leadership tools

You Better Get Working on This Now

Just because something has the same name, is there equivalence? 

Recently, while running an emotional intelligence training, I had a participant come up to me, obviously disturbed. 

We had just distributed the results of the EQi 2.0 Leadership Self-Assessment that we use in the leadership development program for high potential talent, and the young lady was not happy with how she had scored herself.

“Something is wrong with this assessment,” she said. 

“Tell me what you think is wrong," I asked her.

“Well, I just took a different emotional intelligence assessment from a book that I bought in the airport, and that test said I had really strong empathy.” 

“What makes you think the assessment we took in class is wrong?” I asked her.

A bit stunned by that question, she hesitated, and said, “Well, this assessment says my empathy is below average, and the other test said I am way above average, so I guess I just want the high score to be the right score.” 

“Let me ask you this, and be really honest: which of these two assessments of your empathy seems most like you?" I replied.

After a long pause, she said, a bit sheepishly, “I guess the lower one. I know I have work to do in this area," she said, “I was just hoping that the hill wasn’t so steep.  I know my lack of empathy gets in my way as a leader.”

“How was your Reality Testing score in the Decision-Making domain?" I asked.

“One development thing at a time,” she stated.

Buyer Beware

Just like any consumer product you might purchase at your local Walmart or Walgreens, there are many types of leadership assessments you can choose from. When you go to buy a car you have many choices:

What is the Make of car:  Mercedes or Smart Car

What is the Model of car: C-Class or Fortwo

Then you have to think about what features you want to add to each vehicle.

Sure, you want to buy a car, but the quality and price difference will be staggering: Thousands of dollars of difference between Mercedes and Smart Car. 

Yeah, tell me something I don’t already know, Scott, what is your point?

My Point

As you think about the leadership tools you put in your toolbox, make sure they are the ones that are going to take you where you need to go. Just like there are big differences in cars, so too are the big differences in leadership tools. In many cases, what looks like a low-cost option might not be getting you the results you are looking for. 

iStock-596042324.jpg

In the area of emotional intelligence, consider these recent studies as you think about the tools you want to provide to the leaders you work with:

  1.  A 2014 report showed that investments in Artificial Intelligence startups have increased by 300% over a four-year period (Stamps, 2017). Routine tasks are being handled more by machines, and ever increasingly, it will be emotional and social skills, such as empathy and collaboration, that will be required by people. (Kolbjørnsrud, et al., 2016). 
  2.  Alex Gray of the World Economic Forum (2016) states, “Five years from now, over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed." Emotional intelligence, for example, is not on the list today of top ten job skills needed. By 2020, emotional intelligence is listed as number six in the top ten of job skills needed by everyone (Gray, 2016).
  3. According to Miao, C. Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2016), based on a meta-analysis, leaders' emotional intelligence (EI) positively relates to subordinates' job satisfaction. Job satisfaction can have a direct impact on an employee's intent to stay and hence a direct correlation to the organizations bottom line. High-quality relationships have a positive impact on employee work perception, well-being and emotional experience (Karanika-Murray, et al., 2015).
  4. Miao, C., Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2017) report that An analysis of self-report EI found that the effects of EI on Organization Citizenship Behavior (OCB)  and Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB) are stronger in health care and service industries than in industries where emotional labor demands are lower. The results imply that organizations can increase OCB and reduce CWB by recruiting employees high in EI and by training employees in emotional competencies.

According to the research that I read, the need to hire and train leaders in emotional intelligence is gaining in relevance and importance. 

3 Factors In Selecting Leadership Tools

As your organization evaluates tools to train your leaders, here are 3 significant things to keep in mind:

  1. Validity and Reliability: If you are going to use any tool in your leadership toolbox, these might be the two most important to consider. For a tool to be valid, it must be proven to measure what you want it to measure. To be reliable, it must measure the same thing repeatedly. You will want to ensure that your tool was built with these in mind as it was developed. It really doesn’t matter how many people have taken an assessment if it was not developed with the right scientific rigor. People can get scores that are meaningless if the validity and reliability are not right.
  2. Normed Population Distribution: Does the population that the assessment was built for fit the population you are working with? If you are working with professional people, does your assessment allow you to select an appropriate population to measure against? If you are measuring how good a professional athlete is, for example, do you want to assess their statistics against other professionals or just a general population some of whom might not even play sports at all? 
  3. Normed Population Size: Is the population of your leadership tool big enough to give you the statistical power you need to be able to show measurable differences in behavior. If it is then you can create meaningful development plans. If not then you run the risk of telling people that they are good at things they know they are not.

Final Thought

When I was a young boy I used to love to go to work with my dad, a sheet-metal worker. I used to watch them put huge pieces of siding on buildings and set air conditioning units on the tops of hospitals with helicopters. It was pretty cool stuff to watch as a kid.  

Dad was always a stickler for using the right tool for the right job. I can remember more than once I had to go back to the tool box and get the crescent wrench because I had grabbed the pipe wrench the first time he asked for it. "What difference does it make?" I asked, “It makes all the difference in the world.” He would say. "If we don’t use the right tool we might break something and then we will have a big mess on our hands."

As you consider the leadership tools you put into your toolbox, please make sure they are the right ones that are going to allow you to build the type of leaders the organizations you support are going to need to take them into the future.

To Thine Own Self Be...Authentic?

To Thine Own Self Be...Authentic?

Self-expression is an element of emotional intelligence that is often misunderstood.

Using Leadership Assessments with a Virtual Team

This article is the first in a four-part series for those who develop leaders to have more confidence and credibility.

Over the past 9 months at Livingston Consulting Group, we have been working on something pretty cool that I think many of you might find interesting, and possibly applicable to the leadership work that you do.

Here is Our Story

It all started with some conversations I was having with both my coaching clients and a few of the university students I teach in leadership development and executive coaching. At the end of my classes, I would get at least 3 emails from students saying something like, “I am getting a great education and will have a firm foundation for the direction I want my life to go. However, I feel like I am lacking the tools and resources to be successful.”

After having many phone conversations with these students about coaching, which often involved questions of process and procedure, coaching skill, sales and marketing, and practical development tools, I quickly saw needs and desires for leaders of all types:

  • those who coach others
  • those who shepherd others
  • those who counsel others
  • those who train others
  • those who consult with others
  • those who facilitate groups of others

The main message I heard as I talked with students and clients alike is that they desire to increase their credibility with those they serve. However, budgets are tightening, travel is becoming more restricted, virtual meetings are becoming a reality, and yet the leaders I talk with still lack quality tools to develop their followers.

Fast-forward to October of 2016: I am meeting with my virtual team (Brandi lives in Tampa, Angela lives in NYC, Michelle lives in Grand Rapids, Gretchen lives in Madrid, and Madison lives in Indianapolis,) and we are discussing Clayton Christensen’s book Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice. In the book, Christensen outlines his "theory of jobs" that details how organizations should decipher what job it is that they actually do for their customers.

As we are discussing this book, someone on the team asked, "So, what job are our customers really asking us to do?"

This was an easier question to answer in regards to the training and executive coaching that I do. But when it came to providing tools and resources to those who develop others we felt like…we were missing the boat.

So we worked on it.

And we decided that our mission and the job we perform is: to provide confidence and credibility to those who develop others.

The Next Step

I will not bore you will the details of launching this new endeavor, but the real highlight is that we will be offering certification in 4 new leadership assessments starting in April of 2017! Over the next few weeks, I will be giving you a peak into what these tools can do for you as a leader, as someone who develops leaders, or someone who is interested in becoming a leader.

Emerging Leader Profile 360

This week I will be highlighting an assessment called Emerging Leader Profile 360 Feedback (ELP 360.)

This assessment is an electronic 360-degree assessment for those in an organization who are showing leadership promise and want a development plan that takes them toward this vision. This tool allows their superiors, peers, and subordinates to give the emerging leader competency-based quantitative and qualitative feedback.

Click here to download a free sample of the Emerging Leader 360 Report!

 

Brandi’s Experience

Brandi has been on my team for about 18 months now. She is responsible for all of our internal operations. While she has been in leadership roles in the past, the experience she had was not as positive as one would hope. So we decided to provide her with the ELP 360 as she is quickly emerging as a real leader on our team.

I asked Brandi a few questions that I thought you might enjoy her response to:

What was your overall impression of the Emerging Leader Profile 360?

I was pleasantly surprised by the comprehensive evaluation of my leadership that the Emerging Leader Profile 360 provided. Not only was the feedback I received from my manager, peers, and direct reports insightful and helpful, but I also found the self-evaluation to be incredibly valuable as it forced me to slow down and really think about how I interact with my work responsibilities, my colleagues, our clients, etc.

How did you initially feel when I approached you about taking the Emerging Leader Profile 360?

When I was approached about taking the Emerging Leader Profile 360 I was both excited and a bit nervous. Self-evaluation of my leadership is one thing, but to open myself up to the evaluation of others on my team was a bit intimidating. Feedback is often the catalyst for growth, so I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn about my leadership from the perspective of those who work closely with me on a day to day basis.

What is the most significant thing you learned about yourself from this feedback?

The most significant thing I learned about myself from this feedback has to do with my confidence as a leader. Both my self-evaluation and the feedback I received showed that I tend to “panic” when confronted or challenged by others. In the workplace, there will inevitably be times of unavoidable confrontation. As a leader, it is important that I develop the confidence necessary to express my thoughts in a healthy way, even in challenging times, rather than shutting down or avoiding the conflict entirely.

How do you see this feedback accelerating your leadership abilities?

The insight from the 360 feedback has given me clarity around a few key areas where I can focus on maximizing my strengths as well as developing areas where improvement is needed. The feedback I received has given me a fresh and energized perspective and I look forward to the ways I will grow and develop my leadership as a result of this experience.

Brandi, thank you for your transparency in sharing what you learned about yourself and this process.

How about you, leader?

Do you need to have confidence and credibility with those you develop? If so stay tuned, we have more stories coming over the next few weeks, and in April you will be able to register to get certified in these exciting leader development tools!

7 Strategies for Eating Healthy on the Road

[guestpost]Today I would like to welcome my friend, Jan Tilley, to the blog. Jan is a gifted author and dietician, and her new book 'Eat Well to Be Well' is available now. I'm excited to be giving away a few copies of her book on today's blog, so enjoy the post and be sure to comment below for your chance to win![/guestpost] As a dietitian and professional speaker who is very accustomed to traveling for business, I can tell you that eating healthy while traveling may not be easy, but it is not impossible!

Page1Many of my clients struggle with making healthy choices on the road.  I have a client who entertains customers at dinner several nights a week.  As a part of our counseling, he asked me to go with him to dinner to teach him to make healthy choices at a steakhouse.  What I discovered was that he was making fairly healthy choices but his portions were way out of line.  He started the meal with a large shrimp cocktail, followed by a Caprese salad, a 12-ounce rib eye steak with a loaded baked potato, red wine, and dessert.   None of these were horrible choices, but the overall combined meal exceeded 3000 calories – way more than he needed for the entire day!  For our meal together, I made the following suggestions:  small shrimp cocktail, house salad with dressing on the side, 6 oz. petite filet, steamed vegetables, one glass of red wine, a decaf cappuccino for dessert.  With just a few small changes, he was enjoying a delicious, well-balanced dinner at the same restaurant for less than 700 calories!  To remind him to order wisely, I asked him to repeat to himself as he made his selection from the menu, “the only meal I need to get right is this one, I am only one meal away from success!”

Here are 7 tried and true strategies to help you maneuver the challenges of making healthy food choices on the road:

  1. Drink water. The goal is ½ your body weight in ounces.  If you weigh 150 pounds, you should aim for about 75 ounces of water a day.  This will serve two purposes – it will keep you feeling fuller and it will prevent you from thinking you are hungry when really you are just thirsty!
  2. Stick to your normal eating schedule. If you eat breakfast at 7:00 every day at home, then try to stick with that time on the road.  Traveling is not an excuse to miss meals and snacks.  The goal is to eat about every 3 hours to stay energized for your day.  Be sure to pack or purchase healthy foods (think apples, carrots, nuts, jerky) to prevent hunger and maximize productivity.
  3. Keep it real! Avoid processed and fast foods that are laden with fat, sugar, salt and a list of chemicals your body doesn’t need and doesn’t know how to process!  When faced with making difficult choices on the road, look at the menu to determine which choices are made up of primarily vegetables and lean protein without a lot of high-fat sauces and toppings.
  4. Limit or Avoid Alcohol. Alcoholic beverages can be a huge calorie trap!  A couple of tips to remember; make lower calorie choices such as a low-calorie mixer, beer, or wine and when consuming alcohol, have one drink followed by one very big glass of water before deciding to have another.
  5. Protein is Your Friend! Eating protein stabilizes your blood sugar and keeps you feeling satisfied.  Carbohydrates are digested quickly and leave you feeling hungry again very quickly.  If you will make it a habit to eat lean protein every 3 hours throughout your day, you will be much less likely to overindulge in the evening.
  6. Eat Breakfast. Start your day right with a healthy, protein-rich breakfast.  This will prevent making bad choices midmorning when you are starving!
  7. Free isn’t FREE! Conventions and events are notorious for providing piles of decadent foods for meals and snacks.  It is tempting to load up to keep yourself entertained and awake during meetings, then have some extra to take back to your room for an evening snack.  This spells trouble for your waistline!

For more tools on building a healthy you, check out Jan’s new book, Eat Well to Be Well.  Jan is a powerful thought leader in all things health and wellness.  In the book, she translates the most current science-based information into easy to read tips and tools for making healthy choices in how we eat, sleep, exercise, and manage stress.  Eat Well to Be Well is available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, and on Jan’s website at www.jtawellness.com.  In addition to her knowledge as a medical professional, Jan is quite the foodie.  On her website, you will find thousands of tried and true healthy recipes along with past blogs and health resources.  While visiting the site, be sure to sign up for Jan’s weekly newsletter!

Homework

Get a copy of Jan's book and equip yourself with tools for making healthy choices! I am giving away three copies here on today's blog. If you would like a chance to win one of those copies, leave a comment below sharing your favorite tip for eating healthy while traveling.

Winners will be announced in the comment section, as well as by email, on Friday.

5 Ways to Positively Impact Your Organization’s Culture

There is a lot of conversation in the “blogosphere” these days about the types of cultures leaders can create in organizations. Here are a few examples:

  • Learning Culture
  • Performance Culture
  • Service Culture
  • Command & Control Culture
  • Customer Centric Culture
  • Employee’s First Culture
  • Shareholder’s First Culture

Frankly, there are probably thousands of cultures and subcultures that organizations can identify with. Leaders can be left in a state of ambiguity about what is really acceptable in a culture unless organization-wide consensus can be found.

Confusion can lead to inconsistency in strategy implementation or even complete chaos, which can result in paralysis. This fragmentation in organizational culture can leave the strongest subcultures defined by those with the loudest voices, which may not actually be representative of the culture at all.

Perhaps a story can clarify:

Years ago I worked at an organization that had a cultural norm of “respect for people." This norm was carried out in a lot of very positive ways throughout the organization, such as caring and compassion with a death in an employee's family, paternity and maternity leaves, even pay based on performance was weaved into this respectful culture.

In one department, there swooped in a leader who had an agenda. A change in performance standards would take place but only a select few favorites would be told of these new rules in the culture. Low performance ratings were given to people who had traditionally been top performers. The organization became chaotic and fragmented as no one knew what the cultural norms were in order to perform at high levels. All anyone knew was to "please the leader or you are out."

Fast forward 6 months and the entire department had been decimated. The leader had to be replaced. What was once a high performing organization had been completely and utterly destroyed by the actions of one person. One really loud voice was able to take down an entire team, exiting many top performers from the company in the process.

The culture you define as an organizational leader impacts the development of your team members. If they don't feel safe, they definitely won't feel valued as a team member. And if they don't feel valued, then they won't be motivated. When you have unmotivated team members you run the risk of losing them or leaving untapped potential on the table.

So, how do you create a culture that allows your newest team members to feel safe as well as your current colleagues to be motivated? Perhaps it's not something that you DO, but instead what you can BE.

Focus on developing your emotional intelligence. This effort on your part will impact the culture you want to create. As you create this positive culture, the desired behaviors will become part of who you are and not just something that you do occasionally. Think deeply about the kind of culture you are shaping as you lead your team.

Here are 5 things you can become that will positively impact the culture of your organization to give you great results:

Be Self Aware Know and be confident in yourself and your abilities. Understand how you handle your emotions, and how they impress your company. Everyone is watching you to see how you will react. In fact, they may be able to predict your behaviors. Become just as aware of yourself and how you can choose your emotional responses.

Be Assertive Communicate your what, how, and why in a simple, clear, and even repetitive way so that your team understands.

Be Empathetic When I teach seminars on Emotional Intelligence, I often ask the group for a common definition for empathy. The response I get back more than any other is “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes.” I love this definition, but to take it one step further (pun intended), “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes, even when the shoe doesn’t fit." Being empathetic is about being compassionate, caring, listening, and being flexible as needed. I believe strongly that we should not neglect the impact empathy has on shaping the culture of your company. Showing regular empathy will instantly invoke safety and value for your teammates.

Be in Control Not wavering, or changing things based on emotional reactions. When something comes up that invokes an emotional response, remind yourself of the companies mission, and your principles, to be sure that the decisions being made align with your mission. This way your team can feel confident that you won't make changes at the drop of a hat. As they trust you, they can focus on the work they need to do.

Be Optimistic People who are positive are magnetic. We want to be around them and we can be inspired by them. In order to be optimistic, you have to change the way you talk to yourself. What I mean by that is being able to see the best in yourself, see setbacks as learning opportunities, and see obstacles as unique, temporary events that you'll get through. Learn more about this by downloading my eBook, Optimistic Thinking.

Homework

Think about the 5 "Be's" above. Choose one you would want to work on.

To help organize your thoughts, grab a piece of paper, then write and complete the following sentence:

I want to be more ______________, so that my team can feel ______________ and we'll create a culture that is ___________________.

Here are three ways I will be more ____________ this week: 1. 2. 3.

Share what you wrote with a mentor or coach and have them help you with this development. If you can't think of who to share this with, write it in our comments below or contact me directly. I'd love to hear what you have to say and find out how we can help you!

Leadership Tip of the Week

This is some sage advice I received from an interesting source. Click play below to watch a short video with some additional thoughts from this week's blog, "What Is a Simple Way to Assess Your Leadership?"

I would love to know what you think about this idea. Leave a comment below.

If you know someone who might benefit from these tips, please send them the link to the blog and encourage them to subscribe!

See You At The Top,

Scott

What Can Leaders Like You Learn From Jean Nidetch?

If you are like me when you read the title of this blog you thought, “I don’t even know who Jean Nidetch is, so what can I learn from someone I don’t know?”  However, I think there is a very important lesson for leaders to learn from this pioneering entrepreneur and trendsetter. PAY-Jean-Nidetch

I met Jean this morning as I was reading the Wall Street Journal.  Buried in the Business and Technology section was an article about Weight Watchers founder, Jean Nidetch, passing on at age 91.  My initial thought upon reading the title of the article was that I was impressed she had made it to 91!  My second thought was that I had never thought about how Weight Watchers got started. Although nearly every female in my early childhood life had at one time or another proclaimed to be on “Weight Watchers”, I knew almost nothing about it.

I was fascinated as I read the article and learned about how this organization came into being. Suzanne Knaper, the writer for The Journal puts it this way, “…Ms. Nidetch, a perpetually overweight housewife, discovered an important weight-loss tool that was missing from traditional diets: empathy."

Wow! That hit me like a ton of bricks.

I ran across a great quote by Jac Fitz-Enz the other day that resonates with where I am heading in writing this article on empathy:

"Sometimes, if we cut through the brain and get to the gut, we learn the truth."

When I teach seminars on Emotional Intelligence I often ask the group for a common definition for empathy. The response I get back more than any other is; “walking a mile in the other person's shoes.” I love this definition, but to take it one step further (pun intended), “walking a mile in the other person's shoes, even when the shoe doesn’t fit.”

[Tweet "Empathy: walking a mile in the other person's shoes, even when the shoe doesn’t fit."]

It is easy to be empathetic when someone is just like me. It is much harder to have empathy when someone is not like me. How about you?

According to Steve Stein and Howard Book in The EQ Edge, "Empathy is the ability to be aware of, understand, and appreciate the feelings and thoughts of others.” Alfred Adler put it this way, “Seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another."

As I talk with people in organizations, one of the most significant areas for improvement  I hear about the leaders they work with can be described as lack of empathy.

This symptom manifests a number of ways. It may sound like this:

  • I feel like my boss just doesn’t care about me.
  • I try to communicate but he/she just doesn’t listen.
  • We are talking, but I feel like they are not present with me.
  • I feel like I am not a priority for them.
  • I have 50% of their attention, but I don’t know where the other 50% is.
  • They just don't understand what they are asking me for
  • It is so frustrating to not be understood

I know some of you are worried right now that by being an empathetic leader you will be viewed as soft. Well, not so fast. While empathy often lands in the "soft skills" of leadership, I think empathy is actually the hard stuff of leading others. Stein and Book recognize this when they say, "Empathy is more than being nice, it is more than sympathy, it is more than giving up your position." - The EQ Edge

Being Empathetic is about being compassionate, caring, listening, and being flexible if needed. Empathy is perhaps recognizing that an employee doesn’t have the skill set to do a job, working with them to develop the skills, if they still can not perform at an acceptable level, helping them find something they are better at. Even if this is not what the employee wants. Empathy is understanding what is good for the organization, the leader, and the follower, and finding a winning space for all three.

This is what Jean Nidetch pioneered for dieters in the 1960’s. A caring and compassionate place of support and encouragement for those who needed to get healthy with respect to food.

So I was thinking,  I wonder if my readers have such a place of support for leadership?

Do you have a safe place to come and talk about leadership issues you are facing? Do you want to learn more about leading, but just can’t find the time or the discipline to get the improvement you want? Are you getting feedback that your leadership is less than adequate for what your organization is expecting?

If you are interested in this type of supportive environment for your leadership, I want to help.

On Monday's at Noon EST, Noon CST, and Noon PST I will be holding small leadership circle groups. Each group will meet once a month, for one hour, via video call (or you can phone in if you don’t have video capability that day).  Your group will include 4 people, along with myself, who will come together and talk about leadership issues you are facing.

Here is how we will use our time:

  • 20 minutes - Discuss a short assignment Dr. Scott has given the previous session (something like a short reading or reflection).
  • 20 minutes - Case presentation by one of the members on a leadership issue you are facing.
  • 20 minutes - Group discussion on the case.

In addition, upon joining one of these groups you will receive, at no additional charge, a one-on-one monthly 30-minute phone/video coaching session with me. This time is completely yours and can be utilized however you see fit.

The preparation time is minimal and the value is huge. We are only taking a limited number of people for this opportunity and the price for this will never be this low again. So if you have considered an opportunity like this in the past, Act Now, Act Fast.

These sessions do come with some commitments on your part:

  • You commit to 6 months at a time so that the group can form and build trust.
  • You will do your best to prioritize and be present for every session.
  • You will come prepared to learn and grow.

These sessions also come with some commitments on my part:

  • To provide a safe learning environment for all participants.
  • To have you in groups with people you do not know to maintain privacy and confidentiality.
  • To challenge you to leadership heights you never thought possible.

The cost for joining one of these groups is $225/month (or save 10% and pay $1,200 for the entire 6-month commitment upfront).

If at any time you are not completely satisfied we will refund your money, no questions asked (or at least I won’t try and talk you out of your decision, although I may be interested in why you would want to leave).

If you are interested in joining one of these groups, click here to complete an informational form and my assistant, Brandi, will be in touch to set up a 30-minute phone conversation for us so I can answer any initial questions you might have.

Empathy, such a misunderstood, yet valuable leadership trait.

Thank you, Jean Nidetch, for leading the way and teaching us so much. Rest In Peace.

7 Tips to Executing an Exciting Open Meeting

Are your meetings boring? Are the people who need to engage sitting on the sidelines? Do the extroverts in the room claim all the attention? Do you need to get a team engaged and moving, but not want to dictate who does what and when? photo-1420330454265-b682d57d0592

If these things frustrate you, consider holding an Open Meeting. An Open meeting will add energy to your meeting process, and the people who usually sit on the sidelines will engage immediately. Even the introverts on the team will have equal voice with the extroverts. Your team will be engaged in how they think the problem will be solved, and if they own it, they will implement it.  All you have to do is invite them, and follow a few simple steps listed below.

The Meeting Environment

The meeting room is set up in a circle (this is a must) and large pieces of quartered flip chart paper and markers are in the center of the room. Participants are then invited to come to the center of the room to grab a paper and marker. Everyone at the meeting has the right and the responsibility to place items on the agenda. They write on the paper what is on their mind around the need or the reason for the meeting. There is no right or wrong answer, and this method allows anything that normally would be left unsaid to be articulated.

After the agenda is created by the pieces of paper being posted on the wall, the issues are grouped by topic. These become the major discussion groups. A grid can be created with times and locations where breakout meetings can be had around the topics. You then turn people loose to attend the topical meeting that interests them the most. They can stay at one topic or float from topic to topic. There can be as many of these topics addressed as needed, usually about 60 minutes per topic works well. The group then comes back together at the end of the day to hear action steps to solving the problem. You will need group leaders to report out and send meeting minutes somewhere, but that is it. You have had a productive meeting and the participants did all the work!

Here are some steps to hosting a successful Open Meeting: 

  1. Describe the Need/Problem/Issue. When you invite people to a meeting you should craft a clear reason for why they are coming together. Maybe you have a high unemployment rate in your area and you would like input on how to address the issue.
  2. Invite the right players. To have a successful meeting of any kind you must have the right players in the room to make the decision. I used this meeting technology for a Mothers Against Drunk Drivers meeting. The organization invited Moms, teachers, school administrators, judges, police officers, probation officers, gas station owners (where a lot of alcohol gets sold to minors), student leaders, ect. They had all the right people in the room to solve the problem at hand.
  3. Have No Agenda.  You read this right. You can have a subject you want to talk about, but you must be able to let go of the outcome regarding how the need/problem/issue is to be solved. The group will do this for you, and you will be AMAZED!  If you have an agenda or an axe to grind then do not use this type of meeting. Just send everyone an email and tell them what to do. Hope that works for you.
  4. The Meeting Environment. You will want to arrange chairs in a circle. In a circle all meeting participants have equal voice. Place quartered pieces of flip chart paper and markers in the center of the room. Tell the participants to create the agenda around the need, and post the papers on a wall. Arrange the papers into topics. Have different people take topics and host breakouts around them. I usually run 4 or 5 breakouts at a time. If you have 15 topics you can do 3 sets of 5 breakouts easily. Each breakout creates a report of their findings and presents to the larger group at the end of the day.
  5. Responsibility for Results. Since the group created the agenda, the topics, and the action steps, they are responsible for implementation. As the meeting convener you just have to make sure things are on track.
  6. Keep People Informed Post Meeting. I recommend you put all the action steps into some tracking mechanism like a Google Doc. I have recently started using Asana, which is an App that tracks project management and assigns tasks.
  7. Celebrate Success. When the project concludes, please do not forget to celebrate. People need to come together to see what a great leader you are and to be able to see what they accomplished together.
This process was first described in a book called Open Space Technology: A Users Guide by Harrison Owen. If you are interested in more detail I highly recommend this book so you can get some stories about successful implementation.