How to make your meetings more productive and fulfilling – part two

In my last blog, I stated that one of the most common complaints I hear in organizations is “We have too many meetings.”

To coordinate and drive a complex team and business you do need enough points of contacts to make sure plans are clear and people are on the same page. Getting all the stakeholders in one room at one time is often the most effective way to do that.

Unfortunately, even though people have the right intent at heart because they don’t know how to run effective conversations people too often leave these meetings feeling that they didn’t produce enough value and progress, and therefore they were a waste of their time. And this, of course only adds to the overall frustration and mindset of “Too many meetings.”

In my previous blog, I outlined a few practical tips for making your meeting more productive and fulfilling. Here are a few additional tips:

Don’t compromise on the quality and integrity of the dialogue:

Yes, spend as little time as is needed to achieve the outcomes. However, do it without compromising on the quality and integrity of the dialogue.

If an important topic takes more time than allocated, do not shortcut the discussion and move on without having achieved its outcome. Manage the agenda based on achieving the outcomes, not time allocations.

Sometimes topics are large and complex and you may need more information or time to align on the decision, beyond the time you have during the current meeting. That’s fine, as long as you are sure you make a clear decision and commitment about by when you will make the decision. Don’t leave anything open or vague. Committing to commit is a powerful move.

It’s also legitimate to say “We are not going to make any decision or commitment on this topic at this point.” Committing to not commit is a clear commitment. Just make sure everyone understands and owns the consequence of that commitment.

As stated above, some topics require more debate. Don’t lose patience or react or take shortcuts to alignment. It will come back to haunt you in the future.

Don’t tolerate any cynicism or sarcasm. It undermines the debate. When people passionately debate topics they often say things like “That’s just semantics“, but then they continue to fight for their point of view with vengeance. Everything is semantics. We live in semantics. How we articulate and say things – especially decisions and commitments – is critical to our future direction and team strength.

Remember, another few minutes today could save you many hours and a lot of heartache in the future. Therefore, go all the way to reach genuine alignment.

Insist that people only talk if they are going to forward the action.

If you want your team members to speak and engage in effective conversation that achieves 100% alignment especially around complex issues or decisions, get your people to follow this rule: “Always forward the action when you speak”.

This means that you should encourage people to express their views. However, when they are done ask them to end with “Therefore I propose…” and propose something.

You want people to be focused on achieving the outcomes you set rather than opinions for the sake of opinion, which is what happens in most meetings, most of the time.  When there are uncertain, uncomfortable or tough choices and decisions to make, people tend to opt out to merely highlight the dilemma rather than take a stand, which is what powerful leaders do. Too many people get away every day by talking a lot without saying much.

Your meetings would be much more effective if the people who don’t have something to say that will forward the action – don’t say anything at all!

Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

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