We've all been in a meeting where it feels like pulling teeth to get people to talk, give ideas, or brainstorm. We also know that person who tends to dominate meeting discussions. So how are you supposed to get the opinions of everyone in the room, when no one seems comfortable providing their input?
If I can be so personal with the Internet, I’m going to tell you something: every formalized review I’ve had in the past ten years has included some note about how I don’t speak up in meetings. As a (self-described) “functioning introvert,” I’ll fully admit to not liking group meetings—I think they’re designed for extroverts—but I mostly just think they’re opportunities to watch other people’s eyes glaze over.
So when I was given the opportunity to attend a Liberating Structures professional development session with other members of the YNPNdc leadership team, I was both intrigued and skeptical. I wanted to learn new ways to run meetings, but I was skeptical that anything could actually overcome my introversion. Luckily the skepticism wore off quickly.
I was initially nervous when all the participants started off in a circle facing each other, but our two facilitators soon had us up and moving around, talking in between the sound of tiny chimes, telling us to rotate or to switch conversation topics.
I was participating in a meeting and I was enjoying it. The same person who normally spends meetings singing “Proud Mary” in her head from start to finish was engaged, and willingly contributed to the meeting.
We tried a few other exercises after that. We learned how to facilitate and structure meetings and groups that produced ideas and moved work forward. It was easy. The brilliance of Liberating Structures is breaking up into smaller, more interpersonal configurations, and going from there. The introverts have a safe space to discuss their ideas, but the extroverts can still share to their hearts’ content.
By the end of the event, we had gotten to know each other, discussed a solid amount of business, and I wasn’t ready to crawl under my desk. I was energized, excited about the work, and felt a sense of shared experience with the people in the room.
Liberating Structures levels the playing field and allows for all voices. It gives you tools to deconstruct the stodgy, traditional meeting and get people thinking in new ways. I’m still excited about the work we did that evening and I am looking forward to using the Liberating Structures for many meetings to come.