For the majority of workers, meetings zap the joy out of work. Americans spend 8.9 hours a day working. Research by Workfront in partnership with Harris Poll, found that 57 % of Americans say wasteful meetings are a top obstacle to getting work done.
Going a little deeper, Atlassian found that most employees attend 62 meetings a month totaling 31 hours a month. And nearly half of the meetings attended are considered a waste of time. While effective meeting facilitation is key to these meeting maladies, there is another solution. Leaders need to boost the sense of belonging in their meetings.
Belonging in meetings
Belonging is the sense that people experience when they fit in and feel valued in a group. Without a sense of belonging, a basic human need, we worry about our contributions to the group. We wonder if our ideas are good enough. We question the quality of our relationships with co-workers. Mental distractions preoccupy our thinking and our effectiveness.
Mental distractions interfere with belonging in meetings. Astute leaders recognise the role camaraderie plays in quality ideas and outcomes.
How to boost belonging in your meetings
Let’s assume you have meeting facilitation down and run a good meeting. The next focus area for you is to boost belonging. In meetings, belonging influences three key elements that can help you turn a bad meeting into a productive one.
1. Increase camaraderie
Peter Aceto, CEO of Canada’s Tangerine Bank, spends the first 10 minutes of meetings connecting with colleagues. The time spent discussing non-work related topics helps strengthen relationships. While it may be tempting to dismiss the importance of camaraderie at work, there are psychological and social benefits that could help in job performance.
In one study of college students that looked at the role belonging played on academic performance, researchers uncovered several insights relevant to the workplace. Firstly, students who experienced uncertainty about their place in school reported “less academic fit”. Secondly, these students also believed their ability to succeed was lower, as was their GPA.
In your meetings, focus on helping people to connect with one another. Silicon Valley non-profit, Hope Lab, developed the Check-In Deck to “create quality connections and prime creativity at meetings”. Several of the exercises will build camaraderie in teams.
2. Increase Trust
While on the surface this is obvious, in practice it’s more difficult. The question is how do you increase trust in your team during meetings?
In my book, The Optimistic Workplace, I make the argument for improving collaboration in a team to increase trust. Collaboration is when two or more people come together to achieve a shared outcome that benefits everyone involved. Not only do you need to trust your colleagues to achieve a desirable outcome, you need to act in trustworthy ways. In return, this encourages others to trust you. Researchers from University of Michigan found that “high quality connections literally and figuratively enliven people”. This is what you cause when you promote collaborative efforts during meetings.
3. Increase creativity
With deeper connections via camaraderie and higher levels of trust, you next want to increase creativity in your meetings. To get to the best outcomes to vexing work problems, the creative output of a group of people is essential. Through the act of brainstorming, debating, and pitching ideas to solve problems, it helps people feel like they fit in. This assumes that you make it an inclusive process.
Creativity in meetings, when done effectively, taps into people’s vulnerabilities. It takes trust and belief in oneself to share ideas that could be rejected. For creativity to flourish, meeting attendees need to feel safe. Belonging helps accomplish both: increased creativity and a sense of safety.
For your next meeting, design it so that you allow people to deepen their relationships with one another. It’s okay to let personal conversations start the meeting. Be intentional about how you have meeting participants collaborate during the meeting to creatively solve problems. Be the one who facilitates effective meetings that accomplish important outcomes and use people’s time wisely.