September 11, 2013
By Michael Kline
We love it when we have great meetings – a group conversation where people come prepared, listen attentively, respect one another, exchange new ideas, discuss and solve challenges and come to agreements to take action and accomplish something meaningful. Does this sound like the majority of your meetings? If not, please read on.
In our last column, we compared today’s business
meeting to ancient gatherings around the fire, where they shared stories, discussed ideas and solved problems. Humans have been meeting for ten thousand years and yet today communication is among our biggest problem in the workplace! It’s hard to believe we’re still stuck on how to talk to each other when we could be dealing with the economy, competition, changing technology, regulations, availability of talent, pricing pressures, cash flow, not to mention war, famine and pestilence! Seriously, we cannot have a discussion about being competitive, if we don’t trust and like each other enough to have an honest onversation. As long as people feel a need to protect their turf, manipulate others and hide their secret agendas, there will be little progress toward any of the important things.
After ten thousand years of going over this, maybe we need to slow down a moment so we can finally get this right. Let us get the basics down so we can tackle the big stuff more effectively. So back to basics it is. Here are a few
tips to help turn meetings into quality group conversations.
1. Send out an agenda in advance – this is your invitation to tell people what to bring, how to prepare,
start and end time and the purpose.
2. Promise to start and end on time and keep your promise. Eventually everyone will start showing up on
time. Mark the official beginning and end of meetings to separate work or social time from meeting time. Make it special, almost sacred time.
3. Stick to the agenda. Create practices that do this while respecting new ideas, or keeping them in a
new business section of the agenda.
4. Consider yourself more of a host with a bell at a dinner party, than a judge with a gavel at a trial.
If possible, seat everyone so they can see one another.
5. Create a method for quick breaks when the pace of discussion is out of control, there is cross talk,
emotions are over-flowing, or something poignant needs to be absorbed before moving on.
6. Make meetings a safe place for honesty and input. Make agreements at the beginning, or have living
agreements for all meetings. These agreements are custom to your members’ needs as to how we conduct ourselves, but might include: We will never interrupt a speaker, we will listen attentively, we will speak
purposefully, we will participate when we have something to contribute, we will turn off cell phones, we will keep discussions confidential, and so on.
7. Do not ask for input and then dismiss the ideas you hear. We need to create an environment where the
conversation moves around the room with intention for everyone to have input, without judgment.
These tips are based on the PeerSpirit methodology of Circle Practice. I spent a week at the PeerSpirit Circle
Practicum in August, which is a total immersion program of living this practice all day, every day, with a diverse group of professionals representing a wide range of business and educational backgrounds. There are far more nuances than we can cover in short articles and the complexities that grow out of your specific situation and your members’personalities can be daunting yet very rewarding.
Most of these tips are actually difficult to follow. It takes a great deal of time and patience to slow down a process to speed up productivity. Many people will find it boring and frustrating until they grow accustomed to it. When they see how much more productive and positive meetings can be, those same people will likely become big advocates for the new process. The key phrase of the day is to slow down to speed up.
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website, www.klineseminars.com, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.