WHAT APPEARS TO BE
A new study by Opinion Research USA shows that 27-percent of workers say “disorganized, rambling meetings” are their top frustration. An additional 17-percent say they are annoyed by peers who interrupt others at meetings. (Schweitzer, Inc.com, May 2007)
How does the data above and compare to your own experience? Hundreds of books proclaim to help turn dysfunctional meetings into productive gatherings; no doubt, there are as many seminars that espouse the same.
Yet, everywhere we begin a Pathways to Leadership(R) session, the topic of “meetings” evokes pain, anger — and in some cases forfeiture (as if that’s just the way business is done). Ouch.
Something’s got to change. And it begins with our own individual leadership.
WHAT MIGHT BE
What is the knee jerk reaction to creating more effective, productive meetings? Most people turn to planning: the right topic, the correct participants, and a length that is adequate and not extensive. No doubt about it: achieving these points assists in delivering enhanced results in meetings.
Still, it is apparent that plenty of people choose an appropriate topic for their meetings, and they get the right people in the room, and they manage the time, only to find that their meetings remain mired in mediocrity. (What is mediocrity? Answer: poor results as people interrupt each other, spend time on PDAs and cell phones, host side conversations, and take the dialogue on whimsical tangents.)
WHAT CAN BE
You can change that in the next meeting you’re in. Consider the possibility that leading an effective meeting (one where people WANT to attend and results are stellar) is easier than most people imagine it to be.
It comes down to one thing: focus. Achieving this is the most important job in every meeting. When you guide focus, you influence attitude and ideas. When you influence those two things, you create behaviors and results. It’s a powerful formula, and it all comes down to guiding focus.
How effective are you right now at doing this? The vast majority of people try to achieve this by telling people what to think, do or say. Their egos get in the way, and the sabotage their own best efforts.
You can do it better. And here’s how: ask questions. Not just any questions, but Forward Focus Questions that stimulate thinking, solutions, productivity; questions that move people and relationships forward; questions that deliver results.
Here’s one four-step guide to participating in exceptional meetings. (Note: you don’t have to run a meeting to use this strategy.)
Step 1: Check your ego. Do you want to say something because it will add value or because you simply want to hear yourself say it?
Step 2: Ask Forward Focus Questions. These are open-ended and move people, relationships, and results forward.
Step 3: Check your talking/listening ratio. People often think their ideas are more important than they really are. Listening is the tool that quite often delivers the hidden solution.
Step 4. Ask questions that allow others to demonstrate their strengths and wisdom. You’re on the same team — poor leaders use questions to incriminate and corner others, rather than using questions as a powerful tool to deliver better results.
Questions have proven effective at creating focus in every conversation and meeting you have.
What is the difference between what “might be” and what “can be”? You decide.
Hello tall guys,
Thank you for highlighting ways to improve meetings in this post and May 8 (Meetings that Work). I lost interest in a weekly Monday morning meeting today and browsed my blackberry for something to catch my attention. (Then I read the part about meetings mired in mediocrity as participants spend time on blackberries). The topic had shifted away from the department that I manage and I found my presence at this meeting to be counterproductive to the overwhelming To-Do list that awaited me post meeting.
I plan to use your recommendations for Forward Focus Questions in both the meetings I lead for my direct reports and those with my boss. In a biweekly meeting with a group of analysts, I find that my extroverted, fast paced, direct approach may be turning off the groupsâ€™ low key and quiet environment. At first I thought they were not motivated (which may still be the case). Although now I realize the way I want the meeting to flow is not what may work best for this team. Our company goes through phases of implementing a best sellers list of motivational books to increase productivity. These books have great ideas although my team is immediately turned off by the commercial or comical characters. They make fun of the bookâ€™s title and miss the message.
What are your thoughts on executing successful meetings in this environment (extrovert leading five introverts) and what are your recommendations on how to earn the teamsâ€™ commitment to a team building project? Thank you.
Thank you for your comments and feedback. Any person who invests their time in making meetings more productive will continue to have an influence on the org’s bottom line. Your awareness – observations and questions – demonstrates that you are already doing some important things.
Ironically, the answer you seek is imbedded in your comments and question. First of all: Your desire to create greater motivation…the average leader relies on a bag of old tricks – most of which are externally driven. This means, of course, that the leader HAS TO REMAIN RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYONE ELSE’S MOTIVATIONS. A tough job that I wouldn’t want.
The alternative: tap into THEIR motivations by asking questions and observing.
Secondly, too many teams/orgs stay focused on personality differences. This is helpful info, but if it is our focus, it then becomes a constant reminder of how WE ARE DIFFERENT. Of course, if we want a team to work together, we must create a focus of HOW WE ARE ALIKE. Finding common ground – at the beginning of meetings, throughout various conversations – is a subtle and powerful trait of great leaders.
Thank you and best wishes –