Transformative Meetings

“To get something done, a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.”
— Robert Copeland

Meetings get a bad rap these days.  They can be too frequent, too long, too unproductive, and too painful.  Partners in Thought® processes can help to immensely improve the quality, productivity, and enjoyment of meetings and retreats.  Additionally, conscious effort and practiced habits are needed to avoid our evolutionary-based biases that predictably lead to poor group decisions. Partners in Thought® tools are not designed simply for facilitation of individual meetings by Partners in Thought® coaches, but also for organization-wide changes to how and why meetings are conducted.

Recent research has determined that different teams have different collective intelligences.  Just like any individual’s intelligence score predicts his or her achievement in a wide variety of subject matters and problem-solving, collective intelligence of a team predicts achievement by the team in a wide variety of domains.  Interestingly, collective intelligence of a team is not correlated with the average intelligence of its members or the intelligence of the highest IQ member of a team.

Critical to effective meetings are:


●    Commitment to the team goal, rather than to participants’ individual goals, egos, and fears.

●    Training to listen, contemplate, resist defensiveness, and contribute in a way that will be heard by others.

●    A skillful facilitator who prepares a powerful agenda, sticks to the agenda, and draws out the divergent ideas and feelings of all participants.

●    Openness and mutual respect (including respect for starting and ending meetings on time) and willingness of each participant to hold the others accountable for the team’s cultural norms.

●    Production of an effective action plan by the end of the meeting.

●    Deployment of best practices for problem-solving and decision-making.


Critical to effective teams are:

●    Dependability. Team members get things done on time and meet expectations.

●    Structure and clarity. High-performing teams have clear goals, and have well-defined roles within the group.

●    Meaning. The work has personal significance to each member.

●    Impact. The group believes their work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good.

●    Psychological Safety. Everyone feels safe to take risks, voice their opinions, and ask judgment-free questions.


Because of the nature of the human social brain, which evolved for the benefit of clans of our ancestors on the savannah, groups have a strong tendency to get along but also make poor decisions.  To ensure optimal decisions, we must guard against this natural tendency. For example, opposing views should be celebrated. “Getting along” should not interfere with seeking what’s best for the organization. For major decisions, a "red team" may need to be assigned to poke holes in and show the downsides of what appears to be the group’s consensus approach.  Echo-chamber effects need to be identified and addressed (unlike in our current political climate where self-identified conservatives drive each other to the extreme right and self-identified liberals drive each other to the extreme left).  To encourage a multiplicity of contributions, it often is best to silence the leaders and other highly influential members at the start of meetings.  Partners in Thought® meeting facilitation addresses these and many other decision-making and organizational issues.  Several Partners in Thought® interactive workshops relate to effective meetings and collaboration, including workshops on facilitating Transformational MeetingsOvercoming Barriers to Desired ChangeBridging the Political Divide, optimizing Decision-Making, and Time Management.