The Boardroom Series: Wellbeing Boosters in Meetings

In the first of our Boardroom Series about low cost, high return investments in wellbeing we wrote about micro habits of culture; in our second article, we shared tips for improving one-to-one relationships; in today’s article, the third and final in this trio, we’re back to micro habits, this time talking about the micro-habits of meetings that can promote wellbeing, engagement, and staff loyalty.

Micro-habits of Meetings

Love them or loathe them, meetings help form the pipework through which company culture and performance flow. But relatively little has been written about how to use meetings to improve wellbeing. 

The significant benefit of using meetings as a platform to promote wellbeing is that you can reach all members of the team or organisation, not just the smaller proportion that opts to engage in your wellbeing initiatives, webinars, workshops, team health challenges, or EAP services. By rethinking your meeting habits, you have the opportunity to have a broader reach and a bigger wellbeing impact.

Three Meeting Practices to Boost Wellbeing

1. Positive Primers

A simple starting point is to begin your meetings differently by introducing a “positive primer”: reflecting or focusing on a success, highlight or strength.

Asking people to think of something positive leads to chemical changes in the brain and impacts brain function in a way that boosts wellbeing by reducing stress, boosting energy, increasing immune function, enhancing emotional regulation, and buffering against mental ill-health. At the same time, the combination of chemicals (serotonin and oxytocin) and increased activity in the prefrontal cortex part of the brain promote clarity of thought, creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, and even brain growth. 

People who practice the positive primer habit consistently report that spending a few minutes on it pays dividends by increasing engagement and outcomes of the subsequent meeting.

You can start this easily at your next meeting by inviting people to share one of the following:

  • A success that they have had or an action they are proud of.
  • Something good which has happened to them.
  • What the highlight of the week has been for them.

While asking people to consciously think of and share positive emotions might feel a little awkward to start with, you will reap the rewards if you give it a try. If you want to read more, this book from Daniel Goleman goes into more detail and shares more tips. 

2.  Listening with Appreciation

In the heat of the moment, with a long agenda, fixed ideas on the solutions we want, and a desire for action over debate, it’s too easy to overlook the power of listening and the impact it has on others.  

Making people feel heard and valued in the workplace is a fundamental component of well-being. Do they feel that their perspective is understood before being accepted or rejected? Are some voices heard, and others interrupted or cut short? Are contributions invited, or are only the same loudest voices heard?

Ensuring that someone feels heard and valued is not the same as agreeing with the person’s view. It is simply ensuring that the person knows that they have been heard, before building on their idea or explaining your alternative perspective.

Here are three key skills for ensuring your team feels heard and valued in meetings:

1.Don’t interrupt someone who is speaking, and that includes body language or taking a big breath while someone else is speaking which indicate you are preparing to speak. 

If there are situations when you do feel the need to interrupt, name it, and identify how they can share their view at another time. For example: “I am really sorry to interrupt you. We have a lot to get through in today’s meeting so please can you share those thoughts with me via email and I will pick it up directly with you next week.” 

2. Acknowledge everyone’s contribution. We often hear what someone says in a conversation or a meeting and quickly add to their idea or contradict their view, without making it clear we have listened to and understood them. 

Thanking someone for sharing their thoughts, or reflecting back your understanding of their words, goes a long way to making someone feel valued and included. For example: “Thank you for sharing that view. As I understand it, you’re concerned that if we move too quickly on this, then x might result. That’s an important perspective when we also consider the wider context……”

3. Invite contributions, particularly from quieter team members. It is also natural that, in any group, some voices will be louder and more likely to be heard, and other people will be reticent to speak up unless asked. 

Ensure you invite all perspectives by clearly asking everyone to contribute to a conversation in some way and specifically looking at body language to see who may be waiting to be asked or who is showing signs of puzzlement, confusion or disagreement with what is being said. For example: “We are going to go around the group and I would like each of you to suggest one way we could improve this proposal.”  

Supporting people to feel that they are contributing to their team boosts their sense of purpose and confidence which, in turn, enhances wellbeing, engagement and performance too. According to Timothy Clark, this is the first step in creating psychological safety in a workplace, and one you can start today.

3. Finish When You Finish

The people attending your meeting will have lots of other things going on, and probably face other stresses and strains.  So do not add to these by keeping them in your meeting any longer than you need to.

As well as properly considering how long you need for the meeting when you set it up and send out invitations and making sure you turn up to start on time, finish the meeting once it has met its objective: do not keep the conversation going just because you have scheduled the meeting to last a bit longer.

And, if you are able to finish early, avoid the temptation to fill the space or to undermine the value of the meeting with phrases such as “I’ll give you ten minutes back in your day”.  Wrap up positively, for example: “I think we covered everything in the agenda. If no one has anything else to add, we can end the meeting now. Thanks everyone.”

Final Thought

You can tell a lot about a culture by considering how meetings are planned, managed, and how individuals interact in those meetings. Meetings can damage or boost the wellbeing of attendees. And as almost everyone in the organisation will be involved in meetings of some form or another,  practising these skills can also have a wider ripple across all areas of your business affecting well-being, engagement, resilience, and team loyalty.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these ideas, which you have tried, what the impact has been, and which other tips you can share with our community. Please add your comments below or connect directly with any questions.

I would also like to thank Tim Kirk for his assistance in developing and co-authoring this Boardroom Series article.

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