Meetings. We love to hate them – but we can’t stop holding them. The daily status meeting, the weekly project meeting, the monthly budget meeting – it’s a never-ending, but necessary cycle.
Most professionals know the “golden rules” for an effective meeting – be very discerning with the invitation list to respect others’ time, start and end on time, have a written agenda, assign action items, encourage all members to participate and contribute. Yet, despite our best intentions, meetings often become unproductive time wasters. Or, even worse, they’re hijacked by one or a few individuals with their own personal agendas or ineffective communications styles. So instead of leaving with a feeling of productivity and accomplishment, many participants slink out of the room disengaged and dispirited – often, right into their next meeting.
We can change that paradigm.
Research has shown that the way a meeting starts sets the tone for the entire experience. In one experiment, groups of people were asked to meet and come to consensus on a difficult topic. One of the participants was privately instructed to speak first, with either a positive or negative comment. When the first thing said was positive, the discussion was more constructive, people were more willing to listen and it was easier to gain consensus. Conversely, a negative comment sparked more hostility, less teamwork and more difficulty in reaching a decision.
It’s common sense, right? Starting a meeting with positive, focused energy will motivate and engage attendees. But it takes focused intention to make that happen. Everybody must be mindful and responsible for the energy and openness they bring to the experience.
Fashion icon and clothing entrepreneur Eileen Fisher has a unique approach to solving this dilemma. Employing over 1,000 people, Fisher’s $350 million company distributes through 60 retail stores as well as department stores and boutiques in over 90 countries.
In her glass-walled conference room, which overlooks a spacious kitchen and employee dining area, Fisher uses a small chime and striker to start each meeting. The chime signals a moment of silence, where meeting attendees meditate on their purpose in coming together and commit themselves to contributing to that purpose. To quote Fisher, “That minute of silence may be a small thing, but it creates a little spaciousness. It gives people a little taste of something and that effect starts to ripple…mindfulness means slowing down enough to be thoughtful about what you’re doing.“
Harmony Crew uses a similar approach in our own meetings – both internally and with clients. That’s because setting the intention together, with silence and focused breathing, connects us psychologically, physically, emotionally, and energetically.
Think of a recent meeting that you’ve attended – or led – that didn’t go so well. Maybe there was anger, disagreement, or resistance. Now, consider the emotional baggage that attendees brought with them into that room. Lingering frustration from their last meeting, pressure to meet a deadline, or even worries about a child or family member. Taking a minute to clear the mind, refocus, and come into coherence with others in the room helps people set those negative emotions aside. And refocuses their energy toward a common goal.
No matter how you do it – a chime, silent or spoken meditation, music, a sand timer – focused intention works. That’s because we are greater than the sum of our parts. As quantum science teaches us, when our minds and hearts are focused together in one shared energy field, our collective power is greater than we can imagine.
Harmony Crew can show you how to make your meetings more powerfully productive through the simple art of intention setting — because better human interaction is essential to an engaged workforce and a successful organization.