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This chapter is from the book

Surveying Participants

With the purpose of the meeting defined, and a list of attendees outlined, you can now survey participants to prepare them for the collaboration. Without this step in your preparation, you run the risk of having unpleasant surprises in your meeting. Perhaps someone who has been invited does not want to attend because of a personal issue with the sponsor. Another person thought the meeting was for a completely different purpose. Yet another person believes that the purpose is completely wrong and needs to be altered. You survey participants to remove these surprises and meeting challenges before they happen.

To help participants learn about the meeting and their participation:

  • Gather their personal objectives—When interviewing participants, state the purpose of the meeting and then ask the participant a question similar to the one you asked when articulating the purpose with the sponsor. This will help you learn what each participant’s real reason for attending might be and how it aligns with or contradicts the stated purpose:

    "Imagine that the meeting has just ended."

    "You are walking out the door of the meeting, and you turn to your colleague and say, ‘I am so happy I attended this meeting! I got exactly what I wanted out of it!’"

    "What was it that the meeting accomplished that made you so happy?"

  • Find out hidden agendas—Look at the personal objectives and ask the participant further questions:

    • What do you believe your role to be in the meeting?
    • What do you think might get in the way of accomplishing the meeting purpose?
  • Learn what the ongoing battles are—This is what my friend Janet Danforth calls "getting the canary to sing." As Janet talks about it, there is always some dirt lurking somewhere in a group that is setting out to go through some major collaborative event such as a strategy meeting or kickoff meeting. Someone will eventually "spill the beans" and let you in on what hasn’t been working in the group. This is valuable information in your planning!

When you find out these potential disconnects prior to a meeting, you can plan the problems away in how you set up the agenda, seat the participants, and plan activities. Don’t skip this step! Very quickly, you will learn:

  • How much Forming still needs to occur in the group
  • What sort of Storming is already going on
  • What damage has been sustained as the group has been dealing with its divergence
  • What activities may help the group move from just Norming into Performing
  • How much to let go of very defined activities if the group is already Performing
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