Facilitator's Corner: How do you begin meetings?

“How does your culture call out the best in you and your team so that you inspire excellence in each other?”

As an organizational consultant and meeting facilitator I notice how groups begin meetings.  What does the beginning look like?  When do the meeting participants know that the meeting has begun?  What signals or clues or rituals indicate:  “It’s time to stop chatting and talk about what care about.”
labirynthBeginnings set the tone and expectation of what we are going to talk about and how we are going to talk about it.
Sometimes meetings begin with an “ice breaker.”  And facilitators seem to have a number of those in their tool kit. When I think of ice, I think:  cold climate, ice skating, scraping my car, mittens.  It definitely creates the mood and tone of chilly!
I had the experience of facilitating two meetings last week where we didn’t begin with an “ice breaker.” There actually wasn’t any ice to break!  Each of the clients had requested to begin the meeting in the way that has meaning in their organizational culture.  In each case a meeting participant (not the boss) had been asked to start the meeting with a reflection, a moment of inspiration.  Inspiration contains the root of the word, “spirit”, and each of these beginnings invited the participants to reach for their best selves and for an aspiration that was bigger than themselves.
This moment was not about “breaking” but about “reaching and connecting” to bring out the best possible outcome.  The words chosen by the participants set the tone and set the expectation of shared ownership of excellence.
Time is a precious resource.  This has always been true.  Today’s experiences of buzzing and dinging mobile devices give us constant reminders of how little time there is to get to everything on our calendars.
So, how do you begin?  How does your culture call out the best in you and your team so that you inspire excellence in each other?