January has been a busy month for me with workshops at multiple clients in addition to the usual post-holiday project ramp-up. Workshop weeks are always interesting opportunities to see how participants interact, what topics dominate the discussion and how our team services the meeting. Our activities usually include preparing materials in advance of the session, facilitating during the session and following-up on decisions after the session. For multi-day workshops, this cycle can repeat every day – and evening, in some cases – in an effort to accelerate output with the client. The ways in which team members service the meeting can vary drastically. For example:

Role Servicing the Meeting Result
Partner Called the day before the session to confirm attendance Fail
Contradicted his team during their presentation
Demonstrated no unique knowledge relevant to the client's organization
Senior Manager Made no visible effort to get to know client counterparts Fail
Provided no credible insight to the discussion
Did not speak once during day 2 of the session
Staff Developed extra facilitation material in advance of the session Pass
Documented key discussion points and decisions
Responded humorously when client executives joked at his expense

In effect, I had a partner invite himself to a session, walk in unprepared and give bad information. I had a specialist senior manager assume his role was “attendance”, and I had a staff take good notes and crack a timely joke. Only the latter was effective in service. If you’re heading into a meeting without a meaningful role that is appropriate for your level and experience, either redefine your role or don’t go. Contributing to the process at hand helps. Simply being in a meeting does not.