Meetings… meetings… and more meetings! Every day… many times of day… physically and virtually… we attend a never ending myriad of meetings!

… And for many of us, many of these meetings are frustrating and a waste of time and patience.

Here are some basic ground rules to bring some efficiency and pragmatism to our meetings.

Make it clear who is leading the meeting.

Every meeting should be aimed at achieving pre-agreed goals; whoever is leading the meeting is the one responsible to decide what he/she wants to get out of it and how that will happen. Meetings without someone clearly responsible run a high risk of being directionless and unproductive.

Make clear what type of communication you are going to have in light of the objectives and priorities.

If your goal is to have people with different opinions work through their differences to try to get closer to what is true and what to do about it (i.e., open-minded debate), you’ll run your meeting differently than if its goal is to educate. Debating takes time, and that time increases exponentially depending on the number of people participating in the discussion, so you have to carefully choose the right people in the right numbers to suit the decision that needs to be made. In any discussion, carefully choose who participates and ensure they bring the most value to achieve your objectives. The worst way to pick people is based on whether their conclusions align with yours. Group-think (people not asserting independent views) and solo-think (people being unreceptive to the thoughts of others) are both dangerous.

Lead the discussion by being assertive and open-minded.

Reconciling different points of view can be difficult and time consuming. It is up to the meeting leader to balance conflicting perspectives, push through impasses and decide how to spend time wisely. A common question is: What happens when someone inexperienced offers an opinion? If you’re running the conversation, you should be weighing the potential cost in the time that it takes to explore their opinion versus the potential gain in being able to assess their thinking and gain a better understanding of what they’re like. Exploring the views of people who are still building their track record can give you valuable insights into how they might handle new responsibilities. Time permitting, you should work through their reasoning with them so they can understand how they might be wrong. It’s also your obligation to open-mindedly consider whether they’re right.

Watch out for “topic slip.”

Topic slip is random drifting from topic to topic without completing any of them. One way to avoid this is by tracking the conversation on a whiteboard so that everyone can see where you are.

Enforce the logic of conversations.

People’s emotions tend to heat up when there is a disagreement. Remain calm at all times. It is more difficult to shut down a logical exchange rather than an emotional one. Remember that emotions can shade how people see reality. For example, people will sometimes say, “I feel like (something is true)” and proceed as though it’s a fact, when other people may interpret the same situation differently. Ask them, “Is it true?” to support the conversation in reality.

Be careful not to lose personal responsibility via group decision making.

Too often, groups will make a decision to do something without assigning personal responsibilities, so it is not clear who is supposed to follow up by doing what. Be clear in assigning personal responsibilities.

Utilise the “two-minute rule” to avoid persistent interruptions.

The two-minute rule specifies that you have to give someone that uninterrupted period to explain their thinking before jumping in with your own. This ensures everyone has time to fully crystallize and communicate their thoughts without worrying they will be misunderstood or drowned out by a louder voice.

Watch out for assertive “fast talkers.”

Fast talkers say things faster than they can be assessed, as a way of pushing their agenda past other people’s examination or objections. Fast talking can be especially effective when it’s used against people worried about appearing stupid — don’t be one of those people. Recognize that it’s your responsibility to make sense of things, and don’t move on until you do. If you’re feeling pressured, say something like, “Sorry, but I’m going to need to slow you down so I can make sense of what you’re saying.” Then, ask your questions. All of them.

Achieve completion in conversations.

The main purpose of a discussion is to achieve completion and get in sync, which leads to decisions and/or actions. Conversations that fail to reach completion are a waste of time. When there is an exchange of ideas, it is important to end it by stating the conclusions. If there is agreement, say it; if not, say that. When further action has been decided, get those tasks on a to-do list, assign people to do them, and specify due dates. Write down your conclusions, working theories and to-do’s in places that will lead to their being used as foundations for continued progress. To make sure this happens, assign someone to make sure notes are taken and follow-through occurs.

Go and enjoy your meetings… make them count… make them useful… and generate some value!

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About Luis Soares Costa

From the very beginning, coaching has always been at the core of my passions.

For the past 38 years I have been an Executive and Team Coach working globally with CEOs and their C-Suite Executives, Business Owners and top talent in a significant number of the major global companies (including a significant number of Fortune 500), innovative companies operating in new ecosystems and dynamic family owned businesses.

During the past 28 years, I have also been an Executive and Team Coach and a “consultant to consultants” developing partners and top talent at major consultancies, Big4 Firms and Legal Firms

As an Executive and Team Coach, I partner with you and/or your teams in a “real play” thought-provoking and creative process which inspires you to “connect the dots” and maximize your personal and professional potential. The aim of the partnership is to bring about a sustained behavioral and performance transformation and profoundly shift the quality of your and your team’s working and personal life, whilst maximizing your potential and generating sustainable value.

You can contact me at coach@LuisSoaresCosta.com and visit my Website at www.LuisSoaresCosta.com