Networks of Conversations

Conversations, aka meetings, are the sine qua non of organizations and communities. They are how things get done. “Is there anything that matters that isn’t done through conversations?” asks Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan, authors of The Three Laws of Performance. Planning, problem solving, policy setting, coaching or staying up-to-date with colleagues: all of these occur through conversations. In addition, meeting conversations feed into other ones. Managers develop a recommendation for a board of directors. … Read more…

6.5 Lessons From Basketball

Once they squeaked by the Houston Rockets, it was predictable that the Golden State Warriors would squash the Cleveland Cavaliers in the National Basketball League Finals. For those of you who are not basketball fans bear with me for a moment. Let me show you how lessons from basketball can make your meetings more effective. I begin with a personal note. I was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts where basketball was invented by Dr. … Read more…

Change the Brain for Good: Responding to Disturbances

This entry is the first in a five-part series. It will describe what we know about the impact of contemplative practice on the human brain, and the relevance of these findings to doing meaningful work in groups. For 15 years I’ve been tracking the impact of meditation on the human brain and its potential to help people be more constructive in meetings. In my work as a leader, consultant and facilitator it seems to me … Read more…

Possibilities of Good Conversation

“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” — Kurt Vonnegut When I asked a group of 50 members of the Silicon Valley Organization Development Network during my presentation in June about the role of good conversations in creating change, here is what some of them said: Encouraging collective wisdom to emerge … Read more…

Basics Still Matter

Rae Levine, a longtime colleague and friend, with whom I taught meeting management once looked at me in faux disbelief and asked, “Is there anyone left on the planet who does not know how to define desired outcomes for a meeting and build an effective agenda to achieve them?” We both cracked up. It seemed we had been teaching this to multitudes for years. I still teach both because there are many who either don’t … Read more…

I Get Scared When…

When do you get scared in conversations or meetings? You might call it “challenged,” “anxious,” or “threatened.” However, underneath our adult bravado, it remains what we called it as children: “scared.” Here’s how a few of the 50 consultants at a talk I gave last week at the Silicon Valley Organization Development Network completed this sentence: “I get scared when…” — “I think someone is angry with me and his or her voice escalates. I’m … Read more…

Conversation Is A Team Sport

I enjoy watching basketball, especially during the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs when the level of skill and teamwork approach their apex. The team that wins is usually the one that plays as a team instead of one in which one or two players hog the ball. Just as in conversation, individual skills matter but skill and teamwork matter more. Used in tandem, they raise everyone’s level of play. Certain individual skills increase teamwork on … Read more…

Active Hope

“Active hope is a practice…it is something we do, rather than have.” Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone When I feel hopeful, I have some confidence that what I hope will happen is likely to happen. For example, I hope this meeting accomplishes what I want it to accomplish. Or, I hope people listen to one another’s perspectives. In this way, desire for a particular future is a part of hope. “Active hope,” according to Joanna Macy and Chis … Read more…

When Your Hair Is On Fire…

According to Stephen Covey, one of the seven habits of highly effective people is that they, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  It sounds so simple. Something you could embroider on a pillow. Or, make into a poster. Simple does not mean easy. When someone says something that sets your hair on fire, the temptation is to go tit for tat, tooth for tooth, measure for measure. We go round and round, getting … Read more…

Handling Hidden Emotions

A colleague was in a meeting recently with her counterparts from around the state trying to figure out how they might collaborate to improve each of their organizations’ individual performance. As they considered possibilities, one member of the group kept objecting to everything in a harsh tone. Basically the message was, this will never work, don’t even try it. So, on breaks and when the naysayer was not in the room, the group came up … Read more…