Growth / Productivity

8 Effective Steps to More Collaborative Meetings

Kate Grow

Updated: May 27, 2020 · 11 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

engaged employees in a meeting

Your business needs real results. Consistently. We know you; in the past, you've had some great meetings that have produced extraordinary things. And you've had meetings that sounded great and then nothing happened. And you've had meetings that outright stunk.

We know—we've been there. At LinkTrust, we did things wrong for a long time. One day, we looked around and found ourselves in Hell. We wanted so badly to make a great company, but we'd made a big mess of things. When we turned our business over to God, we studied our interactions closely and discovered a secret that led LinkTrust through these challenges and into shining, glowing, happy progress. It can all be summed up into eight letters representing eight steps that changed the face of our company. And we’re ready to share them with you: GABWAWDR. It's a BIG acronym and it gets HUGE results. We're sharing this with you because we believe that your business is the modern equivalent of the ol' family farm—a place where values and character are formed. We want you to be successful so that your sphere of influence can expand and so that you can spread more good in the world.

Here’s what GABWAWDR stands for:

  • Goal of the meeting
  • Awarenesses
  • Brainstorm
  • Way forward
  • Action steps
  • Who
  • Deadline
  • Report

The GABWAWDR meeting is really a method for allowing everyone to feel free to contribute and ultimately for the best ideas come forward for the success of a goal. Using this meeting format gets great outcomes and unifies everyone. It is part of our LinkTrust secret sauce.

LinkTrust powers the most successful advertising networks and online marketers by providing them with top of the line tracking and reporting. The success of our company is rooted in a few diamonds we have found like the GABWAWDR meeting.

But we came up with this process the hard way. We did it wrong for a long time; it was frustrating. We spent millions on projects that never got finished or got lousy results. But we kept on going and when we got sick of doing things the hard way, we developed this inspired system. 

Doing this stuff does take time. You are facilitating a collaborative meeting. You must encourage the contributions of everyone in the meeting. The way you conduct the meeting will enable or squash participation. This is huge for the “thrashing” process. Without everyone’s awarenesses, you will not be able to set achievable goals and action steps. You are not there to get them to think like you. You are there to learn what they know so you can all come up with a great plan together. We do not do rogue projects at LinkTrust; we work as a team. This could be a bit of a transition for your company, after all, businesses are fueled by independent thinkers. But our secret sauce for great success is independent thinkers joining forces in this collaborative process. Don’t short change it by simply outlining your thoughts and your plans. Let the others speak first, then fill in the other ideas you have after they have shared all of theirs. You can do it.

Eight steps to GABWAWDR collaborative meetings:

1. Goal of meeting

What are we doing here? What’s the desired outcome of this meeting? This goal should be something everyone in the meeting agrees that they are there to meet about. Write the goal of the meeting at the top of the whiteboard or whatever you are writing on. It should look something like, “Goal: How will we set it up to make it easy for new clients to get onboarded.”

2. Awarenesses

Write “Awarenesses” on the whiteboard and encourage each person to share their own awarenesses while you list each one on the whiteboard. Don’t start brainstorming solutions yet. This is not a time to debate nor is it a time to convince others of your view. Awarenesses can be an opinion or a perspective. They don’t have to be confirmed facts. Don’t rush this part. Try to make sure all awarenesses have been shared. Value all input given and validate awarenesses by writing each one down. This is a form of restating people which can clarify misconceptions and serves as a reference point later in the meeting.

Make a conscious effort not to look at these awarenesses as a hinderance. You are listening to people with hopes, objectives, and needs. Don’t reduce them to robots who complete tasks, but rather, allow them to fully contribute with both their brains and their hearts. People who can be creative and intelligent will be.

If an awareness is that an additional person should be a part of the meeting, then, you may as a group decide that you will invite that person and schedule a new meeting before you continue.

Note: You can very quickly go through the rest of the steps...“We ought to have Daphne in on this meeting,” everyone is agreeing, so that is your way forward. You determine that the action steps are someone will talk with Daphne and see if she can come into the GABWAWDR. But she can’t. So you determine that the action steps are that someone should send a calendar invite to Daphne and everyone else in the group for tomorrow at the same time. That’s the only action step. Monte says he’ll do that by 3:00 today. That’s the deadline for the action step he has. He say’s he’ll text you once he has done that. That’s the report back plan. Quick and easy, and you’ll get better at getting the right people in the room from the get-go.

3. Brainstorm

Write “Brainstorm” on the whiteboard. In light of all the awarenesses on the whiteboard, as a group, start coming up with ideas and writing them on the whiteboard. Let the creativity flow. This is not a debate either. Let each person share freely and contribute to the list of brainstorm ideas. It’s OK to throw in a silly idea now and then as long as it’s on topic. Some of our silly ideas have turned out to be the ideal way forward. Let people be creative. Do not say why the idea won’t work and then not write it down. Write them all down. If new awarenesses arise, go ahead and list them under the “Awarenesses” area on the whiteboard.  

Sometimes completely off-topic items emerge. They may seem to be tangent discussions that don’t contribute to the primary goal identified as the purpose for this GABWAWDR. If someone starts talking about something that seems off topic, just refer to the written goal and ask how their comment relates to the goal. They may have a good reason that relates (when they demonstrate that, thank them for explaining) or they may recognize that this is a topic for another time (thank them for that and assure them that that topic will be covered in the _______ meeting). Topics for other times should be avoided—we call them rabbit holes. Even if they are important to talk about later, for now we put them “in the parking lot.” In anycase, move forward with open and inclusive brainstorming.

4. Way Forward

The way forward magically emerges. If it doesn’t, you are missing some awarenesses. But once you have them all, the way forward does emerge as if by magic and everyone involved sees it. It’s cool—trust me. You can identify the way forward by starring a brainstorm item or writing the way forward and starring it. The way forward may be a set of several brainstorm items. If large enough, consider making the way forward a “Road for the Destination” board, which we’ll explain next.

5. Action Steps

Identify the tasks needed to accomplish the way forward together. Some of your brainstorm items may become action steps. Just identify them with a check box next to them. These action steps will serve as the mile markers to your destination when you make a “Road for the Destination” board. At this point you are just identifying what needs to happen to make the way(s) forward successful, so don’t start saying who is doing what. Sometimes just by assigning who is doing what at this point will hinder people from offering useful and necessary action steps because they might be the only one who can do that action item. So, don’t start assigning now, just figure out what should happen, not who should do it.

6. Who

Now that you have the scope of the project, who will accomplish each action step? Allow people to volunteer to accomplish the action steps. Just say, “OK, who can do what?” and then be quiet. People will step up and take on things that they are good at or are comfortable with or that they recognize they are the only ones. It’s inspiring and motivating. Sometimes someone says, “I’ll do this part,” and then someone else says, “I can help you with that.” That is wonderful. We love that. Just make sure one person owns and is responsible for that action item so it doesn’t slip between the cracks.

If there are still action items left without owners, make sure each action step gets an owner. As each person takes responsibility for an action step, write their name or initial next to the corresponding action step check box.  

It’s OK if some people leave the meeting without having any assigned action steps, but no one person should be overloaded with doing too much either. If they volunteer for too much, you can nicely say, “Well, you’ve got a lot here, let’s let someone else take this part” and thank them. It’s occasionally appropriate to designate an action step to somebody not presently in the meeting, but be careful with this and know that you are ultimately responsible to see that the plan’s action steps are carried out.  

Each person should now write down their action steps into their to-do list.

7. Deadline

When will each action step be completed by? Write down the agreed upon completion date next to each item. Sometimes people will say, “I can do _________, I’ll do that today right after this meeting.” And then they write the action step on their to-do list. If it is going to take more than a few minutes to complete, they need to schedule the time on their calendar straight away. That way, it happens. This is a really big deal—don’t hold back accountability. Scheduling the time now to accomplish these action steps is what separates us from chaos. Each person should update their to-do list and calendar with when they are committing to accomplish their action steps. Take a photo of the whiteboard for future reference.

8. Report

Reporting back on the progress and completion of your action steps is critical to success. Schedule a meeting with everyone or have each person send you, the facilitator, or driver on this goal an email that reports on their assigned action steps. An accountability email works great, but a simple text saying, “I updated the website copy!!!” is not only informative but fun and satisfying. It’s satisfying to let people know you kept your commitment, and it’s satisfying to see others do the same. It increases trust and builds momentum.

GABWAWDR is a systematic way to purposefully reconnect with the person in the people you are working with. It capitalizes on the creativity and experiences of each of your employees, which you could never find by simply relying on your own ideas and strengths. It brings a force with it when tackling problems every small business owner encounters. And the best part is, it works. It just works.

Kate Grow.jpg

Kate Grow is a dedicated and intuitive leader who connects with and encourage people. A seasoned Jedi Knight with a universe of experience in building businesses and mentoring others, she is President of LinkTrust and serves as lead for LinkTrust's give-back projects. She is responsible for working with businesses, universities and other educators to offer students the skills, tools and opportunities to be successful digital marketers with hands-on industry experience. Kate holds two degrees, plays several instruments and has lived throughout the world. She is happily married and is the proud mother of four children.

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