When we complain that meetings are boring, time-wasting, maddening, or frustrating, it might help to check first the roles we play ourselves. There are dozens of tactics and ploys, which I've been collecting over the years. Here's the fourth installment of a little catalog of the more common ones. See "Games for Meetings: III," Point Lookout for March 19, 2003, for more.
- The Price Is Right
- See if you can guess the budget I have in my mind without going over.
- Real negotiation entails mutual disclosure. If the sponsor conceals budget information, the negotiation is biased and cannot achieve a mutually balanced outcome. As a sponsor, be prepared to state clearly what you can afford. As a provider, ask directly for any information you need.
- Price Justification
- Here's why my estimate exceeds the real cost by the amount you'll probably cut.
- Playing this game trains sponsors to play the "cost cut" game. Give honest estimates, and when they're cut, reduce the deliverables.
- What a Great Idea!
- Make a brilliant suggestion, end up responsible for implementing it.
- When a manager uses this ploy, everyone becomes a little less willing to offer suggestions. See "The 'What-a-Great-Idea!' Trap," Point Lookout for February 28, 2001, for some tips for dealing with this.
- I Did It
- I'm completely responsible for that success.
- Of one thing we can be certain in these networked, team-oriented times: one person is rarely responsible for anything, good or ill. We succeed or fail together.
- They Did It
- They're completely responsible for that failure.
- See above. This one is probably even more toxic than "I Did It." Prevalence of this pattern is a sign of a blame-oriented culture.
- Hospital Pass
- Hand someone a responsibility just before it implodes.
- The term "hospital pass" comes from rugby. This ploy is expensive to an organization, because it teaches people that accepting responsibility is dangerous. If you use it yourself, don't be surprised if people scatter when they see you coming.
- You are hereby ordered to step forward.
- As a manager, the temptation to use this technique is strong. But you can overcome it if you remind yourself that for most of the work you need done, compliance and obedience aren't enough. Creativity and dedication cannot be commanded. They must be given freely.
- I'll do it for God and company, even if it means my career-death.
- If your managers or your organization are wrong-headed enough to ask you to do something foolish, that's their problem. Don't make it yours. As a manager, if you rely on Martyrs to get things done, expect all the high-cost consequences of increased turnover.
Which of these do you do? Which can you stop doing? What can you do instead? Keep track of what you see in your meetings, and talk about their costs. More coming in future issues — send me descriptions of your more delightful discoveries. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Take Any Seat: II
- In meetings, where you sit in the room influences your effectiveness, both in the formal part of the
meeting and in the milling-abouts that occur around breaks. You can take any seat, but if you make your
choice strategically, you can better maintain your autonomy and power.
- My Right Foot
- There's nothing like an injury or illness to teach you some life lessons. Here are some things I learned
recently when I temporarily lost some of my independence.
- The Ups and Downs of American Handshakes: I
- In much of the world, the handshake is a customary business greeting. It seems so simple, but its nuances
can send signals we don't intend. Here are some of the details of handshakes in the USA.
- Wacky Words of Wisdom
- Words of wisdom are so often helpful that many of them have solidified into easily remembered capsules.
We do tend to over-generalize them, though, and when we do, trouble follows. Here are a few of the more
- False Summits: I
- Mountaineers often experience "false summits," when just as they thought they were nearing
the summit, it turns out that there is much more climbing to do. So it is in project work.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 27: Brainstorming and Speedstorming: II
- Recent research into the effectiveness of brainstorming has raised some questions. Motivated to examine alternatives, I ran into speedstorming. Here's Part II of an exploration of the properties of speedstorming. Available here and by RSS on February 27.
- And on March 6: A Pain Scale for Meetings
- Most meetings could be shorter, less frequent, and more productive than they are. Part of the problem is that we don't realize how much we do to get in our own way. If we track the incidents of dysfunctional activity, we can use the data to spot trends and take corrective action. Available here and by RSS on March 6.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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