Waiting for coffee at my local Starbucks, I noticed two cups of “sticks” on the counter. One contained “stir sticks” and the other contained “splash sticks.” In coffee world, one is used to mix things up in your drink. The other is used to keep the drink from spilling out of the little hole in your cup lid.
I had just finished reading a great article posted by our friends at Boost! in Cincinnati (a great space for an off-site meeting by the way) entitled “How to Lead a Great Meeting.” The article contains some solid suggestions for getting more out of your time together as a team.
So as I stood waiting for my grande java, my lifeblood, my nectar of the gods, I was thinking about the elements of an effective meeting when I noticed those two cups full o’ sticks. It struck me that in addition to having an agenda, starting on time, ending on time, and all the other great advice I had just read, the absolute BEST meetings I’ve ever attended also contained two very important elements: Stir Sticks and Splash Sticks…and not just at the coffee station.
Stir Sticks are the people who like to mix things up. They throw in new ideas. They combine ideas together. They ask challenging questions. They connect dots nobody else even noticed. They thrive on creating a better blend and they’re not afraid to stir up the meeting a little.
Splash Sticks are the people who know how to manage the meeting and not let it spill outside the cup, so to speak. They know how to keep a meeting on track, on time, and how to politely and quickly wrangle in conversations that veer off the agenda. They are are also experts at making sure the Stir Sticks don’t create a whirlpool that sucks everyone down into a creative abyss, no matter how creative and appealing that abyss may be.
Of course, taken to an extreme, both Stir Sticks and Splash Sticks can do more harm than good. Too much Stir Stick and you might as well throw the agenda out the door. Too much Splash Stick and you might as well throw all of the participants out the door (they’ll probably volunteer to be thrown).
While there are likely some natural Stir Sticks and Splash Sticks in your organization, play around with this idea a little! Grab a couple of these sticks the next time you’re in Starbucks and before your next meeting, give one of your participants the Stir Stick and tell them to mix it up a little. Give someone else the Splash Stick and ask them to help keep the meeting on track. Then give the sticks to two different people before your next meeting. No, you don’t actually need the sticks to do this, but I think it makes the idea more fun, don’t you?
Got any additional ideas to make meetings more amazing? Leave a comment on the blog after this article and share what works for you!