce learning that is likely to alter participants’ beliefs, understandings, and behavior for the benefit of those purposes,

• Engage all participants in intellectually-stimulating conversations that spiral deeper into important issues,

• Conclude with clear “next actions” — everyone knows exactly what will be done, by whom, and by when, and

• Have high levels of interpersonal accountability to ensure that tasks are completed on time in the agreed upon way.

Meetings that deplete energy:

•  Lack one or more of the above,

• Focus on administrivia, and/or

• Consist of serial speechmaking, often dominated by meeting leaders, during which predictable views are expressed and remain firmly held. As a result, nothing of consequence changes during or after the meetings.

What would you add to these lists?

Ways to avoid unproductive, dispiriting meetings…

Dennis Sparks

There are few things more dispiriting than unproductive meetings. 

A veneer of polite conversation disguises a lack of serious and deep analysis. Conflict about important assumptions and points of view are avoided or minimized.

When such meetings are the norm rather than the exception, the energy required for the continuous improvement of teaching and learning is depleted rather than created and sustained.

Here are several recommendations offered by Dan Rockwell to avoid those problems and “ignite meetings”:

1. Build relations with team members that enable candor. Distance produces fear; connection courage.

2. Systematize dissent. Require the entire team to speak for and against the issue on the table.

3. Ask those who originate ideas to explain why they won’t work.

4. Develop three solutions and have everyone defend all three.

What is missing from Rockwell’s list?

5 essential skills for every leader…

Dennis Sparks

I have seen leaders rise or fall based on the presence or absence of one or more of the following skills:

1. The ability to discern and paraphrase the assumptions, values, and points of view of others with sufficient skill that those with whom they interact would report that their leaders accurately understand their perspectives.

2. The ability to effectively manage one’s feelings and to discern and respond appropriately to the feelings of others.

3. The ability to manage one’s responsibilities efficiently and with integrity, which includes but is not limited to email and social media, short and long-term planning, and task and project management.

4. The ability to effectively delegate meaningful responsibilities to others in the school community without micromanagement by providing appropriate support and skill development to ensure success.

5. The ability to facilitate meetings (or when appropriate delegate their facilitation) that achieve their stated purposes and are satisfying to participants.

Do you agree that these are essential skills? What skills have I missed?

Meetings that work, and those that don’t


Meetings that don’t work:

• Present information to a passive audience;

• Do not have clear purposes or have low-level purposes;

• Do not involve participants In planning and facilitating the meeting;

•  Focus on personal opinion rather than data and professional literature;

• Are dominated by a few, often outspoken, individuals; and

• Do not have learning or meaningful decision-making as a significant part of the agenda.

Meetings that work:

• Engage participants in planning, facilitating, and assessing the impact of the meeting;

• Have clear purposes for agenda items and activities that match those purposes;

• Result in meaningful professional learning and thoughtful decision making;

• Engage participants in solving significant problems;

• Use data and professional literature to guide conversations;

• Evenly distribute participation among attendees; and

• Frequently use protocols to make certain meetings are focused and productive.

What have I missed in these lists?

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