Carol was complaining that it too long for her staff meetings to get focused. As her meetings began, she noticed people engaged in small talk and side conversations, talking about issues outside the meeting agenda, or even appearing to be day-dreaming. She wanted her meetings to be more efficient and more effective.
My guess is that her meetings, like so many business meetings, simply kicked off with the meeting leader saying, “Okay, let’s get started.” Problem is people may not be psychologically ready to start. Their bodies are “here,” but their minds are somewhere out “there.”
A simple technique to help people transition from “there” to “here” is to use a “check in” before tackling the first item on the agenda. While there are dozens of check ins available in handbooks for meeting facilitators, here’s one I particularly like.
It’s called PIT. The acronym stands for:
Each participant is invited to offer a brief comment in any of these three areas before the group tackles the agenda. If Carol introduced this process to her meetings, she might hear comments like these:
Just to let you all know, I’ve got a dentist appointment at 4 p.m. (Personal)
Jack, thanks for getting that info to me so promptly. Saved my butt! (Interpersonal)
Carol, I see you’ve allotted only ten minutes for the third agenda item on the new schedule. Given what I have prepared, can we make that twenty minutes? (Task)
Not everyone will have something to say in all three areas – but they do have the time to say what needs to be said before the meeting begins. They can consciously let go of what’s happening outside the meeting, and focus on the business at hand.
PIT can be done in five minutes or less. And, as the group becomes familiar with PIT, it will go even more quickly. The result will be a group that comes together, shares a bit of what’s going on outside the scope of the meeting, and then gets down to work with everyone on the same page.
Check Ins are a good example of slowing down to move more quickly.