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
Do you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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would still agree that we get too much email. What's happening? And what can we do about it?
- Encourage Truth Telling
- Getting to the truth can be a difficult task for managers. People sometimes withhold, spin, or slant
reports, especially when the implications are uncomfortable or threatening. A culture that supports
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- 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
- Embolalia and Stuff Like That: II
- Continuing our exploration of embolalia — filler syllables, filler words, and filler phrases —
let us examine the more complex forms. Some of them are so complex that they appear to be actual content,
even when what they contain is little more than "um."
- Down in the Weeds: II
- To be "down in the weeds," in one of its senses, is to be lost in discussion at a level of
detail inappropriate to the current situation. Here's Part II of our exploration of methods for dealing
with this frustrating pattern so common in group discussions.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 3: Capability Inversions and the Dunning-Kruger Effect
- A capability inversion occurs when the person in charge of an effort is far less knowledgeable about the work involved or its purpose than are the people doing that work. In capability inversions, the Dunning-Kruger effect can intensify group dysfunction, sometimes severely disrupting the effort. Available here and by RSS on June 3.
- And on June 10: They Don't Reply to My Email
- Ever have the experience of sending an email message to someone, asking for information or approval or whatever, and then waiting for a response that comes only too late? Maybe your correspondent is an evil loser, but maybe not. Maybe the problem is in your message. Available here and by RSS on June 10.
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- Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?
Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.
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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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