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:
- The Mind Reading Trap
- When we think, "Paul doesn't trust me," we could be fooling ourselves into believing that
we can read his mind. Unless he has directly expressed his distrust, we're just guessing, and we can
reach whatever conclusion we wish, unconstrained by reality. In project management, as anywhere else,
that's a recipe for trouble.
- Pygmalion Side Effects: Bowling a Strike
- Elise slowly walked back to her office, beaten. Her supervisor, Alton, had just given Elise her performance
review — her third consecutive "meets expectations." No point now to her strategy of
giving 120% to turn it all around. She is living a part of the Pygmalion Effect, and she's about to
experience the Pygmalion Side Effects.
- If Only I Had Known: I
- Have you ever regretted saying something that you wouldn't have said if only you had known just one
more little fact? Yeah, me too. We all have. Here are some tips for dealing with this sticky situation.
- Dealing with Negative Progress
- Many project emergencies are actually the result of setbacks — negative progress. Sometimes these
mishaps are unavoidable, but often they're the result of patterns of organizational culture. How can
we reduce the incidence of setbacks?
- Towards More Gracious Disagreement
- We spend a sizable chunk of time correcting each other. Some believe that we win points by being right,
or lose points by being wrong, but nobody seems to know who keeps the official score. Here are some
thoughts to help you kick the habit.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 20: Stone-Throwers at Meetings: I
- One class of disruptions in meetings includes the tactics of stone-throwers — people who exploit low-cost tactics to disrupt the meeting and distract all participants so as to obstruct progress. How do they do it, and what can the meeting chair do? Available here and by RSS on March 20.
- And on March 27: Stone-Throwers at Meetings: II
- A stone-thrower in a meeting is someone who is determined to halt forward progress. Motives vary, from embarrassing the Chair to holding the meeting hostage in exchange for advancing an agenda. What can Chairs do about stone-throwers? Available here and by RSS on March 27.
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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.