Meetings are a persistent source of complaints. We complain there are too many of them, they are not productive, they waste our time, and they take up valuable time during which we could actually be getting work done to name a few.
While giving a talk recently titled “3 Simple Ways Anyone Can Lead Everyday” I let the phrase “meetings suck” slip out of my mouth. I don’t usually say it so crassly, but the sea of nodding heads seemed to indicate I had hit on an unfortunate “truth”.
Meetings all too often suck our time, our energy, our productivity, and our enthusiasm.
On the other hand meetings also present one of the most significant opportunities for anyone to lead every day regardless of level or role in the meeting. After all, if any group of people share this persistent complaint, at least on occasion, why not do something about it?
Yes, we have all attended meetings that sucked. But they don’t have to if you are willing to provide personal leadership.
Follow these three very simple ground rules. and you can provide leadership in any meeting you attend. Enroll a group of people in embracing them and you can together transform every meeting you have together.
1. Stay in One Conversation
There is a natural tendency for people to have conversations on the side. It’s one of those things we know we shouldn’t do, but can’t seem to help ourselves. The reasons why don’t matter. If the conversation you are in isn’t worth everyone’s attention, including yours, then you should find a way to move the conversation on to another more important topic or start paying attention. Anything less is disrespectful and not productive.
Even when it is just you and one other person this ground rule applies. Have you ever been talking with someone and you are not really there, but instead distracted by the conversation you are having in your head? When you catch yourself doing it stop. You may even just want to own up to it so you can refocus and let the other person know you respect them enough to be responsible for your bad behavior.
2. Listen for the Gold
Do you listen, I mean really listen, to what people have to say? It is not easy, especially when you know people already. Giving people your full attention is one of the best ways to honor them. If you think you know what someone is going to say, try actively listening for something new. Ask questions. And be mindful of the tendency to be thinking about what you are going to say next rather than listening to what people are saying.
Consider that if you have “heard it all before” maybe there is no reason to meet or perhaps you need to ask a different question or talk about a different topic to accomplish what you need to accomplish. But if you are going to show up at least listen for the value, the “gold”, in what people have to say. We hear what we listen for. You might just learn something new. Now wouldn’t that be productive?
3. Speak to Make a Difference
We speak at meetings for a lot of reasons – to answer a question, to offer our expertise, to make a point, to defend our point of view, to build political capital, etc. Yet no matter what we have to say it is important to first consider does what I have to say make a difference given the purpose of THIS conversation. One of the most unproductive habits we can bring to group conversations is to speak about things that aren’t relevant to the conversation at hand.
So before you speak ask yourself: will what I am about to say contribute to the intention or intended outcome of THIS interaction? This isn’t about being positive or negative either. Sometimes the thing that could make the biggest difference is the thing people don’t want to say or hear.
What would be possible if every one of us took on the perspective that the success of every meeting we attend or conversation we have was up to us?
These ground rules are a way to do just that.
Do you have any to add?