A Magical Meeting Story from strategic innovation leader, facilitator & executive advisor Kellee Franklin, PhD
Welcome to Magical Meetings Stories, a series where I chat with professional facilitators, meeting practitioners, leaders, and CEOs across industries about their meeting culture. We dive deep into a specific Magical Meeting they’ve run, including their approach to facilitation design, and their tips and tricks for running meetings people thrive in.
Today’s story is with Kellee Franklin, an innovative and integrative thinker, creative change agent and corporate strategist, executive advisor, and entrepreneurial-minded business leader and educator. She has been recognized for delivering sustainable business strategy and IT/digital transformation, leveraging Big Data to drive innovation, designing new and inventive ways of performing business, and achieving actionable results through using human-centered design processes and best-in-class management consultant strategies. She is also the founder of Mindful Innovation Labs. Kellee also received a PhD in Human Development with an emphasis in Adult Learning and Organizational Behavior from Virginia Tech.
In our discussion, Kellee reflects on a specific 10 meeting series she ran shortly before the pandemic lockdown. She dives into what drove the meeting design and why her unique approach was successful.
“I think what drove the design of that meeting, which really has driven the design of the vast majority of the meetings that I have with clients, is just my fundamental belief in adult learning principles, which I don’t think get communicated as often as they should.” -Kellee M. Franklin
The Importance of Meeting Design
Kellee is a big believer in spending a lot of time upfront in meeting design, because she isn’t the biggest fan of meetings. This thinking is also applied when she coaches executives, where the emphasis is placed on designing meetings.
Her Team-Centered Meetings are an ongoing approach she uses with teams, both virtually and in person. Let’s take a closer look at Kellee’s process for making this specific Team-Centered Meeting magical.
During this specific Team-Centered Meeting, Kellee was responsible for navigating 15 design teams of 32 nationalities through a design thinking process. At the end of it, each team was going to pitch a product. There was a series of 10 meetings and she met with each individual team weekly for only 30 minutes. “Throughout the week, these design teams were meeting together and they were also getting content and having access to clients and working collaboratively. But their time with me was relatively limited. So, we had to make the most use of our time together,” she explains.
Team-Centered Meeting Driver
Kellee’s fundamental belief in adult learning principles are what drove the design of this meeting, and the design of many of her other meetings and engagements. She believes adult learning principles don’t get communicated as often as they should. She explains the aspects of adult learning, which are differentiated from how children learn: “Some of the things that I deeply believe in are that adults have a higher sense of self-direction and motivation. They have life experience and a drive for facilitating learning. They have a focus on achieving goals. They have a need to know how the information that they’re receiving is relevant to what they’re working towards. They have a need to have things that are practical. They’re open to help and mentorship. And they are open to modern forms of learning. And they want to be able to choose how they learn.”
Taking these beliefs and principles into account prompted Kellee to ask herself: “How was I going to design these meetings in a manner that was going to facilitate the most effective outcomes for them?”
When each team came into the room for their weekly meeting, they had goals that they were working towards for that week. First, they filled in a dashboard and Kellee then put the dashboard on a whiteboard for everyone to see. Throughout the day, she was meeting with all 15 teams. The teams filled in the following on their dashboard:
- The name of their team
- Each of the three or four goals they had
- The stage they were at with those goals (identified by red, yellow or green)
- Any questions they had or resources they needed
After the dashboard was visualized on the whiteboard, Kellee put the responsibility back on the teams to determine how to best spend their next 30 minutes together, based on what the team wanted to prioritize, tackle and focus on. “And that really…is an adult learning principle, rather than me driving the meeting, it allowed the design team to drive the meeting.”
By the end of the day, all teams’ information was in the dashboard and on the whiteboard. She would take a photo of the whiteboard and send it out to everyone. This way, each of the teams could see how one another was working. Even though the 15 teams weren’t working all together, it gave them an opportunity to learn from each other.
A Unique, Successful Approach
Kellee explains that it was a little awkward at first for the design team, because “they were accustomed to having the person in charge, if you will, run the meeting. And this was kind of a role reversal for them.” But in the end, this approach was truly what made it so successful. “As we moved and progressed through the process, they really, really appreciated and they would start to come to the meeting, much more organized, recognizing that they only have 30 minutes with me and that they needed to know what specific questions that they needed to address and how were they going to use the best use of their time.”
She elaborates on the process further: “They would come in with, as we progressed, things written down or part of their deliverables that they wanted to show me to get feedback on. And it was really a lovely way to see them develop and grow throughout this progress. So again, rather than me dictating to them, it was an opportunity to really have them showcase their work. And I have to tell you, every team came in with different questions and a different idea of how they were going to utilize my time.”
Role of the Facilitator
Throughout her engagements–both in this meeting series and her work in general–Kellee sees her responsibility as the facilitator to really think about the purpose at hand when designing the meeting. “I think that’s our role as a facilitator of learning,” she says. These are some of the questions she utilizes to determine meeting design:
- What are the objectives of the meeting?
- How can we design it in a way that everyone has the opportunity to feel seen?
- How can we design it in a way that everyone has the opportunity to feel heard?
When reflecting on the Team-Centered Meeting series, Kelle’s main recommendation for others is to think about and utilize the adult learning principles. Kellee has made it a point to incorporate them in her work and the feedback has been extremely positive. “I have more people tell me, ‘Gosh, if I had been exposed to those principles earlier in my career, I would do meetings, I would do presentations so differently than I’ve done throughout my entire career.’”
Applying these principles throughout her work has helped Kellee and the teams she works with drive more efficient and effective outcomes, something everyone could benefit from.
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