“Ok, guys! 20 minutes until Family Meeting!” Those words have rung through the halls of our home countless times over the years. A few minutes later, the shadowy figures of three children would emerge from various places and make their way to the dinner table or living room couch.
Family meetings have become an institution in the Poepsel home. Whether your current family consists of a pair of newlyweds, a single mother with two kids under 8 years old, or a married couple with three kids in High School, Family Meetings can strengthen family bonds while teaching invaluable life lessons.
Here are some tips to help you run a kick-ass family meeting:
1. Do the Prep Work
When leading a Family Meeting, don’t try to wing it. Before lining up the troops, be sure to have a loose agenda built around a specific theme, exercise, or thought-provoking question. Your up-front investment will be noticed, and it will ensure that everybody is at their best during the meeting.
2. Keep it Short
You may be into personal goals and achievement, but remember that not all of your family members are wired the same way. You should shoot for a Family Meeting that lasts 20 minutes or less. If you find that you’re losing them, it’s better to wrap it up and let the Family Meeting concept live to fight another day.
3. Make it Fun
Personal development can be dry for some, but it doesn’t have to be. Try to incorporate fun activities into your Family Meetings. In our house, we’ve led each other blindfolded through a makeshift obstacle course (trust), formed a human pyramid to secure a sticky note high on a tree (teamwork), and filled out NCAA-style brackets (personal values). Who says achievement has to be boring?
4. Play Along
Even if you’re leading the meeting, you need to participate in the festivities. Be prepared to demonstrate leadership by going first. This may include sharing first if you’ve asked a question such as, “When was a time you tried really hard but came up short, and what did you learn as a result?” In the same way, the more ridiculous the meeting activity, the more important it is that you go first if you don’t have any eager volunteers.
5. Stay On Target
Avoid any temptation to go off course during your Family Meeting. A meeting that starts with a theme of teamwork shouldn’t end with a lecture about how the kids aren’t doing a good job of keeping their rooms clean. A couple’s meeting that starts with fitness goals shouldn’t end with “that’s because your work is more important to you than I am.” Stick to the plan.
6. Act Their Age
Personal development discussions can lead to some heavy duty life lessons. If you have kids, you need to make these concepts relatable to your younger meeting members. This has always been a big problem area for me. I get so excited to talk about a development topic that I begin to talk over their heads. Every time I do, my well-intentioned message is lost.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Tackle the Big Topics
Even younger kids can handle more than you think. Seemingly adult topics such as goal setting, frustration, roadbloacks, and dealing with negative people are very much a part of young peoples’ lives. Future success starts at a very early age. Other family members’ lives may be different than yours, but the overarching themes are quite similar. The trick is finding a way to make these topics safe and accessible as part of the Family Meeting.
8. Be Consistent
Especially when starting out, it’s important to demonstrate that your newfound dedication to holding Family Meetings isn’t a passing fad like your shake weight or cutting back on Facebook. If possible, establish a regular cadence for your Family Meetings with a regular day, time, and place each week. At first, you may be met with groans. “Are we still doing this?” Over time, your meeting attendees will have a series of positive experiences, and they’ll look forward to the next meeting (even if they won’t always admit it).
9. Share the Load
After you’ve built up some momentum, you can ask your partner or older kids to lead a Family Meeting. They’ll have your examples and templates to guide them. Don’t be surprised if the kids especially experience a sense of pride at the offer to take the reins. I’ve been surprised at the creativity and leadership my young meeting organizers have shown over the years.
10. Go Around the Horn
I’ve found that the best way to wrap up a successful Family Meeting is to go around the table and ask each family member to share something of interest. Great examples include questions such as “What was your favorite moment this past week?” or “What’s coming up that you’re really excited about?” These questions are powerful when we answer them, but they’re unusual thought patterns in our daily lives. That’s what makes them great for a Family Meeting!
We spend so much time in meetings in our work, and to be fair, many are a colossal waste of time. The problem isn’t the meeting format but rather how they’re executed. When led properly, a well-organized meeting is a powerful tool in helping organizations perform to their full potential. The same is true for our families.
Commit to making Family Meetings a new tradition in your home. Your achievers will thank you for it in the long run.
How do you make the most of your family time together? Share your thoughts using the comments below.
(Featured image by Unsplash.)