Meeting skills are often overlooked as an important part of an effective management committee, trustee board or other group meeting with a purpose.
Frequently, meetings become ineffective, boring, unproductive in ways that can be addressed through considering the meeting skills of all involved in the meeting.
The Chair of the meeting may be considered ineffective or dogmatic or a 'control freak' or other such labels, while committee members are considered passive, 'freeloaders', apathetic etc.
When this occurs it is almost always due to the ineffective meeting skills practiced by those who attend and the usual behaviours that arise in an unresolved conflict start to manifest - blame is allocated, destructive arguments occur, possibly even verbal abuse.
Alongside this, attendance drops off, frustration sets in and the purpose of the meeting is called into question, sometimes even leading to a break up of the group and the meetings to stop.
There are usually two main practices that lead to this situation arising although a range of different behaviours can contribute to this.
The expectations of the Chairperson can often be that they are 'responsible' for the meeting and so other participants come to expect the Chair to manage everything from decisions that are made to dealing with disruptive behaviours such as interrupting, deviating from the agenda etc.
|Some feedback from a CAOS Committee Skills training workshop held in Uxbridge, West London in February 2011:
"Couldn't ask for anything more. The course met our needs. We are better prepared for effective group participation."
"Excellent. Just what I needed."
"It was excellent and was most beneficial for me"
Sometimes this expectation is reinforced by the Chairperson themselves expecting to be the 'decision maker' rather than the facilitator and leader of the discussion.
When these expectations combine, those that wish to have a voice at a meeting can start to feel disempowered and often then start to subvert the progress of the group either directly in the meetings by interrupting and objecting in a destructive manner, or by making critical comments about the meetings and other participants outside of the meetings.
Such behaviours become entirely understandable when it is possible to stand back and look at the contributions all involved are making to this situation arising.
Chairs feel under enormous, often insurmountable pressure when they are expected to 'manage' a meeting with no support from other commitee members towards making the meeting more effective. As a result they will often try to be 'forceful' in their management (as they are pretty much on their own) to compensate for this.
When we do Meeting Skills training we will usually ask the questions:
Whose responsibility is it to ensure that a meeting keeps to the agenda?
Whose responsibility is it to ensure that Committee/group members listen to each other and don't hold small discussions while an item is being discussed?
Very often the answer is 'It is the Chair's responsibility'.
But of course for an effective meeting to go ahead, all of the participants recognise that it is the responsibility of all present to ensure these things occur.
The role of the Chair is to facilitate the expression of opinions of all present and to draw upon contributions to support the creation of ways forward by the whole committee or group, with as much shared commitment to this as possible.
Often, where a committee or group is not working effectively there will be a Chair, and possibly the Treasurer or the Secretary who feel they are 'doing everything' while others 'do nothing' and the other members of the committee who feel apathetic, uninspired and not involved or listened to.
Where a Chair believes their role to be the 'main decider' of important decisions that the committee has to deal with, this is likely to be the outcome. And, correspondingly, where comittee members have the expectation that the Chair is to be the 'crowd controller' rather than the facilitator of discussion, opinions and contributions, it also leads to this outcome.
If a Chair assumes this role, what is the point of having a committee? If a group contributes to this expectation by not 'managing themselves' and how their meetings go, what else can be the outcome?
So how does CAOS Conflict Management Meeting Skills Training help?
Please CONTACT CAOS if you have an enquiry about Meeting Skills Training or our other services.
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"In my 20 years experience as an academic this is the best ‘in-service’ training I have experienced. The quality of the training team’s preparation and the skill with which they conducted the course was impressive."
Dr Meretta Elliott -Senior Lecturer-School of Arts-Brunel University - speaking about a 6-day Mediator training course run by Alan Sharland and colleagues.
"This was not an easy course; the challenges involved in working outside one’s usual mode of operation were considerable, but the upbeat attitude of the trainers and the calm and supportive atmosphere they created meant that I was free to work outside my comfort zone in developing an approach to assisting others deal with their own situations."
Dr Mary Richards - Subject Leader for Drama - Brunel University - also speaking about the Mediator training course.
"This was a very successful workshop, feedback described the day as “fun”, “interesting” and “informative” with a “superb” trainer who had a “very thoughtful approach”. 100% of our attendees said they had enjoyed the course and they would recommend it to colleagues."
Tania Murrell - Business Development Manager, Hillingdon Association of Voluntary Services - speaking about the workshop 'Dealing with Difficult Behaviour' run by Alan Sharland.
Train to be a Mediator with CAOS Conflict Management:
"Alan provided excellent training for mediators at Common Ground Mediation which was challenging but also thoroughly enjoyable.
He led us through various interactive exercises to help us reflect on the mediator's role and impartiality. I would highly recommend Alan as a trainer for mediators."
Morag Steven - Director of Common Ground Mediation, Edinburgh, Scotland.
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