Is your meeting in the constructive zone?  Check the Meetingometer to find out

While public board and committee meetings have the potential to be both constructive and productive, often this is not the case. Sometimes independent board and committee members feel that nothing ever really changes as a result of meetings. At other times friction and bad tempers create more heat than light. 

Knowing that a meeting is not working is one thing. Changing things is, of course, a different matter.

A helpful first step is articulating what good (and not so good) might look like. That’s where the Meetingometer comes in. 

In the same way as a rev counter helps a driver to set their gears and accelerator in a way that’s just right for the engine, so the Meetingometer does the same for, well, a meeting. Just as a the rev counter shows you when you are in the green zone for your engine, so the Meetingometer tells you when you are in the constructive green zone for a meeting.  

Support and challenge

Unlike a tachometer, the Meetingometer has two green zones because independent member of boards and committees have two roles that they switch between during meetings; support and challenge.  

Support – Independent board and committee members provide advice and new ideas to help executive members develop strategy and policy as well as make decisions and solve organisation challenges. In support mode independent members provide additional capacity, perspectives, knowledge and experience. This is sometimes called the performance role.

Challenge – Independent board and committee members act as watchdogs, monitoring performance and holding executive decision makers to account. In challenge mode independent members bring issues and concerns to the table and ask executives to justify courses of action and consider alternatives. This is sometimes called the conformance or assurance role.

So how will you know which zone you are in?

Meeting zones

There are four meeting zones on the Meetingometer:

  • Amber: Unconstructive support
  • Green: Constructive support
  • Green: Constrictive challenge
  • Red: Destructive challenge

While the most productive meetings will stay in the green constructive zone, those in the amber zone are harmless but have little impact. Those in the red zone, however, will not only lack impact but can cause lasting damage to the organisation and the relationships of those involved. 

But how will we know which zone we are in at any one time? Below are some of things we might notice:

Unconstructive support

  • Agenda items are chosen by executive members without the involvement of independent members
  • Executive members dominate discussions, talk most and make the majority of suggestions
  • Suggestions from executive members typically require yes or no answers, independent member questions are typically for information and clarification
  • Evidence is largely provided by executive members with limited critical assessment by independent members

Constructive support

  • Executive members choose topics and involve independent members in deciding work plans and the purpose of items
  • Independent members talk most and make most of the suggestions at the invitation of executive members
  • New ideas and proposals are developed and refined through discussion 
  • Evidence is provided and critically assessed by both independent and executive members, independent members take time to engage and consult interested parties

Constructive challenge

  • Independent members raise issues of concern for discussion with the cooperation of executive members
  • Executive members talk most in response to questions asked by independent members
  • Executive and independent members work together to develop and refine solutions for issues raised
  • Evidence is provided and critically assessed by both independent and executive members, independent members keep in touch with interested parties 

Destructive challenge

  • Independent members bring items for discussion without engaging or preparing the executive 
  • Independent members make statements, ask long questions require only short answers and interrupt responses 
  • Independent members amplify shortcomings and ignore opportunities to discuss solutions
  • Evidence of failure is provided and amplified by independent members who ignore or downplay evidence of success 

Of course these are things you *might* notice. Every situation is different and there is no ‘one size fits all’.

If making your board or committee meetings more constructive is something you think I might be able to help with, drop me a line to see what I might be able to offer.


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