Meeting for Success

by Dr. John Weaver

 The best meetings in which I have participated leave me feeling energized and eager to meet the challenges in my work.  At other times, I am drained and discouraged after a meeting.  What makes the difference? 

All meetings are not created equal.  Meetings that energize are characterized by the exchange of important information.  These meetings encourage problem solving and innovation.  Participants experience our connection with each other and view themselves as a "team."  Members of the team believe they have valuable contributions to make that will contribute to the success of the organization.

Psychologists have identified critical leader behaviors for meetings that energize:

Provide a self-critique early. Meetings can be threatening.  This means that problems may be hidden or minimized to provide positive impression management.  When leaders demonstrate the willingness to criticize themselves, it gives permission for others to openly discuss problems and learn from mistakes.

Accept feedback and ideas from others.  Feedback and ideas need to be acknowledged verbally.  Explicit recognition establishes a context for active problem solving.  When group members feel heard, defensiveness drops and it is easier to engage in finding solutions.

Focus on task focused feedback.  Behavior is changeable; character is not.  Effective leaders maintain focus on the task at hand and present feedback about specific behavior that needs change.

Provide specific, constructive suggestions. Here is a variation on an old adage, “don’t just tell team members about problems; give them solutions."  It is more helpful to give suggestions for positive change than to only identify what behavior needs to stop.

Encourage active team member participation. The group process favors as some personality styles over others.  Some people find it easy to speak up.  Others are more reticent and it may take more time to formulate a statement that is coherent.  A good leader will create space for everyone to contribute.

Guide meetings to include discussions of "teamwork."   It is necessary to be aware of teamwork as well as task work.  Task work is more obvious and more concrete.  Teamwork (the way things get done) is more enduring.

Vocalize satisfaction when members improve.  If you don’t tell them what is right, participants may try to fix what is not broken.  When corrections are made but not acknowledged, members may assume that the leader 1) did not notice, 2) got tired of pointing out the problem, or 3) is satisfied with the results.  Different individuals will assume different motives.

(Source:  “Training Team Leaders to Facilitate Team Learning and Performance”, by Scott Tannenbaum, Kimberly Smith-Jentsch, & Scott Behson)

Dr. John Weaver is a business psychologist and an independent consultant.   He can be reached by email at or by phone at (262) 544-9918.

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