We do not need protocols, we’re adults


A great deal is written about how to run an effective meeting. Much of the literature points to having essential agreements between the team members in order to effectively facilitate the meeting. In other words, meeting protocols.

The National School Reform Faculty sum up why we should have protocols; essentially to create the conditions necessary for positive collaborative work. We then see teams putting together their meeting protocols: everyone contributes, be on time, be attentive, come prepared etc, etc.

Despite, so many good intentions, so few meetings that I have experienced have been able to keep to the agreed protocols. So why not?

  1. Firstly, it is the awkwardness of having protocols. Very often protocols are not set for meetings because the assumption is that we are adults and we all know how to behave.
  2. Secondly, and the real killer of effective meetings, is that we are unable to hold each other to the essential agreements. Firstly, the leader of the meeting has to show the way by adhering to what is agreed and then create an environment where the team are able to openly and safely challenge each other when agreements are broken.
  3. Thirdly, their are disagreements about having a particular protocol in the first place. Should someone be able to answer emails during a meeting (and I have been guilty of this myself and the need to correct my own behaviour) when important discussions are taking place? From my point of view there is a difference between being present in a meeting and being present for the meeting to be of value.

Recently, in a workshop involving 150 people, we were pretty much able to adhere to a no laptops, no cell phones agreement. All it took was a polite asking at the beginning and reminding at the beginning of each session.

As is often said, if you do not ask for it, you do not get it. The same goes for having more productive meetings.


Published by Richard Bruford

Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology. With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools. Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin. In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)

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