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Meetings Run Wild? Yell ELMO

We’ve all been there before. You’ve called the meeting, the agenda opens up, and someone derails it. Call it chasing rabbits or going down the wrong path, whatever. Someone gets off on a tangent and sucks the air out of the room.

What can you do?

Smart teams do more than just get work done. They become highly effective by deciding on some rules of engagement. They talk about what it takes to be high performers. Then they agree on guide rails to get them there.

One very funny but effective method is to yell ELMO. Yes, Elmo may be that cute fuzzy character from The Muppets. But ELMO is an acronym for:

Enough, Let’s Move On. ELMO.

Plain, simple and powerful.

The way it works is to simply say “ELMO” when someone else is running amok with the agenda. That’s the signal to shut it down and move on. (You can add the Muppet voices if you like).

The Kicker

The challenge is to have the discussion about ELMO before the team gathers again. Talk about the intent to be efficient and effective with your meetings and team interaction.

Be sure everyone knows what ELMO means and, more importantly, that the use of the ELMO flag is nothing mean-spirited. It’s just a fair, non-judgmental way to challenge the speaker to shut it down and get back to the topics at hand.

story telling at meetings

Patrick Lencioni in his book series on building great teams advocates for two key documents. He says teams need a Charter and a Contract.

The Charter

The charter defines the why. Why are we here as a team? What are we supposed to be doing? It also strives to define what a win looks like. Meaning it defines success.

It also helps answer the purpose question that is the important step #2 in the Team Trust Model.

team trust model

The Contract

The contract in this scenario is much like a formal negotiated contract would be. It sets terms and conditions about the team, how to operate, and how to work together. This is where a practical piece of advice like Elmo can be constructed.

You talk about the need for a guide rail like Elmo to keep team meetings moving forward. Then you agree in the contract to set expectations for when and how it can be called.

The Leader’s Role

If you are responsible for a team, whether it is a network inside a larger corporation or your own small business employees, you owe it to them to set standards for high performance.

Setting those standards can be done collaboratively. You can assemble the team and guide a discussion about the way the team should interact, engage, and work toegther.

I once facilitated a team meeting for a leader where we set out to do just that. His team was newly established because of a company reorganization.

After I explained the charter and contract ideas one of the team spoke up. He said “We don’t need rules like that. We all get along and know how to exchange our messages.”

Another member responded, “I disagree. We don’t really know each other that well and we could use some roadmaps to help us become more efficient.”

Then the discussion got real.

You too can set the bar for powerful, effective team performance. However, team members need to be shown how they can best interact. Having that discussion first can save headaches and heartaches down the road.

If you’d like to talk about my Team Trust Model or having me facilitate a session with your team, just connect here.