3 Things My Sons Taught Me About the Perfect Meeting

We're so often trapped trying to balance work and family lives, we sometimes miss how one can inform the other. YES! A "family" experience can communicate to the work world -- and vice versa!
09/09/2015 12:57 pm ET Updated Sep 09, 2016

We're so often trapped trying to balance work and family lives, we sometimes miss how one can inform the other. YES! A "family" experience can communicate to the work world -- and vice versa!

When my boys were very little and we were at a birthday party, a playground, a family dinner or a large event, I would say "Murphy Meeting" and they came running. (Murphy is their last name.)

They knew when they arrived to the meeting (which was held off to the side away from the event) that I would be running the meeting, that the information communicated would be delivered in a finite amount of time and that they would be back to their regularly scheduled activities quickly.

From previous meetings, they knew that the information imparted had to do with their lives and events and things that mattered to them.

During the meeting, they found out when we were leaving, if I was leaving and when I was returning. They found out who would drive them home if not me, or they would be asked to take part in their favorite decision to make; "What's for dinner?"

By attending the meeting, they knew they would benefit in one form or another. This alleviated any future concerns they may have had and they left the meeting knowing the answers to their questions. They left the meetings feeling successful.

Contrast that experience with what we encounter in the workplace. When I present interactive workshops with corporate clients one of the top areas of concern for most teams are meetings.

Teams are concerned that meetings are (in order of concern):

• Too long

• Poorly run

• Monopolized by one person who takes over the meeting imparting information they do not need and failing to note specifically how the people in the meeting are involved in future successes

As "my team" now consists of two teenagers, my focus has been on creating spaces that mirror the future spaces they will occupy as adults so they can learn from them.

When we need to go over college applications, the details surrounding a family trip or the timing of my travel for work, we stick to the Murphy Meeting model because it's become the ideal structure for our communication with each other.

The model has been so powerful that we created a new version of the meeting to address the most pressing issue that they (and all of us) deal with as adults: money. It's called the Murphy Money Meeting.

In order for us to transform as a family moving forward with money, I knew it would be a good idea to create a space for dialogue about money. The reason behind creating the meeting was to establish a relationship with money, become comfortable talking about money and learn to ask ANY questions they have relating to money.

THEY run these meetings. THEY schedule the meetings. THEY decide on the topics related to money. THEY are paid $10.00 when the meeting is complete. The meeting is held once a week (maximum). When they miss a chance to call a meeting, I let them know what money they lost over time.

I want to teach my team that when you regularly pay attention to your money and create an environment where you can feel good about asking questions there is a good chance you will not only always have the money you need, you may add to the money you have by practicing this commitment. That's why I pay them.

At their meeting, when I answer their questions I learn what I have taken for granted about what they know about money. At this meeting, they develop a relationship to the discussion of money and I further develop mine.

From this family experience, I realized that not every meeting had to be a painful, arduous, task to plow through.

Three Ways to Get Your Team to Want to Come to Your Meetings.

1. Be Sensitive to Time
Respect the time of your team. Select the time, stick to it, start on time and end on time.

2. Give and Receive
Have a topic you want to discuss and a solution you wish to uncover. Make sure there is space there for you to receive feedback from the team in your meeting.

3. Let Go
When you see your team growing from the security and structure of this form of communication, allow them to take the lead at some point. Let go and watch what happens when your team transforms after being in your clearly communicated space.

I am in awe of my team's ability to appreciate this space. The Murphy Meeting started out as an extension of my professional practice and transformed the space of communication between my team and me.

A clearly structured meeting can be a powerful tool to move teams forward and to transform the way you communicate. When you pay attention to the needs of the people who attend your meetings over time, you can see that their needs have changed. You can include them in the transformed version of the meeting and ultimately grow as a leader.

Jeanne M. Stafford coaches her clients to communicate effortlessly at work and at home using improv techniques. Sign up for her free 30 Days of YES and find out how using YES words can empower you to possibility. Follow Jeanne on twitter @jeannestafford http://jeannemstafford.com