Thursday, December 7, 2017

9 common-sense rules for getting the most out of meetings |

9 common-sense rules for getting the most out of meetings |

1. Make it clear who is directing the meeting and who it is meant to serve. Every
meeting should be aimed at achieving someone’s goals; that person is
the one responsible for the meeting and decides what they want to get
out of it and how they will do so. Meetings without someone clearly
responsible run a high risk of being directionless and unproductive.

2. Make clear what type of communication you are going to have in light of the objectives and priorities.
If your goal is to have people with different opinions work through
their differences to try to get closer to what is true and what to do
about it (i.e., open-minded debate), you’ll run your meeting differently
than if its goal is to educate. Debating takes times, and that time
increases exponentially depending on the number of people participating
in the discussion, so you have to carefully choose the right people in
the right numbers to suit the decision that needs to be made. In any
discussion, try to limit the participation to those whom you value most
in your objectives. The worst way to pick people is based on whether
their conclusions align with yours. Group-think (people not asserting
independent views) and solo-think (people being unreceptive to the
thoughts of others) are both dangerous.

3. Lead the discussion by being assertive and open-minded.
Reconciling different points of view can be difficult and
time-consuming. It is up to the meeting leader to balance conflicting
perspectives, push through impasses and decide how to spend time wisely.
A common question I get is: What happens when someone inexperienced
offers an opinion? If you’re running the conversation, you should be
weighing the potential cost in the time that it takes to explore their
opinion versus the potential gain in being able to assess their thinking
and gain a better understanding of what they’re like. Exploring the
views of people who are still building their track record can give you
valuable insights into how they might handle new responsibilities. Time
permitting, you should work through their reasoning with them so they
can understand how they might be wrong. It’s also your obligation to
open-mindedly consider whether they’re right.

4. Watch out for “topic slip.” Topic slip is random drifting
from topic to topic without achieving completion on any of them. One way
to avoid is by tracking the conversation on a whiteboard so that
everyone can see where you are.

5. Enforce the logic of conversations. People’s emotions tend
to heat up when there is a disagreement. Remain calm and analytical at
all times; it is more difficult to shut down a logical exchange rather
than an emotional one. Remember, too, that emotions can shade how people
see reality. For example, people will sometimes say, “I feel like
(something is true)” and proceed as though it’s a fact, when other
people may interpret the same situation differently. Ask them, “Is it
true?” to ground the conversation in reality.

6. Be careful not to lose personal responsibility via group decision making. Too
often, groups will make a decision to do something without assigning
personal responsibilities, so it is not clear who is supposed to follow
up by doing what. Be clear in assigning personal responsibilities.

7. Utilize the “two-minute rule” to avoid persistent interruptions. The
two-minute rule specifies that you have to give someone that
uninterrupted period to explain their thinking before jumping in with
your own. This ensures everyone has time to fully crystallize and
communicate their thoughts without worrying they will be misunderstood
or drowned out by a louder voice.

8. Watch out for assertive “fast talkers.” Fast talkers say
things faster than they can be assessed, as a way of pushing their
agenda past other people’s examination or objections. Fast talking can
be especially effective when it’s used against people worried about
appearing stupid — don’t be one of those people. Recognize that it’s
your responsibility to make sense of things, and don’t move on until you
do. If you’re feeling pressured, say something like, “Sorry for being
stupid, but I’m going to need to slow you down so I can make sense of
what you’re saying.” Then, ask your questions. All of them.

9. Achieve completion in conversations. The main purpose of a
discussion is to achieve completion and get in sync, which leads to
decisions and/or actions. Conversations that fail to reach completion
are a waste of time. When there is an exchange of ideas, it is important
to end it by stating the conclusions. If there is agreement, say it; if
not, say that. When further action has been decided, get those tasks on
a to-do list, assign people to do them, and specify due dates. Write
down your conclusions, working theories and to-do’s in places that will
lead to their being used as foundations for continued progress. To make
sure this happens, assign someone to make sure notes are taken and
follow-through occurs.

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