Can we stop having the “meeting after the meeting”?

Sound familiar?  After a meeting, people meet in twos and threes, in the parking lot or in the hallway, to “debrief” – but more likely, to complain or to voice unexpressed thoughts and feelings – to unload what they didn’t say in the meeting.  In COVID times, they – we – may send a private chat to someone… just like in the “meeting after the meeting”.

I imagine we’ve all done that from time to time, myself included.  Once I started coaching teams, I realized why this is problematic – because the team misses out on important information and perspectives that might highlight incorrect assumptions or faulty reasoning.  It degrades trust, when team members don’t believe that they’ll be heard without ridicule or dismissal.  People begin to disengage and lose their sense of caring.  “Whatever”, you can imagine them saying.

I worked with a board of directors this year where I sensed that some people were holding back.  So I asked, with a smile, “Is there anything you’ve wanted to say that you’re saving for the “meeting after the meeting” that you might share now?”  Three people who had been quiet came up with insightful comments that added significant value to the conversation, and there was a shift of energy in the room.  Bingo.  Once one person spoke up, others felt it was safe for them to speak up.

Next time you’re facilitating, leave some time and ask questions:

  1. “Is there anything you wanted to say today that for any reason you decided not to say, that you might like to share now?” and then wait a few seconds. Invariably a few people will speak up.
  2. What have you not said that you’re saving for the “meeting after the meeting”? (with a smile 🙂
  3. Go around the group and ask people for their reflections.

Now, the new conversation after the meeting will be, “That was great; Let’s do that again; Isn’t it great to have everyone on this team?”


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