Meeting engagement getty

There’s a whole new hierarchy of meeting engagement. Be aware of the different levels and your options for managing them.

Those engaged and in-person at meetings are better able to learn, contribute and decide than those either just paying attention, multi-tasking, on video, voice only or just not attending in any way. The general prescription is to move people up and right as much as possible.

The challenge is understanding and communicating the differences.

Change Management

The basic change management equation holds. A x B x C has to be greater than D in which:

  • A is the platform for change
  • B is a vision of a better future
  • C is a call to action
  • D is inertia

Note the laws of mathematics apply in that if you miss either A, B, or C, they multiply out at zero and inertia wins. Actually, inertia is a powerful force. Those not present, off the screen and multi-tasking will continue to do that until you break their inertia.

Three Goods

The three goods apply. People are motivated by a blend of doing good for others, things they are good at, and things that are good for them.

Doing good for others tends to be about the organization’s mission and strength of the team.

Doing things people are good at tends to be about playing to their innate talent and helping them learn new knowledge, practice new skills, gain hard-won experience, and, in some cases, apprentice to masters to absorb craft-level caring and sensibilities over time.

Doing things good for them tends to be about recognition and rewards.

Antecedents – Behaviors – Consequences

As Michael Brown taught us long ago and far away, if you want to change behaviors, change the antecedents and consequences. The essence of the idea is to identify behaviors you want changed, prompt the change, and then change the balance of consequences, rewarding the desired behavior and punishing undesired behavior.

Remember the absence of a reward is a relative punishment and the absence of a punishment is a relative reward – especially when you’re trying to overcome inertia.

Putting it all together

  1. Understand which good motivates people. Do they care more about the cause and team? Building their own strengths? Being recognized and rewarded?
  2. Prompt and reward the behaviors you seek in that light, punishing undesired behaviors.

Punish those not attending in any way, or multi-tasking with their screen off by dialing up their platform for change. There is a range of punishment from shaming, to holding accountable at review time, to excluding, to firing them. Choose appropriately, know that if you don’t change their consequences, they won’t change their behavior.

Publicly reward those engaged and in-person painting a picture of a better way for all others. You might recognize their contributions to the meeting, invite them to help lead part of the next meeting, give them a spot bonus, a raise or promotion or something else they value.

The point is do something for them that makes them want to continue their positive behaviors and inspires others to change their behaviors. Make sure they see your recognition or rewards as positive. It’s frightening how many times we punch people in the face for doing what we want them to do.

Assist people in moving from voice to video to in-person and multi-tasking to present to engaged. In most cases this is about enabling.

Help people move from voice to video by making sure they have the technology and tools they need to do that in terms of screens and connectivity wherever they are. Beyond that, make sure they know how to use the technology.

Help people move from video to in-person by giving them access. This could be as simple as holding the meeting in a place and space all can get to and fit. This could involve giving them the time and resources required to travel to the meeting so they can be part of the pre, post, and side-meetings which are often the most valuable.

Finally, multi-tasking is all about priorities. If someone is multi-tasking in your meeting, it means they think other things are almost as important as your meeting. If the other things were more important, they wouldn’t show up at all. Net, make sure your meetings are valuable.

Click here for a categorized list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #884)