DOV TSAL is an independent Agile Coach who makes organizations sharper and more effective by aligning their teams, leaders, and value streams. Dov and his business partner, Regis Schneider, are on a mission to improve meeting culture – the fun way! They’ve developed a tool called The Meeting Spicer to spice up any meeting – online or in person in less than a minute.
His tips for better meetings:
- Define a clear purpose for your meeting.
- Before starting the meeting (or at the beginning of it), assign people roles (i.e., notetaker, facilitator, timekeeper). This helps keep everyone organized and engaged.
- Practice being present so you can listen to what is happening and what people need.
- For hybrid meetings, assign someone the role of tending to remote attendees. Make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.
- Use the Meeting Spicer to improve your meeting culture (online or in person). It contains more than a 100 exercises to help your team take charge of their meetings, and all it takes is up to one minute
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Lisette: Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers Podcast. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people in companies doing great things remotely. Hello everybody and welcome to episode number two hundred and fourteen, thank you for joining me and thank you for all the great reviews on iTunes and some of you have left some on Stitcher as well I really appreciated it, just one quick announcement before we start and that is to remind you that the paperback version of my book Work Together Anywhere is now available and it’s getting great reviews so if you’re looking for great tips for remote teams head on over to collaborationsuperpowers.com/book. Alright let’s get this party started today, I’m interviewing Dov Tsal who is an independent agile coach who makes organization sharper and more effective by aligning their teams, leaders and values streams but before we dive into this interview I want to give you guys this week’s one minute tip. As what has become usual the tip is coming from today’s interview and that is before you start a meeting assign people to have roles for example maybe somebody could be the no taker and somebody has the time keeper and somebody is the facilitator doing this really helps ensure that meetings run smoothly and on time and that everybody has a role and is actively participating. Meetings in general are a real drag and online meetings are an extra real drag but it doesn’t have to be that way there are lots of different ways for making online meetings more productive and to spice them up and with that I’m going to segue right into this week’s interview because Dov Tsal my interviewee is on a mission to improve meeting culture the fun way he has developed a tool called Meeting Spicer and it’s to help spice up meetings and to change the culture of an organization to a more positive culture so if you’re having trouble with your in person or online meetings then get ready for Meeting Spicer without further ado I give you Dov Tsal. What does your virtual office look like, what do you need to get your work done?
Dov Tsal: So these are two questions A my virtual office is, most of the time I work in a real place like in an office like I’m today, meetings rooms the places where the teams work. My virtual office for other purposes is more on the train or in bed or whatever, it depends on what sort of work I want to do because it’s I guess we’ll talk about it in I have two, I have a day job and I have a night job and my night job is a project we will talk about, I’m sure we will talk about and what do I need to get my work done, one thing is this it’s this thing is my tablet and the other thing is hard to describe it’s this it’s to be present. I need this to get my work done because I work with teams and I have to see where they are and I need this to work on the project again because I have to understand where I’m to be able to do something so one tool to get my work done is my tablet which I adore and ever using.
Lisette: Right so being in good physical and mental health so that you can bring your best to the teams that you coach.
Dov Tsal: Yes, being present I would say not physical and mental health but being with ears open. Physical and mental health by the way doesn’t hurt.
Lisette: Right, right yeah good physical mental health helps yeah but I see what you mean so being present so you can really listen to what’s happening and what people need and as a coach I can imagine that’s a really important quality.
Dov Tsal: Yeah and also to know where I’m.
Dov Tsal: So that’s, I want you to dance that might be a little bit weird so the smallest dance though.
Lisette: Love it, I love it the weirder the better that’s what this is all about if it was normal it would be boring right everybody’s had the normal things. So now the reason that we’re talking today is not necessarily because of your agile coaching skills but it’s because you have developed this amazing do you call it a game or-
Dov Tsal: God forbid no I call it a tool, it’s a tool to tweak organizational culture that focuses on how an organization behaves during a meeting.
Lisette: Okay and it’s called the Meeting Spicer, so it’s a tool to help people improve their meeting culture in a fun way right.
Dov Tsal: Yes indeed.
Lisette: Okay so tell us what Meeting Spicer is?
Dov Tsal: So the Meeting Spicer came from the premise that meetings are horrible and everyone wants to solve them and no one succeeds. The I worked with HR in a big company and we tried to hack meeting culture and the problem is that to change the behavior of an organization or a team the right time to do is during the meeting, like you can read a lot of books, everyone has some ideas how to change it but it doesn’t work because you have to be in a meeting and see how you can tweak the behavior of the team during the meeting or needs a totally wrong time to do it as well because once we’re now in a meeting the we’re here to talk about something we’re not here to talk about how we handle meetings right?
Dov Tsal: So the idea is simple give me one minute of your meeting time and then I will help you hack your meeting culture and in return what I promise you is that it will not take more than one minute and what I hope to promise you also is that it will be a fun activity and the reason we don’t call it a game is because the organizations don’t necessarily like playing.
Lisette: Right, well they do, they just don’t admit it.
Dov Tsal: The people who need help the most like games the least I would say like that.
Lisette: Okay, so you’re tricking into people, you’re tricking people into playing a game in order to hack their culture so, so how do you do it tell us take us through how you would do it you’re in a meeting you say give me one minute and what do you do?
Dov Tsal: So first of all I don’t say that, when I start the first time I introduce it at the end of the meeting I just tell people let’s see, would you mind before we go picking just one red card out of these, okay and someone picks one of these cards and the card can say something like, ask everyone to think silently for twenty seconds, does any participant deserve kudos who and what for and by the way if you don’t know what’s kudos those there’s a link you can read about it next time, or it can be something like ask everyone to think silently for twenty seconds in my opinion who gained the most out of this meeting, did I gain anything and did everyone gain something? So now twenty seconds people just look around and try to understand what they feel and what other people feel about this meeting and so we, and I don’t say anything I just say can would you mind picking a card out of this deck and reading it aloud and now let’s do it.
Lisette: Okay and do they give their answers then after twenty seconds or is it just self-reflection?
Dov Tsal: No they, the idea is that, if now we’re in a meeting of ten people and everyone gives their answer it will take too long the meeting will be, will end and after the planned time and people will not want to do this again but if they just think about it there’s intention I want to say something that I will not say perhaps it will get out next time, perhaps it will get out in the coffee corner, there’s, the sense of the meeting will follow you outside the room. So that’s how I introduce the game, first of all it’s not a game and second I don’t really introduce it in its full form I just give them a taste of what playing the game is like.
Lisette: Okay how would you do it in its full form?
Dov Tsal: Okay so in its full form we start, we do it’s actually the same thing but when we start the meeting we take a green card which is a set of practices that are designed to hack the beginning of the meetings so they can contain cards like ‘answer aloud who is the meeting owner?’ Very simple question and in fact I ran into this question twice and twice it was a big surprise because it wasn’t a retrospective and the team said [Inaudible 09:58] you are the meeting owner and he said wait I thought you are the meeting owners and it already opened some discussion about why are we here?
Dov Tsal: So this is how the game played in the beginning of the meeting at the end of the meeting as I already showed you, you pick one of the red cards to end the meeting and in the middle of the meeting you know there is a point in time when people I talk with you when everyone is really interested except for these two people who now start looking at their own and whatever, so instead of looking at your phone take one of the yellow cards that are lying on the table and see what happens and the yellow card can say something like um meditation right, so there is the meditation part, notice the room temperature, the lighting the noise the sitting arrangement, what is their effect on this meeting, or there is another card that says you have a mission from now until the end of the meeting, say thank you at least one time and you have bonus points for any additional time or take a look at the faces of the people around what does it say and so these are cards that are intended for… I would say it’s a fun replacement okay when you are detached and you are curious about something else there something else that might drag you back into this.
Lisette: So it sounds like you’re trying to keep people productive and present and engaged during these meetings through the use of these cards is that correct?
Dov Tsal: Yes but not only.
Lisette: Okay great.
Dov Tsal: So one I think bigger goal of the, of this activity is to create to form a team it’s to give a team a common thought in the beginning, a common thought at the end, a practice they all do together which helps the identity of the meeting to show up and helps the identity of the team to show up because it focuses people more on I’m now part of a bigger thing which is here like it synchronizes them because they all do the same thing now they are a bit more in sync with each other. Like if in the beginning there’s a meditation card they all start by thinking about the same thing.
Lisette: And what are what is people’s reaction to this when you first introduced it to them.
Dov Tsal: They smile, most people like it in fact I talked to one guy who started using the Meeting Spicer and said the team really, really loves it because the first card that they drew in the first time said this meeting would end ten minutes earlier set your clocks and the team really, really had over this and from there on they had no problem putting it in place.
Lisette: That was drawing the right card on the first on the first try.
Dov Tsal: What I would suggest now to someone who introduces it is to pick the right card and for like if you know some magic tricks force it and the person who chooses it.
Lisette: Hilarious right put something up your sleeve and somehow I don’t know how they do it but somehow give it to them. So I’m curious why you decided to build this game or this tool excuse me, why you decided to do it, everybody hates meetings right that’s sort of a universal thing there’s too many meetings everybody hates them but you in particular you thought I’m going to do something about it, so what was the pain point, the turning point that need to do something about it?
Dov Tsal: The pain point was that I was in an organization who had the really meeting sickness and this part of the agile team which included HR, we had a mission and we tried to fix this and it was an interactive process meaning the first time for situation we just put small signs with some ideas of like remember to have an agenda, start the meetings on time stuff like this and we asked people did you read it or not and the first people didn’t read it we changed it to be bigger, we changed it to be clear at some point we saw that these signs became invisible they became part of the scenery just like you know the images behind you and me people don’t see them anymore and I said how about every we do different signs and every week we change the signs between the rooms and from this to having a set of cards that you draw the distance is not big.
Lisette: In terms of I mean it sounds like you’re talking a lot about in person meeting. So these cards have been developed for in person meetings but clearly they can be used in remote meetings just by taking a card and just holding it up to the screen and having somebody read it so you would have to have one person or more than one person on the team who has a set of cards, that’s not too hard to do and what do you think that people really struggle with in terms of, let me ask this question again, what are some of the main things you see people struggle with in meetings? Is it unengaged participants people showing up late, people showing up unprepared, what’s sort of the main pain point that you’re seeing?
Dov Tsal: For me the main pain point if there’s one is lack of focus is that people come to the meeting not knowing what’s the purpose of the meeting, not knowing who is the organizer and this disengages people who participate and when you have people who are disengaged it affects everyone. So when you have one person or two people who are disengaged it loses the focus of everyone, it drains the energy of the meeting I think it’s worse in remote meetings, it’s worse when the you don’t see the face of someone you talk to or when you talk to someone and they freeze and the sound is not good and the dog is barking in the background and stuff like that and by the way it you said the cards are intended to any meetings, there are some parts that are left out in the description one of them which is nice by the way we have a role cards. So in the beginning of the meeting if you’re really advanced you can just start by saying okay who will we describe today and in the back there’s a role of the describe and who will be the facilitator today and who will be the timekeeper today, and the from what I saw when you start a meeting like that people get into their role especially because in the back there’s a few lines but just you know the power of being a timekeeper enables you to say or to show the card, it says fifteen minutes left and you don’t feel like you disturb anyone because that’s the role that you were assigned and the second thing I wanted to say we have an extension that is dedicated for remote meetings. There are some practices who are special to remote meetings like for example there is a new role for remote meetings which is the remote meeting facilitator, someone who will keep an eye on the people who are not in the central part of the meeting, perhaps with chat, perhaps just take a look in the monitor from time to time to see that everyone is present, perhaps come five minutes before the meeting to do this if you managed to put this into the roles of the team it will facilitate the life of the meeting of the people in the meeting and we have special start and end in the, you know we have special cards that are dedicated to remote people like in think for twenty seconds when was the last time you saw the remove participants in person or can you a guess what is the time zone in all the different places, stuff that in fact brings people closer or one card that I like is today’s summary is written by someone who is remote, any volunteers?
Lisette: Love it.
Dov Tsal: So yeah that’s why I dedicated this you can either mix into the normal deck lets or say today we want to focus on the remote meetings we just use the remote extension deck.
Lisette: Awesome, so if you are in person you’ve got a whole in person deck and if you’re remote you can use the in person once and there’s a remote extension especially for remote meetings. So as-
Dov Tsal: The extension… I have to say this, this extension also includes I don’t know if I can find it here, but it also includes four cards that you gave us which is really, really great thanks a lot for that.
Lisette: Oh yeah my, my honor to be a part of the Meeting Spicer actually thank you for inviting it. I think it’s really good, many, many people struggle with, with meetings but remote meetings in particular and for remote teams it’s a critical point for them because they that is how we communicate and collaborate with each other is via online meetings a lot of the time that’s how we get our ideas across and where we discuss things. So when those meetings are not going well it’s a really crucial breakdown point I think for remote teams in the smoother we can make it the better the other pain point that I see with a lot of teams is um, camaraderie building that team building getting to know each other and bringing out sort of that personal things. So what I like about your cards in particular is that um they’re It’s like virtual icebreakers that can be used at any point in the meeting where stopping and thinking just creative ideas for how to bring people back because unengaged participants people who aren’t prepared and you know technical problems and just not being present that’s, that’s it’s a deal breaker for lots of meetings and everybody is struggling with how to do that well so I like the enhancements a lot that you have brought to meetings and I hope that people are using it, have you had anybody that didn’t like it?
Dov Tsal: Yes I had someone who… there was a card that says today’s meeting has no laptops except one that can be used to share the screen with everyone now close your laptops, put them aside and this guy was always coming and half participating in the meeting and he took it very personally and he left with you know, which led to a very good discussion between him and the team later and just to continue this story another time where he came with his laptop, I said oh God please, please I want the green card to be the one about laptops and it wasn’t so I said to myself never mind next time and this is never a powerful thing in this practice once you get to know the cards if the card doesn’t suit you, you know that next time it will, so you’re more relieved then you can be more present in the meeting.
Lisette: Love it, love it yeah I mean every tool that we use is not always good for every activity that we use it for and I’m just and I’m just aware that even across cultures I know that in France in particular when I give workshops there people aren’t very excited about bringing their personal life into their work life, they like to really keep that separate that’s something that I notice about my workshops in France and so sometimes we can invite a little bit more too much personality into a meeting or too much yeah just personal life into meetings and how do you make that okay then in meetings for people to not participate or not answer or you know if as if it just doesn’t suit them what do you do in that circumstance?
Dov Tsal: So a lot of energy went into thinking as I said I don’t want to call this a game because of the resistance of people. In the design of the cards we tried, at the beginning it was very playful and we toned it down a lot and also an activity that says for example think about something I don’t force people to answer, I just ask him to think they don’t need to share their answer. It gives them a space even to think about it or to be in a twenty seconds silence with everyone which is not bad as well.
Lisette: Yeah also that can be uncomfortable but it’s only twenty seconds so it goes pretty fast.
Dov Tsal: Yeah and by the way, I don’t think that uncomfortable is not good being here in the short [Inaudible 23:32] of stress is good tension is good as long as you don’t overdo it and I think as you said twenty seconds are fine.
Lisette: Yeah a minute can be really long but twenty seconds twenty seconds we can do that it’s good for everybody. Well we are nearing the end of our time which is crazy it went so fast and what I guess I would like to ask you is if people want to buy the Meeting Spicer which they should show it off again here, it’s this beautiful box with all these cards look at all those ideas that you can have for your meetings if people want to get the Meeting Spicer where do they go?
Dov Tsal: So there is a, they go to a URL which is unsurprisingly called meetingspicer.com which [Inaudible 24:16] to our Facebook page that has the purchase now button and also by the way if they would like to try out a demo version that they can print for themselves and use in the team which is less rich but it can be a good starting point they can just email meetingspicer, firstname.lastname@example.org and they will receive a link to a printable version two very good sources.
Lisette: Yeah indeed perfect and Dov if people want to learn more about you where do they go?
Dov Tsal: I think the easiest one is to look me up in LinkedIn.
Lisette: Okay LinkedIn is a great networking tool, I must admit I really enjoy that so I will put your LinkedIn handle also in the show notes thank you today for sharing your, your tool for meetings I’m on a mission to make the meetings better I think that your cards are really they go a long way for bringing presence into meetings and, and I love that you’re trying to make a more positive impact in the world so I hope people run out and go and get these cards are totally great thanks for your time today.
Dov Tsal: Thank you for having me.
Lisette: Thank you for listening everyone I hope you found that information useful if you like what you hear and if this podcast was useful for you then please leave us a review we are on both iTunes and Stitcher. If you want to get this information delivered straight to the inbox of wherever you are well then sign up on our newsletter, we send out great tips, tricks best practices and tools every other week that’s collaborationsuperpowers.com/newsletter and if you want to get all the information all in one place well then get the Work Together Anywhere handbook. It’s four hundred pages packed with all the best information for how to make remote working successful for you whether you are an individual a manager or a team member, that collaborationsuperpowers.com/book and if you want something a little more hands on well then try the Work Together Anywhere Workshop offered online in person or a hybrid version of a little bit of in person and a little bit online that’s collaborationsuperpowers.com/anywhereworkshop. A huge thanks to our amazing podcast producer Nick Jaworski he is the reason we sound so pro you can hire him to make you a star at podcastmonster.com. And another big thanks to our dazzling designer Alfred Boland he is the one that makes us shine so bright you can hire him to make you look cool at bolandan.nl. Alright everybody until next time be powerful.