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Vote, Voice, and View: Getting More From Your Meetings
A lot has been said about how to run a useful meeting (Seth Godin suggests hiring a meeting fairie, and Patrick Lencioni has some good advice too, though less whimsical). But even if you put together a killer agenda, wow your colleagues with a canny Keynote presentation, and send everybody off with a list of neat and tidy action items and a smile on their faces, you could be missing a great opportunity to get the most out of your meetings.
Meetings as training ground
Initially, our monthly Leadership Sync meetings included all of our campus pastors (who serve as senior leaders at our various locations) and all of our executive elders (who serve as senior leaders of the entire church). Last year, however, we decided to start inviting more people into the room for two reasons:
- Efficiency. Including additional key staff allows them to receive instructions in real time rather than second-hand. Also, our support personnel includes many subject matter experts, and it’s often helpful to have them on hand to answer questions immediately rather than postponing agenda items until somebody can track down more info.
- Training. Sitting in on big conversations also allows up-and-coming leaders to witness how church leadership operates. How do the lead elders reach a decision? Cast vision? Resolve conflict? Treat one another? Run a meeting? It’s also a test for these new leaders: how do they handle access to senior leadership? Can they be trusted with sensitive information?
In order to make this work (and it won’t work for all meetings), we place participants in one of three tiers: those with a vote, those with a voice, and those with a view.
Vote: The Decision-Makers
At our Leadership Sync meetings, the campus pastors and executive elders get a vote. They sit in the center of the room at tables arranged in a circle/square so that everybody can see each other. These are the decision-makers who are actually participating in the business at hand by offering their opinions, raising issues, asking questions, and essentially engaging as peers.
Voice: The Subject-Matter Experts
Department heads, ministry directors, and key support staff sit in a second row and participate in the meeting as necessary to address specific questions, present certain agenda items, and prepare to implement decisions made by the Voters. This group is a mix of pastors and deacons, and they’re welcome to speak up during the meeting as is appropriate and needed.
View: The Flies on the Wall
Also outside of the circle are the up-and-coming leaders: deacons, interns, and other support staff who are invited to observe. These staff members may also help with the post-meeting implementation in their sphere of ministry.
By breaking down the walls of exclusivity, new and young leaders get to engage with established leaders.
Executive elders, campus pastors, and department heads are automatically invited to the Leadership Sync, and each is asked to extend an invitation to one or two people on their team. This makes for a decent crowd, but since only a small group is actively participating in the proceedings, the whole thing is quite manageable.
The Leadership Syncs typically run about three hours and we usually include food with the deal in order to take care of our staff and encourage some fellowship before and after the meeting, at which time the lines between Vote/Voice/View blur and everybody can make connections and talk ministry, business, life, and follow-up—learning, growing, and building relationships along the way.
Rather than a demeaning separation of first, second, and third-class leaders, this meeting structure actually helps flatten the org chart. In most organizations, the Voice and View crowd would never get invited because they don’t wield a Vote. By breaking down the walls of exclusivity, new and young leaders get to engage with established leaders. They also get to see leadership in action and catch a vision for what it might look like for them to grow and take on more responsibility.
From the earliest days of the church, first with Jesus and his disciples, then with Paul and his protégés, and on down the line, the gospel moves forward because one generation of leaders cares enough about the next generation of leaders to invite them into the room. Whether you lead a church, a non-profit organization, or a business, the vote/voice/view structure will add significant value to your meetings and buy-in amongst your leadership teams.