Put On Your Cape And Be A Meeting Hero

The number of meetings we’re in every week continues to skyrocket. Microsoft Teams reports that meetings have increased more than 250% since March 2020, with no signs of slowing down.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—meetings matter. Meetings are a microcosm of your organization: they are where culture gets shaped, values are revealed and belonging cues are sent and received. No single place in organizational life is more important to focus on for efficiency, effectiveness and inclusion than the meeting room.

Hybrid brings new challenges

Unfortunately, as we transition from a remote-only environment to a hybrid one, some things are getting lost in translation. One of the greatest benefits of life on Zoom was equity. All of the onscreen boxes were the same size. Permanently remote workers got to have the same meeting experience as everyone else, rather than being an afterthought. Chat provided opportunities for quieter voices to participate without having to break into the conversation verbally.

But now, our old bad habits are starting to re-emerge. Let’s take advantage of this moment to set a new standard for all meetings—hybrid, remote or in-person—and prioritize inclusion of everyone involved. Whether you’re leading the meeting or lending your perspective, you’re a critical part of making this happen.

The power to “lead from any chair”

You don’t need to be the official meeting host to be a Meeting Hero. Every participant can raise the quality of the conversation by:

  • Arriving clear on the meeting purpose and having done any required pre-work
  • Staying fully present and giving the meeting your full attention (no multitasking)
  • Engaging others by asking genuinely curious questions

When things veer off-track, as they inevitably do, step up to help the meeting host get things back in order. Here are our four favorite Meeting Heroes:

1. The Conductor

“That’s an interesting point, Marcus. One to which we could devote an entire meeting. Let’s schedule a follow-up for that and get back to our original goal.”

The Conductor stays focused on the original purpose of the meeting and watches out for potential derailers. When someone starts dominating the conversation, the Conductor gently brings them back to focus. If the usual suspects continue to get stuck in a loop, the Conductor may pull the ELMO card: “Enough, let’s move on.”

2. The Connector

“This seems highly relevant to what Carol mentioned earlier in our discussion. It seems like marketing and sales may be working on similar issues. If so, we should coordinate our efforts.”

The Connector is the meeting’s best listener. They are always on the lookout for related ideas and they make connections that no one else may see. The Connector ensures that everyone leaves the meeting just a little bit smarter than when they arrived.

3. The Celebrator

“I think that’s a terrific idea, John, and given your familiarity with the data, I’m not surprised you saw something the rest of us missed.”

The Celebrator always brings a positive perspective. They acknowledge others, encourage ideas to come forward, and they are always present and curious. The Celebrator highlights the expertise of others so that participants will too value all perspectives.

4. The Clarifier

“Can you provide a few more sentences about the origin of this project? Everyone else may already know, but it’s not yet clear to me.”

The Clarifier goes first in asking the “stupid” questions that others hesitate to ask. They do so in service of the group, even when the Clarifier already understands. The goal of the Clarifier is to make sure everyone leaves the discussion with the same understanding.

You can be a hero

It’s all too easy to show up to meetings, settle in and either work on something else or simply stand by as the conversation is derailed. Doing so, however, is a waste of your and everyone else’s time. If you’re going to attend a meeting, step up and be the hero that every meeting needs.