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Five Reasons for Hijacking Meeting Engagement

In the context of busy school environments, meetings often fall short of their potential, resulting in disengagement and lack of productivity. Jeff Shannon’s five reasons for undermined engagement provide a useful framework to understand why this happens and how it can be addressed.

Here’s a breakdown of these reasons, transcribed into the educational setting, and some strategies for combatting them:

1. Meetings Lacking Purpose

Human Nature Insight: People need to feel that their activities have meaning and purpose. This aligns with Martin Seligman’s PERMA model, where "M" stands for "Meaning." Engaging in tasks that lack a clear purpose can feel pointless and demotivating.

Educational Context: Teachers and staff need to understand the "why" behind every meeting. Without a clear purpose, they may feel their time is wasted.

Strategy: Clearly define and communicate the purpose of each meeting. Ensure that every meeting has a goal that resonates with the participants’ values and the school's objectives.

2. Meetings Lacking Clarity

Human Nature Insight: Humans crave clarity and direction. Unclear goals or discussions lead to frustration and disengagement.

Educational Context: In a school setting, clarity is crucial. Educators, who often have limited time, need to know the agenda, objectives, and desired outcomes of a meeting.

Strategy: Provide a clear agenda before the meeting. Outline the topics to be discussed, the time allocated for each, and the expected outcomes. This helps participants prepare and stay focused.

3. Meetings Lacking Discipline

Human Nature Insight: Consistency is key to maintaining engagement. People dislike when rules or expectations are not adhered to consistently.

Educational Context: Educators expect meetings to start and end on time, follow the agenda, and stay on topic. Lack of discipline in these areas can lead to frustration and disengagement.

Strategy: Establish and enforce meeting norms and protocols. Start and end on time, stick to the agenda, and ensure that everyone follows the agreed-upon rules.

4. Meetings with Nothing at Stake

Human Nature Insight: People are more engaged when they feel they have something to gain or lose. Relevance and personal stake drive participation.

Educational Context: If educators feel that a meeting doesn’t affect them or their work, they’re less likely to be engaged.

Strategy: Ensure that each meeting addresses issues that are relevant to the participants. Highlight how the outcomes will impact their work and the school community.

5. Meetings with Everyone Coming in Hot

Human Nature Insight: Transitioning from one task to another without a break can leave individuals flustered and unprepared.

Educational Context: Teachers often come straight from demanding classroom environments into meetings. This can leave them feeling overwhelmed and unable to contribute effectively.

Strategy: Build in transition time before meetings. Allow for a brief period where participants can decompress, gather their thoughts, and prepare for the discussion ahead. This is akin to Dr. Adam Fraser’s concept of The Third Space, which emphasizes the importance of a mental transition period between tasks.

Implementing Effective Leadership

Effective meeting management starts with leadership. Leaders should be trained to understand and address these engagement issues. They need to be skilled in crafting purposeful, clear, disciplined, relevant, and well-timed meetings. Here are some steps to develop these skills:

  • Coaching and Training: Invest in professional development for leaders on effective meeting strategies and engagement techniques.

  • Feedback Loops: Create a culture of continuous improvement by soliciting feedback from meeting participants and making necessary adjustments.

  • Modelling Behaviour: Leaders should model the behaviours they expect from others, such as punctuality, preparation, and active participation.

By addressing these five engagement issues, schools can transform their meetings from time-wasting obligations into productive, meaningful, and engaging events that contribute to the overall success and well-being of the school community.

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