Team leaders want meetings to end with agreements that lead to concerted action. Much of the advice on team meetings is about how to create alignment. The assumption being, if we agree in the meeting then we’ll act on our agreements after the meeting.
What Really Happens
We know from experience that the vigorous head nods at the end of a discussion don’t always produce the outcomes we appeared to want. In fact, we’re often so relieved to see the head nods, we don’t bother to confirm what people are really thinking when they seem to agree. Here are few possible interpretations of a nodding head:
- This is a good plan. I’m ready to make it happen.
- I can live with this idea, but don’t expect me to make it a priority.
- This will never work, but I’m not going to derail the meeting.
- If we all nod, the meeting will end.
What can a team leader do to increase the odds that apparent agreement will turn into productive activity?
The CADA Framework describes four distinct team conversations once a proposed course of action has been presented or developed. In each conversation, the team adopts a specific attitude.
- Be Curious
- Be Analytical
- Be Decisive
- Be Accountable
The team agrees to set aside its reactions and judgments about the proposal. The team asks questions about the basis for the proposal and the implications of acting on the proposal. For example:
- What information sources were used to shape the proposal?
- Who will be impacted by adopting the proposal? How might they react?
- How will we know it’s working?
The team makes distinctions between facts and opinions about the proposal. The team asks questions about the risks and benefits of the proposal. For example:
- What are the pros and cons of the proposal?
- What options were rejected? Why were they rejected?
- Given the risks, are we better off doing nothing? If we move forward, how will determine the most appropriate implementation timing?
The team reaches a conclusion based on their role in making the final decision. The team asks questions about their level of commitment. For example:
- Who else will need to weigh in before we can act on this decision? What are their thoughts?
- How will we talk about the decision to stakeholders?
- What do each of us need to feel better about any aspect of the proposal we have doubts about?
The team comes to trust that we will each make good on our commitments. The team asks questions about dealing with next steps and obstacles. For example:
- What will we do next to move things along?
- What barriers to successful implementation do we anticipate and how will we deal with them?
- How will we share with each other information about what’s working and what we’ve learned?
The key to using the CADA Framework successfully is ensuring that everyone is in the same conversation at the same time. For example, don’t allow people to get analytical when giving the team time and space to be curious.
We feel relieved when we align on something. Sometimes we feel worn out by the effort required to find consensus. When possible, you may want to follow up an alignment meeting with a separate CADA session when people are fresh, and they have been able to reflect on their conclusions before discussing implementation.
Jay G. Cone is the author of The Surprising Power of Not Knowing What to Do; Discovering Creativity and Compassion in a Time of Chaos. He is the co-founder of Unstuck Minds.