Wandering down the rabbit hole, or two people dueling, or problem-solving an issue that isn't ours to solve, are just three of the countless methods for converting productive meetings into frustrating time sinks. As meeting attendees, we can take more responsibility — and be more accountable — for meeting effectiveness. Here are some tips and insights for meeting attendees.
- Know what you're supposed to know. Don't fake it. If you aren't prepared, tell the chair in advance, privately, to enable agenda adjustment.
- Arrive on time
- If you know you'll be late, tell the chair. If you don't know in advance, phone or text someone. Don't make the others wait.
- Leave space for your teammates
- Unless you have specialized knowledge, you probably aren't the only one thinking whatever you're thinking. Let others contribute that thought. Offer it yourself only if nobody else does.
- Ask rather than assert
- Some of the most valuable contributions are questions. A good question can keep a group from making a serious mistake.
- Identify rabbit holes and solution-monging
- If you think the group might be lost down a rabbit-hole, or if they might be lost solving a problem they don't even own, say so. They're depending on you.
- Stay on topic
- Don't derail a productive discussion. If you have something that's off topic, save it for later. It might fit in another agenda item, or another meeting.
- Abide by a three-exchange limit
- If you get into a back-and-forth with someone, after you've "returned the ball" three times, stop. Everyone else probably tuned out after the second return.
- Don't repeat yourself or anyone else
- If something's been said once, that's enough. Repetition isn't persuasion.
- Respect the chair
- If something's been said
once, that's enough.
Repetition isn't persuasion.
- The chair (or the chair's designee) owns the process. The chair determines who speaks, in what order, and for how long. The chair determines what goes in the parking lot and what doesn't. If you disagree, invoke a "process check."
- Suggesting the best way probably won't help
- Contributions of the form "I believe this way is best" are almost worthless. Rarely is there one best way.
- Not speaking is extremely helpful
- If you're talking, you're keeping things open. Speak only if you think your contribution will significantly enhance the result or the process.
- Discussing the discussion is expensive
- Adjusting the order of topics might help, but discussing the discussion is an expense, too. The net value added by discussing the discussion is marginal at best.
Most important, approach every meeting as if it were your last meeting together. Pretend that you're leaving the company. Make this next meeting a good one and make sure we all part friends. If you take every meeting one at a time with that point of view, things will probably get better — or as good as you can make them. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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its own meeting. Why are some meetings like this?
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- In fiction and movies, the world is often simple. There's a protagonist, a goal, and a series of obstacles.
The protagonists and goals are good, and the obstacles are bad. Real life is more complicated.
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