Focus on Micro Skills to Improve Your Meetings

Meetings are a stage upon which we get to demonstrate our competencies and leadership.  Meetings are important for shared communication, group work, and effecting cultural change.   And yet, meetings are almost universally hated.  When researching a guide on running meetings, almost every article either offered the same tired advice (as if using an agenda is a novel idea!), or challenged the reader to not schedule meetings in the first place.

What if I told you that people hate meetings because we’re doing them wrong?  We stumble through meetings as if they’re necessary evils, when they should be positive interactions and relationship-forging experiences. Do you want to make your meetings meaningful and engaging?  If so, practice the micro skills related to running successful meetings.

Wait – what are micro skills?

Think of micro skills as a decomposition of behaviors.  Decomposition is breaking large things down into smaller elements – breaking a goal into smaller tasks, or breaking major project tasks into smaller work packages.  Micro skills are similar – decompose a major behavior into the smallest bits of skills possible.  (If you’re not familiar with decomposition, check out this short article.)

Earlier we talked about how breaking down goals into smaller tasks helps goal completion.  The smaller your tasks, the more likely you are to begin and complete each task. Improving your own skills works the same way.  If you have a goal of “get better at leading meetings,” do you know your first step?  Can you measure progress?  No – we need to break that goal into micro skills.

A micro skill example.

Several times recently, I’ve started a meeting that I’ve handed over to someone else to lead.  Each time, the pattern was the same:

  1. Thank everyone for coming
  2. Frame the meeting goals
  3. Catch everyone up to speed
  4. Use “garbage language” to awkwardly hand meeting over to someone else.  Recently, I used the line “OK, I feel like it’s now time for me to stop talking.”  YUCK!  I can do better than that…

After the third time, I realized handing a meeting over is a specific skill I can work on and improve. I tried different approaches, and settled on one I like.  Now, when I know I’m going to hand over the meeting, I tell everyone up front  that’s going to happen and why, do my introduction, then look at person who’s taking  over and say “Adam, I’d like to turn things over to you now.”

“Improving how I facilitate meetings” is a pretty vague goal with no immediate action items.  Practicing how I hand off meetings to other people is a smaller goal with  immediate action items and an obvious measure of progress.  I’ll know when it’s successful because I’ll stop feeling  awkward, and I’ll get less nervous laughs from other meeting members.

Find and practice your micro skills.

You may have goals yourself, things you’d like to improve.  If  you’re facing large self-improvement goals, breaking those goals down into smaller micro skills can help you hyper focus on improving small parts that add up to large change.  I’ve also learned that micro skills are like lego blocks – as I learn micro skills for one goal, I’m finding those  same micro  skills end up being useful  for other goals  too.   Lego  blocks that build a better me.

Here’s a goal of mine I’m working on, and the specific micro skills I’ve listed for myself:

  • GOAL – Improve setting and sending agendas
    • Micro skill – anticipate questions
    • Micro skill – concise yet thorough synopses
    • Micro skill – using agenda  to frame meeting
    • Micro skill – creating value with meetings (should  the meeting happen at all? what value will come from all participants being together?)
  • GOAL – Improve how I facilitate meetings
    • Micro skill – when listening, engage with what is being said, what is not being said, body language, and group energy
    • Micro skill – focus on building and capitalizing on cognitive diversity
    • Micro skill – improve designing a narrative arc for meetings

I’d love to hear some micro skills you’re going to focus on.  Leave a comment below!

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