Michelle McQuaid, a positive psychology and strengths expert, is a rare breed in thought leadership – absolutely grounded in the research and unusually adept at translating that work into interesting and practical knowledge for implementation. Her recent post, on making meetings more positive – and less of an “uggh” moment in the day – is yet another great example of her skill. In her article Michelle shares insights on the critical need to make meetings more positive, including:
- 37% of our time in meetings at work and that up to 50% of this time is completely wasted.
- 20 – 30% of employee performance is determined by people’s mood.
- When we experience positive emotions we can organize new information, think more quickly and creatively, become more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving, and see and invent new ways of doing things.
In some ways, classrooms can struggle with the same challenges that meetings present regarding engagement and productivity. I wonder what would happen if the five strategies Michelle suggests for improving meetings were employed with learners of all ages on a regular basis? Might they also enjoy an expanded sense of engagement, motivation and productivity?
|Start with sizzle||When people turn up to your meeting their brains are all in different states based on where they’ve come from previously. In order to get them into a broadened state of mind you want to inject some positivity by asking “What’s working well?”, sharing a funny story or joke, using a good video clip or even trying a silly (but task related) quiz or game to get people laughing and feeling good.||Might students be greeted with a funny or interesting set of photos in a slidedeck which are viewed in very quick succession. Before a slide disappears they would need to raise their hand to share in what way the photo represents how they will plan to use their strengths for the day or just the class period?|
|Plan your agenda mindfully||Every action we take is preceded by a question, and taking action is generally the goal of most meetings. When we’re asked a question it triggers dopamine – one of the feel good chemicals in our brain – as we start to imagine what might be possible and helps to prepare us for action. Instead of focusing your agenda on statements, try to focus on the questions you think the meeting needs to be asking and exploring.||Great teachers ask great questions. To keep positivity and engagement up, might it be useful to reframe questions with students who are struggling through the strengths lens? e.g. Can you combine your strength of zest with the strength of social intelligence to help your group accomplish its goals together?|
|Design the meeting around people’s strengths||Think about who will be attending the meeting and which strengths people bring. Remember, when we have a chance to use our strengths researchers suggest we’re up to six times more engaged in what we’re doing. What roles and opportunities can you create in the meeting for people to have a chance to do what they do best and be valued for their contributions||Might it be possible to encourage learners in group projects to consider the individual strengths of each participant and collaboratively assign roles based on this knowledge?|
|Reward people with growth opportunities||Let’s face it none of us really want to attend another meeting, so build in a little reward for people making the effort to be present. We’re born creatures of growth so are there small moments of learning you can offer people attending your meeting that they wouldn’t get otherwise like a special guest, new research discoveries or insights||Might it be possible to infuse what great teachers already do as they, “catch students being good” by personalizing comments with a recognition of their unique strengths. e.g. “Thanks Jeff for using your honesty and kindness to share a difficult but helpful message with Tom.”|
|Finish with a peak-end||Our memories of events are shaped by endings, so ensure you leave enough time to finish on a positive note. Rather than having people scrambling for the door, leave time to inject a little positive emotion at the end with heartfelt appreciation, a funny story or video, or prizes from your earlier quiz or game. This way they’ll be more likely to remember your meeting fondly and turn up enthusiastically next time!||Robyn Stratton-Berkessel has a wonderful question she asks everyday of people she comes into contact with. It is simply, “What was the best thing that happened today?” Her stories about impact of this simply question are inspiring. Might this be a great way to end a class or school day?|
It seems highly possible that students in classrooms employing these five strategies might have many more learners more consistently performing at their best.