The Magic of Facilitating Challenging Meetings

By Thierry de Beyssac | Nov 08, 2023

Meetings are the vessel where ideas are forged, plans take shape, and futures get decided. However, not all meetings are smooth sailing, especially when a diverse set of opinions, personalities, and competing interests are at play. Difficult conversations, whether addressing performance issues, negotiating contracts, or managing team conflicts, are an inevitable part of the business landscape. How these meetings are moderated can be the difference between success and stagnation.

The stakes of certain meetings are elevated due to the significant topics they cover, the crucial decisions pending, and the seniority of the attendees. With over 26 years as a strategy consultant for senior leadership teams, I can attest that facilitating these high-stakes meetings is both the most intriguing and demanding aspect of my role.

So, What Makes a Meeting Difficult or Transformational?

In my experience, the way I describe it’s basically those gatherings where decisions and actions concerning complex issues – be they problems or opportunities – need resolution. Situations where conflicting opinions, varied interests, and occasionally hidden agendas come to the fore.

Another breed of challenging meetings are those with the goal of transforming mindsets, reshaping behaviors, and redefining ways of working and leading collaboratively within a team. The way I see it is that more often than not, this transformative journey commences with a singular, challenging meeting.

The Essence of a Successful Difficult Meeting

I’ve witnessed many successful meetings and for me what stands out, is that there’s a collective commitment to the decisions made and actions charted. It’s where opinions are openly confronted, conflicts of interest tackled head-on, and the “elephants in the room” addressed. Additionally, it’s where participants truly agree and begin to think, act, and engage in a renewed, intentional manner.

Unpacking the “Magic” of Facilitation Success

As someone who’s often at the helm of challenging meetings, particularly with Global ExComs or within non-collaborative matrix organizations, the “alchemy” of steering such meetings to success always astonishes me.

There are myriad ingredients at play here, each vital in its own right. The foundational principle hinges on curating an environment of trust and safety. An atmosphere where each participant:

  • Can voice their truths
  • Feels and ensures understanding from others
  • Is willing to build from confrontations and conflicts
  • Fully commits to final decisions, even if they were initially opposed
  • Sincerely wants and pledges to evolve their mindsets, behaviors, and capabilities as conscious leaders.

For those of you who’ve had a brush with our Conscious Business & Leadership model, some of this might ring a bell. In our meetings, we’re all about diving into these mindsets and behaviors. It’s like shifting from being a ‘Player’ rather than a ‘Victim’ or embracing the ‘Learner’ in us rather than the ‘Knower’. It’s about making requests and commitments that are spot-on impeccable. And hey, mastering our emotions and conflicts? That’s the name of the game. Not to mention, championing genuine communication and collaboration. It’s all part and parcel of how we roll in these sessions.

The challenge lies in fostering this environment and nurturing these growth mindsets during transformative meetings.

Even with high-functioning, cohesive, and aligned teams, managing challenging meetings is no easy feat. Is there an element of magic involved? Perhaps.

We’ve only just scratched the surface of this multifaceted topic. So, if your curiosity’s been piqued, I promise there’s plenty more to delve into. In my next piece, I’m going to unravel the intricacies of these meetings, specifically focusing on the art of understanding, aligning, and wholeheartedly committing to rules. And trust me, when we talk about rules, it’s not just black and white—there are shades and dimensions you might not have considered. So, get ready for a deeper dive and keep me on your radar. See you soon!

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