Home Health & Hospice

How can I ensure more effective meetings at our agency?

Homecare Q&A, March 3, 2015

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login.

Q: How can I ensure more effective meetings at our agency?

A: We spend a tremendous amount of time in meetings. Many of them are boring, nonproductive, and lethargic. Think about a meeting you have been in that was exciting, where you left in action feeling energized. Likely, the meeting was focused, disciplined, highly interactive, fun, and generated positive energy. Now think about a meeting you will lead in the coming days. A spectacular meeting includes six stages:

  1. Opening–framing
  2. Framing–mindset
  3. Effective questions
  4. Powerful cycle
  5. Requests and offers
  6. Closing–leaving in action

In the first five minutes of your meeting, you need to set the tone for the meeting. There are choices that you want to make before walking into the room:

  • How do you want to be in this meeting?
  • What questions do you want this meeting to run on?
  • What commitments do you intend to generate?

In the first five minutes of the meeting, you need to prepare your audience. You need to set the meeting’s tone. Don’t let it evolve. You need to request that people “be” a certain way. Tell them what work you need them to do. People will almost always oblige and be glad to do it! Think about a boring meeting you’ve recently been in—did you know why you were there? Did you know what was expected of you?

Your request to the audience:

  •  Choose a positive, proactive mindset
  • Choose a specific role to be in
  • Choose a special kind of listening

A positive mindset includes elements like:

  • Taking responsibility
  • Seeking opportunities
  • Seeking possibilities
  • Testing ideas
  • Being proactive
  • Being open
  • Sharing good stories

In contrast, a negative mindset includes:

  • Blaming and complaining
  • Seeking problems
  • Talking about what can’t be done
  • Wishing
  • Reactivity
  • Judging
  • Arguing
  • Opinions

The special kind of listening referenced earlier seeks possibilities, insight, and connection, while setting aside judgment, evaluation, and critique.

After you have told people how you want them to “be” in your meeting and what you need them to work on, get them into the right mindset with an opening exercise. First, ask everyone to write down what excites them about the work you have outlined for the meeting. Next, ask each person to share what he or she wrote down with the person next to him or her. Then ask the two to write in one sentence, “What is the biggest result we would like to see produced in this meeting?” Last, ask each group to share what they wrote with everyone present. This will create your positive mindset and energize the room.

Effective questions
Every meeting runs on a question. Set the question to produce positive, net forward energy. What is the energy in the room? Remember, positive energy is about what can be done; it is future focused. Negative energy is about what can’t be done and looks to the past. You want to create more positives than negatives in the room.

Translate your intent into an effective question. For example, say compliance with home health aide supervisory visits needs to be improved. Your intent: Improve home health supervisory visit compliance. The effective questions could be:

  • What are the steps I can take to improve my team’s home health aide supervisory visits?
  • Is there a nurse on my team who is compliant? What tools does he or she use to accomplish this?

Effective questions use “what” or “how” and avoid “why” or “which.” Effective questions generate ideas and commitment. They avoid surfacing problems and issues. Effective questions cannot be answered with “yes” or “no.”

Some effective questions:

  • What’s working?
  • What causes it to work?
  • What ways can we adjust and use that approach?
  • What excites you about what you heard?
  • What can I do to improve the situation?

Some ineffective questions:

  • Why did you do that?
  • Why are you not cooperating?
  • Why don’t you try this instead?
  • Why are your results so low?
  • Is that a priority?
  • What are the barriers we face?

Powerful cycle
In every meeting, the room is full of short attention spans, unique controlling concerns, and awesome information processing power. Think about it— people come to a meeting from many different places and are thinking of a thousand different things:

  • “Why am I in this meeting?”
  • “I could be checking my email.”
  • “What will I make for dinner tonight?”
  • “Did I remember to tell that person about ...?”

You need to manage the attention and mindset in the room. You want to create a conversation of the whole with the powerful cycle. The powerful cycle:

  • Framing
  • Short talk
  • Processing
  • Sharing
  • Acknowledging

A powerful cycle takes about 30 minutes. I look at what I want to accomplish in a meeting and try to create a powerful cycle for each topic/agenda item.

The powerful cycle starts with framing the topic through an effective question that tells the group what work needs to be done.

The short talk is a focused presentation of information needed to understand the work at hand.

Once the group knows the question and has heard the information they need to do the work, I then get the group working. I engage them to process the information to answer the question. Depending on the size of the group, I may have them process in pairs or small groups.

Sharing occurs when the groups share what they have processed with the whole room. Acknowledging occurs when there is discussion about the sharing. I ask the whole room to respond to what they heard from the smaller groups. I have them identify what excites them and decide what it would take to make the things they identified happen.

I always end the cycle recognizing the contributions and celebrating the success.

A powerful cycle gets everyone involved.

Requests and offers
As a leader of a meeting, you need to speak like a leader. Leadership speech acts include:

  • Declarations: Statements that are true as spokenand cannot be judged
  • Assertions: Statements about fact that can be tested
  • Effective questions
  • Requests and offers: Create the future, in the moment – Generate commitments
  • Commitments: A promise to deliver something by a given date – Defined, measurable, and time limited • “Yes, and ...”
  • Acknowledgements When leading a meeting, tell your leadership story. Engage those in the meeting. Make requests and offers.

Closing—leaving in action
As you close your meeting, tell attendees about the work they have done in the meeting. Remind them of the effective question the meeting was running on. Review the powerful cycles that occurred. Ensure that EVERY attendee leaves in action with a commitment. Don’t be romanced by the energy in the room. Be specific on who is doing what and by what date.

I have had people write down and turn in their commitments before they leave the meeting. Another effective technique is to have people stand and state their commitment out loud to the group.

We spend a lot of time in meetings. Make sure that your meeting time is focused, effective, productive, and fun! 


This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login.

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