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Three Tips for Better Meetings

October 12th, 2015

IMG_9474smallMeetings are part of work life and volunteer life – day in and day out. In a quick scan using the Google machine, the amount of time Americans spend in meetings was staggering – ranging from 35% – 50% depending on job title. At the same time, a whopping 63% of meetings happen without a pre-planned agenda. Yikes!

Meetings, gatherings, small group discussions, one-on-ones – all of this is in the DNA at Environmental Initiative. We’re conveners, all the time. Recently, our staff had the opportunity to take a pause for a 3-hour mini-crash course in the Art of Convening with Craig Neal and Rachel Harris of Heartland. Here are the three things I took away from the training in the hopes that we can make meetings a bright spot, rather than something to dread (or an opportunity to multi-task):

Start Inside
The idea of starting with yourself is especially important if you’re leading a conversation, meeting, or other engagement. I’ve found this aspect of the Art of Convening extremely helpful – especially as I stepped in to facilitate a series of meetings with the seven Clean Water Fund agencies during our work on the Clean Water Roadmap in 2014.

It might feel a little “hippy-dippy,” but taking some time to ground yourself, consider who you are, and how you want to be in relationship with others is powerful. Before you step in to lead a meeting, take some time to think about these two questions:

  • What are the core nonnegotiable values that guide your life and work?
  • How do I aspire to be in relationship with others?

Had I not done this internal work ahead of Clean Water Roadmap meetings, I would have been an anxious, less confident convener.

“String the Beads”
Another trick we’ve picked up from our friends at Heartland, known as “stringing the beads,” is a wonderful way to begin a meeting or conversation and ensure you hear all of the voices around the table. This is a great way to handle introductions during meetings, because it gets people thinking and engaged early on. It’s also pretty easy. Ask your meeting participants to share their name and answer a question. The question can be meeting relevant, such as “What does success look like?” or “What do you hope to accomplish in this meeting?” Or, you can go deeper – asking people about their identity, what matters to them, or significant events going on in their lives outside of work. Either way, “stringing the beads” can set the tone for your meeting in a very powerful way.

Set Context
Nothing is quite as bad as sitting in a meeting and wondering to yourself, “What is the point of this? I don’t know what we’re trying to do here.” This drives me especially insane, and for whatever reason I’m getting less patient about directionless meetings as I get older.

Setting context is another tip that doesn’t take much time, but is easily forgotten. At the start of your meeting (as well as when you make the invitation to the meeting ahead of time), make sure everyone understands the form, function, and purpose of the gathering. Have you answered the questions, “What are we here to do together? What is the goal of this meeting?”

Don’t assume everyone remembers why the meeting is happening. Take two minutes to remind everyone involved why they’re together and you’ll save yourself from blank stares and awkward silence.

What tips or tricks do you have for better meetings? Share your thoughts with a comment, or contact me anytime. And be sure to check out Heartland’s website for more information about the Art of Convening and other leadership programming.

Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

Member of the Month: 3M

October 1st, 2015

Thank you to Environmental Initiative for highlighting 3M as the Member of the Month for October.  3M enjoys a strong relationship with 3MEnvironmental Initiative, including sponsorship of the Environmental Initiative Awards and financial support for Clean Air Minnesota.  The two projects highlight Environmental Initiative’s collaborative approach to problem solving.  3M shares their commitment to collaboration, as we partner with our customers and communities to meet our shared goals.

Building on 3M’s long-standing leadership in environmental stewardship and commitment to customer-inspired innovation, we are focusing our company sustainability strategy on overcoming the global challenges that serve as barriers to improving every life. This means addressing challenges like energy availability and security, raw material scarcity, human health and safety, and education and development, while keeping our vision for growth in mind.

One example of our commitment is the 3M Pulp and Paper Sourcing Policy.  3M does not own forest land ourselves (we are downstream users of paper and pulp), but we developed our Policy to set standards of excellence for our suppliers and their suppliers.  The 3M Pulp and Paper Sourcing Policy, finalized in 2015, is designed to assure that the virgin wood fiber used in our paper-based products and packaging comes from sources that protect forests and respect the rights of workers and people who live in or may depend on forests for their livelihood.  3M uses materials that, if made from virgin fiber, must be traceable to the forest source and must be harvested legally. We expect that our suppliers will work to assure and verify that these virgin fibers are also harvested in a manner that is protective of high carbon stock forests, high conservation values, and workers’ and indigenous peoples’ rights.

With $30 billion in sales, 3M employs 88,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 70 countries.  For more information, visit www.3M.com or follow @3MNewsroom on Twitter.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 651-308-4950 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Chris Nelson


Environmental Permitting Manager, 3M Environmental Operations
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