I’ve been on three Zoom calls today – which have taken up 2.5 hours of my time. My head hurts, my eyes feel fuzzy, and aside from status updates and content of one kind or another – what was accomplished? In-person meetings tend to energize me (mostly). Online meetings drain me. (almost completely) Why? Is it because I’m sitting down? Is it an allergic blue screen response? Those could be factors – but mostly, I am coming to believe that it has to do with the dynamic of the meetings themselves. They leave me flattened, drained, feeling like I could have gotten the same information in an email – and saved myself 2 hours. I know I’m not alone.
Zoom is here to stay…
Yesterday, I had another meeting for an arts org I’m involved in. Again, it could have been inspirational – and some of it was – but afterward, I was just relieved it was over! Is it too precious to request that we start and end these meetings with a consistent ritual – a way to get everyone – not just the participating artists – authentically and emotionally involved? I’m beginning to think that without this feature, we all just default to the voices in the room with the most perceived status; length of time on the board, visibility, even how much money they can throw around.
Let’s do this!
Agreed upon protocols at the very start of a group experience can provide a rich platform for authentic participation from all voices at the table – not just the loudest, most extraverted players.
So let’s say I’m in a meeting of a group initiated to address a specific community problem – like homelessness. There are representatives here from the city, from the housing coalition, from the police, social workers, activists and those who promote the Tiny Home initiatives. They’ve gathered on Zoom for the first time and have committed to creating a workable proposal for addressing homelessness. Most people gathered here are deeply informed and aware of the need to solve this problem. Almost all of the participants are not at all concerned with creating the specific culture of this particular working group. But the facilitator knows that without intentional culture-building, the overall mission will fail.
Rituals can address what We Don’t Talk About….
There are of course, standard routines most people recognize, ground rules and such. Even the dreaded Robert’s Rules qualify under that title – but how can the facilitator intentionally create the emotional underpinnings of the team?
Ritual can help. Starting each meeting with a check-in helps humanize all the parties, even if they have been historically in conflict with each other. Inviting authentic input from each person allows them the chance to “clear their baggage” and center themselves on the task at hand. If you and I have been in conflict in the community prior to this group’s creation, and you share that your brother fell ill last week, and you’re distracted by worry, I have to feel some empathy for you. This allows me to create space for listening to your views in a more open way. And for you, accepting the invitation to be vulnerable allows you to place your worry further outside the door for the duration of the meeting. We both have a much better chance of making progress, given that we’ve begun our interaction with a ritual designed to tease out our authenticity.
* I’ll be working on a second round of Propeller development for an online tool to help inspire and create customized ritual for online meetings. In addition, I’ve signed on to a book writing program through Seth Godin’s Writing in Community, to develop this program in book form. I’m excited to be exploring this as a focus over the coming months!