The tool I would like to share with you is one that I have to ask you to be very careful with. Here’s why. Because it’s so effective and because people like it so much, they sometimes use it in the wrong way. This tool is not intended to be used to control or manipulate people. It’s intended to strengthen relationships, communication, and productivity in your organization. It’s called the W.A.D.E.L. model, and it’s a tool to help you lead and participate in effective meetings. 

The “W” Equals Welcome

The “W” stands for welcome. Open the meeting on a positive note with good news and affirmations. This first stage of the meeting is the time to welcome people to the meeting and to share some good news. To start this out, I say, “Tell me something good going on” or “What’s something fun that you did over the weekend” or “What’s something positive going on in your life”.

I have coached many kids’ sports teams, and I have used this W.A.D.E.L. model even with those young players. Coaches, referees, and parents from the other teams would come to me and ask me, “How do you get nine-year-old kids to do this kind of stuff? To run these plays? To play this kind of defense? They’re nine years old! How many times a week do you practice?”

Actually, we would practice one time a week for fifty minutes. During the first five to seven minutes of our practice times, during this welcome time, the kids could quickly get things off their minds that they came in with. When I’d ask them to tell me something good, I would get answers about it being someone’s birthday this week or that they made an A on a test or their grandmother is coming over. When all that stuff was off their minds, they could focus totally on the practice session.

That’s the way adults are, too, When they get the opportunity to share what’s on their minds, they’re far more focused on the meeting at hand. Over time, spending these few minutes at the beginning of your meetings saves time for you and your people.

During this welcome stage, also do some affirmations. When you’re meeting at work or having a meal, affirm people on your team. When you’re meeting with your family, affirm your children and your spouse. Affirm them for something they’ve done. Thank them for something they’ve done. These sincere affirmations help create a positive atmosphere to start the meeting.

The “A” Equals Ask Questions

Now, it’s time to ask questions. You might open this part of the meeting by saying, “Here is the agenda for the meeting. Is there anything else anyone might want to add to the agenda?” Asking this question doesn’t mean you must get to everything that could be added, but it does mean you started the meeting by inviting everyone’s feedback. While you may not be able to cover these issues in the time allotted for your present meeting, the person with the concern is assured that the issue will be addressed. During this part of the meeting, you could also ask people if there are any needs any of them have that you might not be aware of. If it’s the first time you’re meeting the person, consider asking them to tell you their story.

If you’ll spend two to four minutes asking questions early in the meeting, you’ll give people an opportunity to get things off their minds that they might have walked into the room with, which will enable them to engage more fully in the meeting.

It would be easy to assume that the W.A.D.E.L. model would make meetings longer rather than shorter. The reason it saves time is because people get to give input before the discussion part of the agenda officially begins. Most of us are used to meetings where all kinds of things are swirling around in the minds of the attendees, preventing them from fully engaging with the specific items on the discussion agenda. This often derails the agenda and slows down the meeting. But if you can get that swirl out of their minds before starting the discussion, you’ll have a more productive and efficient meeting.

The “D” Equals Discussion

Now it’s time to enter the discussion portion of the meeting. In a one-on-one meeting, it might be a sales call, or it might be a family discussion or a sports practice. But in an organizational meeting, there’s normally an agenda to be discussed. This is the time to do just that and engage in the agenda that has already been established. This period also includes making sure people know what they are supposed to do and the timeline they have to do it.

The “E” Equals Empower

After the discussion time of the meeting, it’s time to empower the people in the room to go out and fulfill their roles in what has been discussed. Empower the people before they leave the room to make sure each person knows what their responsibilities are and that they have the tools to fulfill them. When everyone returns to the next meeting, they can report back on how and what they’ve done.

The “L” Equals Launch

As you empower the people with whom you are meeting, combine that with the launch. The launch is an encouraging story, poem, or video that inspires and motivates the people to do what they agreed to do. Someone other than the meeting facilitator can be assigned to share the launch message. Make sure the people are encouraged as they leave the meeting to fulfill their roles that contribute to the vision or goals of the organization.

Using W.A.D.E.L. with the Right Motivation

This model is intended to build relationships. It can work phenomenally well when you’re using it with the right motivation. It can facilitate a great family dinner, and it works well with any team meetings you have.

At the same time, if you abuse it to get people to do things for your personal benefit, people are going to see right through it, causing it to backfire. On the other hand, if you genuinely use this model to get feedback and build relationships, your team is going to get stronger, and the result will be higher performance. People will be able to tell the difference in the way you use the model based on your attitude. During the affirmations part, they’ll be able to tell if you’re just flattering people or if you’re genuinely affirming them. They’ll know if you really mean it when you ask them if they have any needs or if they want to add something to the agenda. They’ll figure out if you are just doing those things to push through the process so you can get to the discussion. They’ll be watching your body language and tone of voice.

What would a manipulative application of the W.A.D.E.L. model look like? A salesman might go into the meeting, do the welcome step, share something good, do some affirmations, and might even ask the person to tell him their story. But when he gets to the discussion part, the first thing he does is to get out his brochures and turn the meeting into being all about making the sale, not about building the relationship. So, the salesman only used the W.A.D.E.L. to sell his product.

We must be careful not to use the relational part of the W.A.D.E.L. just to get the transaction done because that’s not being relational, but, instead, it’s being solely transactional and manipulative. When we use the W.A.D.E.L. model in the right way, we become what we call relactional, which is being both relational and transactional.

Use this model to build relationships. A transformational leader understands that when your relationships are strong, the sales and transactions will increase because the team is going to work together. A transformational leader understands that when your relationships are strong, your family will be a stronger unit. A transformational leader understands that when your relationships are strong, your sports team will improve its performance. Your meetings, no matter what kind they are, will be more productive. As a transformational leader who uses W.A.D.E.L., you can lead meetings that people formerly dreaded because they were so boring and time-consuming into meetings that engage and encourage people

Ford Taylor is a leadership strategist, keynote speaker, and the author of Relactional Leadership. As the Founder of Transformational Leadership, he is known as a man who can solve complex business issues, with straightforward practical solutions, while maintaining his focus on people.