Why teachers hate meetings and what to do about it!

Teachers Love Strategies.

That’s why they hate staff meetings!

Staff meetings are run by Principals and Middle Leaders and both groups talk a totally different language to teachers.

Principals talk vision and values. They like big picture ideas, those are the things that got them the job in the first place. They pitched their leadership application based on their vision of the future that was sell able to a group of other leaders who were on a panel.

This is great for a promotion but lousy for staff meetings filled with teachers who love strategies.

Middle leaders, faculty heads, year level leaders, coordinators and the like don’t tend to talk vision and values except when they are looking for a promotion, they talk operations.

Usually their job is to translate the vision and values dropped on them by leaders and organise it into some manageable action. So they talk time, place and space, people, materials and funding!

They like to be strategic and are really happy when they have some say over the variables. They hate vision and values meetings unless they get to control what happens as a result of the meeting.

Teachers talk TACTICS they want to know what strategies they can use or better still be given the time, place or space, materials and funding to get it done. They hate meetings, they prefer…”Just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll get it done!”

Teachers therefore hate meetings because meetings are organised by Principals and middle management and are simply just ego workouts for the boss or organisational festivals for the middle leaders who have already made all of the decisions without consultation before they got to the meeting without talking to their teachers.

Schools spend hours of their time in meetings that make no difference to their teaching or their morale and simply just waste their time.

France this last month made a brilliant decision based on consultation with their teachers…

"NO phones, tablet and smart watches at school!"


Mobile phones make no contribution to classroom instruction, distract students constantly encourage online bullying, filming without permission and poor communication habits and what school teacher in the world does not want to get those earphones out of their student’s heads and get full attention in their class?

This is so clear because it supports teachers who say "Give me your phone." And backs it up with leadership support and the weight of government policy!

This is a simple tactic, easily organised, simply enforceable, painless to supervise and straight forward to implement.

If you want to see the worst made decision in Australia recently it was “We are banning all single use plastic bags from our supermarkets!” Why was this a bad decision … I totally agree with vision of removing plastics from our environment but no one figured out what the organisation had to look like!

The message virtually came across as “We are replacing single use plastic bags with more expensive, non-biodegradable plastic bags.”

This produced total chaos and lost a whole bunch of middle ground people to the cause of sustainable packaging!

Better rule “We are banning single use plastic bags and replacing them with durable bags made from non-synthetic, biodegradable fibres.”

So here’s my vision.

“We will replace all staff meetings with Psychologically Safe meetings.”

Here’s the reason why explained by Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Charles Duhigg.

Here are the organisational steps.

Next time you hold a meeting, take a note of the names of all who attend and divide the number of people into the time allotted. Say it’s a 30 minute meeting and you have 10 people. That means if we all spoke we would get three minutes each.

Make it two minutes each and save ten minutes for decision making and organisation at the end.

Two minutes doesn’t sound like a lot of time but people get much better and speaking succinctly when they know the time is regulated.

As people speak, tick them off on your list, stop interrupters, time wasters and conversation dominators by deferring their comment to the end and keep the speakers to the time limits.

You will see magic happen!

Here’s a strategy that really works…


The concept of an “Anxiety Party” comes from Google and involves calling anyone together who has a problem or an issue.

In a school someone always has problems with a child they are not connecting with.

It doesn’t matter if these people are in your year level or faculty or even school - just get people together who would love to solve a problem.

Before you begin, have all parties involved pledge that they will…

Pair them up and put them face to face (the best way to share) with writing materials and get them to write their problem on their piece of paper.

Then give them a short period of time, say around three minutes, to share one person’s problem and have the other person give them two possible solutions to that problem.


When both sides have finished, get them to reflect and then thank their partner and go and find another person to share that same problem with again.

Leadership coach and management expert, Marshall Goldsmith calls this Feed forward.

In a really short space of time this process can generate lots of options to choose from for quite significant problems.

The steps again are

1. Formulate a problem

2. Ask a partner for ideas

3. They give you two solutions

4. Listen and record

5. Think

6. Thank

7. Now it's your partner has a turn at steps 1 to 6

8. Find a new partner

The final step relies upon how much power you can assume…

(My motto is “Proceed until apprehended!)

9. Follow through

When people know someone is going to check most of us do stuff!

More and more schools should be ditching annual performance reviews and meaningless performance management for mechanisms that provide faster, friendlier feedback focused on personal growth.

You can lead the change with this model because it....

  • Gives your school a problem solving mechanism and

  • It is aimed at a problem everyone is trying to solve.

If you want to make it brilliant...

Be inclusive, if you are going to have an Anxiety Party aim to be as diverse as you can with the members involved. The more different people are the wider range of answers you will get.

(I did this at workshop in Melbourne once with two Jews, two Muslims, two Catholics, an absolute beginner and a Scandinavian and it was FABULOUS!)

Encourage sharing of failure, the best hints come from someone who has stuffed up and has found a way through… this shares the resilience.

Remove the Fear, this means pointing out that we are all in this together, and there is no right or wrong ways... it's just problem solving. Political agenda point scoring must be chucked into the especially marked bin at the door!

Establish accountability, its best if there is a structure and a responsibility to follow through, it makes us all work harder and means that we are not wasting our time.

Own it! Admit your own mistakes, thanks to people like Martin Seligman the US army are now calling failure “getting better quicker”! Your own credibility is all about your ability to own the good, the bad and the downright ugly of life.

Be available, leadership means that people want to talk. If you start taking more responsibility for the change in your school people will want to talk. So talk... that’s how influence happens

Each one of these attributes are also the attributes of people who are leaders of Psychological Safety…

The world will be a better place when we get more of these.

So here are the STRATEGIES that will make your school psychologically safe… I have stolen these from Forbes, online.

1. Create Rules Of Engagement

Create and define the rules of engagement to clarify what the expected behaviours are for everyone. Then honour the rules at all levels of the organization, regardless of the person's title. Encourage open dialogue between individuals in an attempt to resolve the issue. If that doesn't work, then ask someone else to run the meeting.

2. Take Action and Confront the Behaviour

If there is a culprit who is threatening the psychological safety in the culture, immediate intervention needs to take place. There are subtle ways to undermine co-workers that can be threatening and cause distress.

Addressing those behaviours and trying to understand the root cause can often lead to solving the issue.

The message to the culture is that any bullying behaviour even by the boss will not be tolerated.

3. Educate Key Staff and Leaders about Mental Health First Aid

Stress leave is common in schools all over the world. Thankfully, we are becoming more comfortable talking about the impact of stress with each other. The key is prevention through education in the community and in the workplace.

Train key staff and leaders in mental health first aid courses prior to building and implementing a peer mentoring program in order to create a positive workplace culture. Contact us to find out more about how we can help.

Teach all levels of staff that it is possible to have conversations where there are no "winners" or "losers," where different points of view can be held without having to protect, defend or even agree.

Now, imagine the positive impact to your teacher’s performance as you, your team and your organization engage more deeply, communicate more clearly and innovate more creatively.

5. Embrace Radical Candour

Adapting a schools communications culture to one of radical candour is key.

I'm a huge fan of Kim Scott's book Radical Candour and believe her model can be the base for leadership in a school to create a safe culture of communication, one where people can do their best work without fear.

6. Adopt a Benefit Mindset

It is human nature to find fault when a mistake happens but criticism leads to defensiveness, and no one will feel safe to take risks if they're afraid to be punished if they fail.

Instead, adopt a benefit mindset, where you engage through questions to problem-solve and learn after a mistake is made. Learn how at our upcoming Mindset Manoeuvre Workshop, subscribe to receive our free ebook.

By eliminating the fear of blame, you create a culture of safety.

7. Bring People Together

In a digitally connected work environment, go out of your way to create opportunities for people to come together, face-to-face.

Create structured experiences that allow everyone to take risks, trust each other, make mistakes and realize it's OK. By doing this in a "practice" setting, everyone will become aware of and more assured of organizational support of risk-taking.

8. Develop Mental Toughness

Mental toughness largely determines how people respond to challenge, stress and pressure, and is closely related to resilience and grit. By developing your schools mental toughness, you will help students, teachers, parents and leaders respond more positively to challenge, deal with adversity and setbacks with greater confidence, see opportunity where others see problems and enjoy greater wellbeing. Our programs are key to developing this.

9. Promote Responsibility

Promote taking responsibility for your own psychological safety. Start with the example of your leadership and management.

10. Encourage Compassion

Schools should start by creating an environment where it is obvious that showing compassion for others is appreciated. When you truly care for others, it is easier for them to feel safe, more creative and more engaged.

11. Focus on being trust worthy

Trust is the foundation of an emotionally safe environment, where individuals and teams can perform at their best.

Without trust, people will engage in political behaviour in an act of self-preservation, which wastes energy, time and money. The key thing to remember is that trust is earned, so focus your leadership in your school on what you are doing to demonstrate that you are worthy of trust.

12. Promote and cultivate a Universal Mindset that values listening and diversity

Psychological safety at work is impossible when peers and bosses celebrate sameness, and feel threatened by opposing voices or differences in points-of-view.

The most effective way of eliminating this threat is to promote and cultivate mindsets that truly value listening and diversity. Because when people are given a voice, when they are genuinely heard, then they will feel worthy and safe. Learn how in our Mindset Manoeuvre program.

13. Practice Positive Feedback

Practice positive feedback, not "as a pat on the back," but as providing specific data, including describing the value that an action had and celebrating the individual.

Positive feedback is the opposite of "no news, good news" or the unspoken expectation that doing well at one's job is part of doing one's job. Psychological safety starts with confidence that "others appreciate what I bring, as well as value and respect me."

14. Value People More Than Processes

Schools are a collection of humans working for a common purpose. Lean into this truth by exercising trust, active listening, compassion and empathy. Communicate human-to-human instead of role-to-role.

Acknowledge conflicts with curiosity instead of judgment.

Choose people more than processes. Connect with your shared purpose both at the height of success and in the valley of challenge.

And have meetings that matter.

All of the above strategies and tips can be developed more cohesively and collaboratively in our Mindset Manoeuvre program, visit the link to learn more about how we can help you and your school flip your meetings upside down to create positive changes.

We are holding a Bali Teacher's Retreat in January and this is the perfect opportunity for you to immerse yourself in a totally tranquil and serene environment where you can connect with like minded teachers, relax and rest to promote better well being and a Universal Mindset.

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