Tips, Videos, Handouts, and Other Stuff

Seven Secrets for Successful Meetings

Craig explains seven key secrets to help your group have successful meetings and good agreements. Here is a companion handout.



Here’s what Craig says in the video:

Hi everybody. Hey, it’s Craig Freshley here. This morning I’m going to share with you seven secrets for successful meetings. This is a handout that you can get at but for right now I’m just going to explain these seven things, one at a time; I’ve got them on my clipboard right here.

Number one: A genuine desire for shared agreement. See, these seven secrets that I’m sharing with you are mostly for meetings in which the group is trying to come to some sort of agreement. And if you want to be coming to an agreement, the first important ingredient is that everybody in the group wants to come to an agreement.

Look, if you’re the leader of a group and you’re trying to get everybody to agree to something, first remind us why we should agree on this. Make the case. Share the vision for how things are going to be better: “Look people, if we can work this out it’s going to be awesome.” If you have even just one or two people in your group that don’t see the need to come to an agreement, who actually like things just to the way they are and don’t want any new agreements, it’s going to be very hard to have a good meeting and come to agreement.

Number two: Focus on ideas rather than personalities. High functioning groups of people are able to criticize each other’s ideas without criticizing each other personally. They don’t make things personal, they don’t take things personally, and it’s okay to disagree with that idea that you had but agree with you on that [other] idea that you had. We allow ourselves to critique and build on each other’s ideas without critiquing each other personally. If you had a bad idea, you know, I didn’t like the idea that you had, but that doesn’t mean I think you’re a bad person — and I want to hear your next idea.

Number three: Open mindedness. One of the great things about meetings in groups is that we learn new things and minds change. It’s okay to change your mind. In fact that’s what we want. That’s why we bring together people to make a new decision, rather than just decide things in a room with a closed door all by ourselves.

Some groups have an ethic that “No one decides until we all decide. Let’s keep an open mind to the very last minute. The best idea can come from anywhere.” When I go into a meeting with a truly open mind, we are all much more likely to come out of the meeting with a successful solution.

Number four: Each view heard once. We want to hear all the different perspectives, but we don’t need to hear them over and over again. This is similar to number two, separating ideas from personalities. If somebody else shares a point of view, even though I might have the same point of view, even though I might be able to say it better than they did, I don’t need to say it. Because it’s not about me, it’s not about them, the most important thing is the idea and if the idea has been put out there on the table it need not be repeated. It doesn’t matter who put it on the table; let’s just build on the idea — or criticize the idea — but let’s move on.

So many times in a group, somebody says something and then somebody else needs to kind of say the same thing with different words and then somebody else thinks of a slightly different way to say it with a new spin, a new angle, and they say it again with their new spin and new angle – and this takes up a lot of time in meetings. If you can get a group in the habit of using nonverbal cues — thumbs up, saying  “Hear, hear”, facial expressions — this is a way that I can show my support for an idea or my concern with an idea very efficiently without having to take the group’s time and say the idea over and over again.

Number five: Accept decisions and publicly support them. So, first of all it’s really important to know what is the decision. Write it down. Don’t just walk out of the meeting with kind of a loose understanding of what we all agreed to, because I can guarantee that if you do that, every person is walking away with a slightly different understanding of what you agreed to. If you want true group unity and agreement, write the agreement for everyone to see so everyone walks away with the same words.

Now it might be that, you know, that’s not the agreement I was hoping for. In fact I was advocating for a different outcome. I lost this one. We don’t win every battle, we don’t get everything we want in every meeting. So what? Okay, I can lose with grace. I can say, “Yup, I lost that one.” But I’m going to trust the wisdom of the group. I’m not going to try and undermine the group publicly. When I’m outside that meeting room I support the group decision and I’m on to the next. Next time I try harder  to advocate my own point of view but I put the group decision over my personal point of view.

Number six: Clarify and honor group roles. Look, if you want the full horsepower of every person in your meeting they’ve got to know what they’re allowed to do and what they’re not allowed to do. They’ve got to know how things work.

I have written another tip called “Structure Sets You Free” and the concept there is that when people know what their role is, when people know how the decision-making process works and where they should appropriately plug into it, they can really excel and do great things. When people are fuzzy on what they’re supposed to be doing, people hold back. They don’t give their full energy and initiative. Things are inefficient, messy, not creative and productive. So establishing and then honoring roles is really important.

There’s something here too about accountability. You know, if I am unable to do my job, if I can’t follow through with the thing that I agreed to do, I’m the first one to admit that and hold myself accountable. That also is hugely efficient for the group and doesn’t waste other people’s time and energy with having to confront my misstep, with having to handle my mistake. I handle my mistake. You know, it doesn’t matter so much that we make mistakes, but how we handle our mistakes – that’s what matters. And that’s what contributes to good group decisions and good meetings.

Last one, Number seven: Handle conflict professionally. You know, we can handle conflict as children and with big egos or we can handle conflict as grown-ups and with respect, and that’s what I’m calling for. If you are in conflict with someone else, that’s okay. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not something to be avoided. Talk about it. And when you talk about your conflict, start with a question. Understand where the other person is coming from. Nine times out of ten the conflict will disappear right at that first stage with a better understanding of where each other is coming from.

But even if you understand each other perfectly and still have a disagreement, walk away with an understanding that you have a disagreement, but contain disagreement. That’s another tip I’ve written, “Contain Disagreement.” There is no need to carry that disagreement into other issues. Just because I can’t work with you on this issue doesn’t mean I can’t work with you on other issues. Let’s just turn our attention from our past disagreement to positive forward, and work together on the next challenge coming down the line.

There you have it, Seven Secrets for Successful Meetings. You can get the handout at

At the website there are also lots of other Tips (I’ve mentioned some of them in this talk) and there are lots of videos – all designed to help you help your group make good decisions. Thanks for listening everybody.

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