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Meeting Mayhem

Optimize Blog - June 20, 2016 - 0 comments

With the first day of summer upon us our thoughts naturally turn to BBQ’s, beaches, and vacations. It’s the time of year when we can easily find ourselves daydreaming when we should be paying attention.
Generally meetings are the best place to get some serious daydreaming done. There is no greater incentive to let the mind wander when you realize you are seated around a table, listening to people you don’t really want to hear from saying things you don’t really need to know. Yes, you are in a meeting at work and there is no escape…….
So many of us are subject to the meeting that adds no value, produces no result and enables no change. But, it doesn’t have to be this way if we, as leaders, refuse to play along.
So what are the secrets for holding effective meetings that keep people engaged in the present rather than dreaming about their next vacation?
First up there is the meeting preparation – the things that need to be in place before the meeting even starts….like perhaps having an agenda? A meeting without an agenda is like a restaurant dinner without a menu. Clear agendas have multiple benefits. You know what to do in advance to prepare, the meeting convener can rely on the agenda to keep the discussion from drifting into irrelevant territory and everyone knows when the meeting is done. Clear, concise and professional.
We have said before that there are usually three agendas in play – your agenda, their agenda and the hidden agenda. So, if there are controversies that will be disruptive, concessions that need to be extracted, or favours that need to be called in, the hard work of handling these demands should happen before the meeting. In short there is usually some choreography that is required ahead of time.
Unfortunately many leaders do not invest in these things and therefore turn off their political antennas and are forced to rely on either brute force (which ensures minimal buy-in) or pleading (which ensures minimal respect) to reach some semblance of agreement.
With the preparation out of the way we head confident into the meeting but immediately things fall apart. People drift in a few minutes late, chatting about what they watched on television the night before. Starting a meeting late (or finishing late, for that matter) is a good indicator of the lack of leadership discipline.
Once the meeting eventually starts we experience the trauma of human behavior. The lengthy discourse on something that is only tangentially related to the meeting topic. The interruption by the Donald Trump of the team, the person who always believes he knows more than anyone else. The knowing smiles and rolled eyes that his co-workers display once Donald starts in on whatever his personal agenda is that day. The reaction is muted, however, since most people around the table are already checking email on their smart phones.
Whilst we don’t generally use sports analogies, leading a meeting can be likened to being a hockey coach. The coach must make sure the right people are in the room (or on the ice) and that the wrong people aren’t. Giving people short shifts by limiting airtime and ensuring use of the whole bench. Drawing on specialized expertise inside and outside of the room during key moments (penalty kills). To win, everyone must contribute, not just the loudest person, the most senior person and the person you’re most comfortable with.
If you are lucky, finally the meeting ends. What happens next? Can’t think of anything? Exactly. There is no other investment of time an organization regularly makes for which returns are less closely managed. Meetings must end with follow-up tasks or accountabilities, and those accountabilities should be delivered on time and to the expected standard.
Never hold a meeting unless something is going to change for the better as a result of that meeting. Poorly set up and run meetings create tremendous drag on any organization. On the other hand, getting great at leading effective meetings delivers true value back to your organization……

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