Transform Your Meetings by Setting Intention

Have you ever been part of a meeting or a conversation that seemed to get off-track? Or just not go anywhere at all?

It can be extremely frustrating when we don’t achieve the outcome we want, especially when that outcome is something our organization, business or relationship desperately needs.

Last week as I coached Executive Directors and their Board Presidents in one of my arts leadership masterminds, several of the participants shared some common frustrations.  They were spending a lot of time preparing for board meetings, and the meetings never resulted in anything. In fact, things often felt worse at the end than when they began – with seemingly random questions on minutia interfering with the reports, and no one offering to help where it was needed.

This experience reminded me why group coaching is so powerful.

Participants share wisdom and insights as they support each other, and they begin to realize that the challenges 1 person is facing, are often challenges faced by everyone – and thus, are not a short-falling of one’s leadership, skill or ability (and in most cases, not the short-fallings of those we’re frustrated with) – they’re simply dynamics that exist when people face certain situations.

As a result, leaders can address common challenges strategically without the feelings of shame and blame getting in the way.

As the mastermind group looked at ways to shift their board meeting dynamics to address their frustrations, the inclination was to focus on how to change others (recruiting “better” board members, setting term limits, meeting 1:1 to outline roles and responsibilities, etc.).

Instead, we looked at what they as leaders were doing – in this particular conversation, their printed Board meeting agendas – and found some revealing observations:

The order and format of their standard agenda was not creating the possibility for acheiving the outcomes they hoped for:

  • The Executive Director report came after Finance Committee, Executive Committee and other reports. By the time the ED reported on the overarching big picture and top priorities, the discussion was often already in the weeds.
  • The ED report itself was often no more than a list of all the upcoming (exciting) activities; without including insights and key perspectives.
  • The financials were presented without an accompanying management summary highlighting the areas of opportunity and challenge (i.e. where help is needed). [An “Activation BudgetTM “ can be tremendously helpful.]
  • Committee reports were given equal amounts of time – even when there was nothing relevant to report on in that particular meeting.  Chairs often felt self-concious that their reports often sounded the same at evey meeting.
  • No time for discussion or input was scheduled.

The takeaway?

Taking responsibility for our own actions is always a great place to start!  Before you meet with others, take some time to collect your thoughts and mindfully determine what you want to occur. This means that even standing meetings, could shift in format depending on the new outcomes desired.

Here’s an example of a leadership practice to frame conversations, meetings, and reach the desired outcomes that are needed to help others. Think of it as your “2-steps to Take Charge” framework.

STEP ONE: Set an intention.  Before each meeting or conversation ask yourself and/or your leadership team:

  • What do I/we want this person/people to know?  Why?
  • What do I/we want this person/people to feel? Why?
  • What do I/we want this person/people to do? Why?
  • What do I/we want to learn from this person/group? Why?

STEP TWO:  Reverse-engineer the resulting strategies, from the outcomes you identified.  With your intention set, you can only then determine the resulting specific actions, structure, methodology, visual aids, information, etc. that will create the possibility for achieving the outcomes you set an intention for.

  • What specific strategies/tactics will help me/us create the outcomes connected to the intentions above?
  • What steps will I/we take to ensure that all stakeholders in this meeting/conversation are enrolled and engaged?

After using the strategies we uncovered in the group coaching, one Executive Director reported having the best board meeting ever – participants were aware something was different, were leaning forward, asked the “right” questions, provided helpful feedback and ideas when information was presented, and.. offered to help in ways that were meaningful!

Whether you’re thinking about your organization, business, or personal relationships, setting an intention before you act can be a powerful and empowering leadership tool.

Resist the habit of re-acting to outcomes or lack of outcomes, and placing assumptions on them.

Instead, view the situations with your “consultant hat” on – without judgement of others.

HELP those you interact with be their best selves, empower them, bring them together, learn how they can help.

Take charge.  Lead.

To your success,


PLEASE COMMENT BELOW:  Looking ahead at your week,  what meetings/conversations can use your “2 Steps to Take Charge” framework? 

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  1. I have been in meetings where the emphasis was to display the arrogance of authority. In this regard some people are expected to talk and they lame duck even when making a contribution it is only considered when those routine experts adopt it as their own. These are meetings running through out the year- the business as usual approach.

    • I understand. AND, while we cannot control the actions of others, we can choose to show up fully, speak with meaning and with intention, for the purpose of helping. You may not believe you are making a difference, but often, you ARE. Others notice. others speak up. shifts occur.

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