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
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:
- What Makes a Good Question?
- In group discussion or group problem solving, many of us focus on being the first one to provide the
answer. The right answer can be good; but often, the right question can be better.
- Office Automation
- Desktop computers, laptop computers, and tablets have automation capabilities that can transform our
lives, but few of us use them. Why not? What can we do about that?
- Preventing Sidebars
- Sidebar conversations between meeting participants waste time and reduce meeting effectiveness. How
can we prevent them?
- Paid-Time-Off Risks
- Associated with the trend to a single pool of paid time off from separate categories for vacation, sick
time, and personal days are what might be called paid-time-off risks. If your team must meet customer
expectations or a schedule of deliverables, managing paid-time-off risks can be important.
- Goodhart's Law and Reification
- Goodhart's Law, applied to organizations, is an observation about managing by metrics. When we make
known the goals for our metrics, we risk having the metrics lose their ability to measure. The risk
is elevated when we try to "measure" abstractions.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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