How to Lead Open Meetings So You Can Empower Your Team

How Do You Run Your Meetings?

Do you use a list of items to go through to check that everything’s on track? Do you solve the problems that come up? Is your team more dependent on you to make decisions than you would like?

Most of us without realizing it keep trying to run things from an operational level instead of from a strategic level. We try and stay in control because we think that way we reduce the risk of things going wrong. While we may talk “accountability”, we don’t hold our people accountable because we don’t trust them to make good decisions. And we don’t trust them because there are neither shared guiding principles for decision-making nor perhaps shared outcomes with targets providing your people with a feedback loop to inform better decision-making.

Green Business

This operational way of managing keeps you stuck, and inhibits the growth of your team. When they need to seek permission or approval before they can make a decision and take action, they begin to disengage. They become much less productive and lose their own sense of personal power. As they comply with your decisions and instructions, they attempt to redeem their sense of personal power by controlling their people or simply complaining. If you hear someone complaining it’s because they’ve lost their sense of personal initiative.


How to Let Go of Control

One of the ways this can be addressed is to empower others through open structured meetings. Instead of a list of items to review, the content, you create an open structure, a channel, through which the content flows. This is a structure that is superimposed around and above the content, like a container with specific pathways within it – the channels through which the relevant content flows. This makes your team responsible for the content, and you, the Senior Executive, for the channel.

As you lift your perspective, you will begin to operate more strategically and let go of control. I know this won’t be easy from a psychological point of view, but the new structure will help. Your people will step up as they realize the rules have changed. It’s a new game! Another way to look at it is that they’re the ones with the ball and they’re on the court! They get to play! You’re the coach on the sideline. You can watch, observe, guide and instruct but at no time do you step onto the court. Instead, you get to coach and mentor your people.


Your Operations Team Meeting

For your Operations Meeting you can use the 4 P’s: Presence, Progress, Problems and Priorities. Each person on your team is asked to bring 1-3 items for each P. Adopting the 90-minute meeting protocol I talked about in my previous post [], you spend 10 minutes on Presence, 20 minutes on Progress, 50 minutes on Problems and 10 minutes on Priorities.

The rules of the game are as follows.

  1. Time is limited so if members of your team want to present their items, they need to get in early.
  2. No one can present their second item until everyone has presented their first item.
  3. When the time for a P has finished, then we move to the next round. In time, this will enliven and accelerate the engagement.

When you begin this process you may wish to start with taking turns around the table. Once your team is more familiar with the process, they will learn to volunteer as the moment greets them.

Jigsaw piecesWe start with Presence to invite everyone to be present for the meeting. This brings the whole person into the room so that we’re more than human resources, we’re people. By sharing any feelings or funny/odd experiences that are affecting us, we open our hearts to ourselves and to each other. This facilitates self-awareness, social awareness, more cohesive teamwork and builds a sense of community. At first it can feel odd but in time, this sharing of who we are by how we are, will help you and your team to build genuine relationships with each other.

The second P: Progress, is important for three reasons. The first is to set the meeting on a positive note. Positive psychology confirms that when we look at the glass half-full, we develop stronger wellbeing. Secondly, we don’t spend enough time noticing and acknowledging our accomplishments. It’s important to recognize the good work we do, the great outcomes we achieve and the challenges we overcome.

During this part of the meeting your role is to articulate and celebrate. Articulate? It’s important to talk about why each success or accomplishment is important. This provides you with the opportunity to share your strategic perspective with your team. Maybe you think it’s obvious, but it’s often not to them. Our teams can’t read our minds. It’s important to explain why things are important and how their actions help to create the future that you want to build.

man with questionsThe third P is Problems. Now each person is invited to present a challenge, issue or problem that they’ve had difficulty dealing with. You role now turns to strategic facilitator. You probably know the answer but instead, it’s important for you to ask questions and enable the team to collaborate on problem solving. At first egos will get in the way as people argue with each other to find the answer. But if you hold the space for mutual inquiry and ensure every idea receives the respect it deserves, you will enable genuine collaboration. And In time, your team members will learn to consult with each other sooner rather than later.

For more tricky situations, the answer may not be as obvious or it may even seem impossible. Deeper questions become even more important to even just understand the predicament, competing factors, hidden drivers and potential ways to take the next step. The next step may be the only visible step forward in the present moment. This is ok – you are now delving in the Emergent Future (Otto Scharmer) which, put another way, is the present as it emerges. Only deeper inquiry below the water line will lead to intuitive insight and new revelations that will enable you to chart your course forward. Deciding on the next action is key.

The fourth P is Priorities. Now you get the opportunity to be more directive. It’s important that team priorities are shared so that the team realizes its goals. So once everyone has shared their perspective on their priorities over the next fortnight, it is important to identify any strategic priorities that the team must address as a team priority. And for them to understand why so that they are totally on board with your decision. Again, taking the time to articulate why you have selected any primary strategic priorities will enable the team to better appreciate your view of the dynamics at play.

The 4 P’s have the effect of changing the meeting from a reporting exercise to a genuine engagement. A reporting exercise is where you simply go through a list of hygiene factors such as budget, HSE and talent issues, and then review progress on all your projects. However this can all be done in abbreviated, written form with a traffic light or similar format. There is no need to talk through all the items. It is expected though that anything at risk or of concern will be selected to fit into one of the 4 P’s. Other issues outside of projects can also be raised allowing for a much broader discussion.

Your Strategic Meeting

A Strategic Meeting is not designed for work in progress. It is designed to review the extent to which outcomes are being achieved. It is time for creative thinking to come up with new ideas that will realize better outcomes in the future. And it is time to consider and review new strategic initiatives that will enable the performance and culture shifts you aspire to.

I suggest a specific three-step engagement process for new initiatives during the Strategic Meeting. The first time the Champion, generally a member of your team, presents the general idea and scope. Everyone else asks questions and can make initial contributions to the proposal. This ensures that everyone is actively mindful of the new initiative. You are the Sponsor of the initiative and will already have invested time with the Champion to develop a brief proposal that you both support.

The second time a full proposal is presented and it is time for active engagement. This is the time when everyone pitches in their ideas and builds on the proposal. This is the main event. For many proposals, there seems to be an extended engagement process where decisions are put off time and time again. But this is the time when all ideas are presented. The time for full engagement.

The third time the proposal is presented at your Strategic Meeting it has been refined based on everyone’s ideas and input. It is time for a decision. Most often this will be a relatively straightforward process given the previous two rounds of engagement.

Given that it is only really possible to engage actively on 1-2 strategic proposals each meeting, there is really only engagement capacity for 12 new strategic initiatives pa.

This engagement process is supported by a very focused engagement between you, the leader and Sponsor, and the team member who is the Champion of the specific initiative. It will generally also include engagement with internal and external stakeholders during the intervening periods between the Strategic Meetings so that everyone who will be impacted is on board. This is in contrast to buy-in where communication happens afterwards. Genuine engagement happens beforehand.

Your Culture Meeting

The Culture Meeting is focused on team dynamics, individual behaviours and systemic patterns within the organization. You can also review People Engagement, Leadership Effectiveness Surveys and roles and responsibilities.

Culture Shifts colourA great way to create focus is to explore a corporate Value at each meeting. The simplest structure is what to Stop Doing, Keep Doing and Start Doing. The traction is the shift from Stop to Start and the ideal scenario is an “instead of” behaviour. For instance, “Instead of debating an issue during a meeting, we will ask a question first to better understand the other person’s point of view”. The other thing to ensure is that you make progressive shifts that are manageable. Change happens one step at a time.

With a leadership coach, you can also delve into the psychodynamics, the emotions being triggered and transferred, and what underlies our own reactive patterns. By invoking emotional awareness, mindfulness and spiritual intelligence, and genuine care and respect for our humanity, much can be learned and better understood to enable true leadership development based on shared values.


Your 121 Meeting with each Team Member

Here it gets really easy. The simplest open structure is a meeting where you ask 3 key questions giving 30 minutes for each question. Your role is as a mentor and coach guiding and inquiring to facilitate their growth and confidence, empathize with their challenges and personal anxieties, and offer encouragement so that they experiment and learn. At first it may feel like you are wasting time because you are not doing anything, but actually you are. You are taking the time to relate to each other and endeavor to develop a better understanding of life at work.

The three questions are:

  1. How is the work going?
  2. How are you going?
  3. How is your team going?


Personal Authenticity Instead of Positional Authority

CCC Jigsaw matchAll these strategies work if you use your personal authenticity as a leader, and not your positional authority. By being fellow journeyers, you will develop a genuine relationship. By extending care and confidentiality, you will build trust. This is not easy but it is developmental both for yourself and your team. Making the shift from boss to coach facilitates this. Getting expert support in the way of executive coaching with a coach who is comfortable with looking more deeply into situations and understands the psychodynamics, will also help enormously for you to make this transition.

Next time we’ll explore the psychodynamics of empowerment further.

Antoinette Braks

Executive Coach in Strategic and Holistic Coaching and Corporate Leadership Programs

I hope you enjoyed this post. It’s my intent to enable clients to make the quantum shift from business operations management to inspiring strategic leadership so they can bring their Vision, Values and Voice to life.

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Please join my Strategic Holistic Leadership Group to continue the conversation.

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All the very best,



The higher our self-expression and the deeper our self-awareness,
The richer our life experience and the greater our soul evolution.
~ Antoinette Braks

Published by Antoinette Braks

Antoinette Braks leads the design and delivery of SHIFT Leadership Development Individual and Group Coaching Programs for Senior Executives and High Potential Leaders to enable them to join the shift from being high performing achievers to becoming inspiring strategic leaders at divisional, regional and C-suite levels.

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