Taming the Meeting Monster (part 3 of 3)

By Tom Davidson

Below are the behaviors that need to be shown by someone – anyone – in a meeting environment. Don’t become a ‘Meeting Monster!’

Meetings are notorious time wasters. But they don’t have to be. 

Contemporary organizations everywhere require talented people to come together to solve problems, develop products, make plans and make decisions. The question is not “if meetings are necessary” but “how to make them better.” 

Tame the Meeting Monster with these three tips for making your meetings more productive so that you (and your team) can be happier and more successful at work: 

     1. Purpose and Objectives – Make sure your meeting has a clear objective and that everyone has the same one in mind before you begin.
     2. Structure and Timing – Make a plan for the meeting (i.e., agenda, outline, process or flow), then share it, adapt it and follow it.
     3. Leadership and Ground Rules – Almost nothing is as helpful as a skilled facilitator and few shared rules of the road for your meetings. 

In today’s blog, we’ll discuss the third of these three pointers. The first two were covered in the previous two blog in this series. 

Leadership and Ground Rules 

“If you want to find the leader, look for the followers.” 

Not all meetings have formal leaders, and even when they do, leadership can (and must) come from any corner of the room. But it has to come from somewhere! 

Below are the behaviors that need to be shown by someone – anyone – in a meeting environment. Where you see people taking leadership roles like these, followers will be close behind. 

     – Facilitation – Take initiative to get things moving and keep them on track.
     – Investigation – Ask questions to illuminate information and opinions.
     – Communication – Ensure that all team members are involved and that their resources are well used
     – Deliberation – Role model a quality debate by advocating for ideas and being open to others’ contributions 

 Ground Rules 
A few ground rules go along way. “Ground rules” are agreements (or norms) about how a group will work together. The term comes from baseball, where every stadium has unique rules for playing on their “ground.” All stadiums have idiosyncrasies that can interfere with the travel of the baseball, including dugouts, tarps, camera cages, lights and flagpoles. As a result, teams that play there need predetermined “rules” for what happens when an in-play baseball meets these obstructions. Work teams are like this. 

Each meeting is a team, if only for a short time, and each meeting has idiosyncrasies among its participants. So norms need to be developed so that meeting participants set up for cooperation and success. Here are some examples from various teams I’ve worked with: 

– Start and stop on time
– Return from breaks on time
– Make or take cell phone calls outside and only in an emergency
– Silence is not consent
– Consensus is not necessary but general agreement is
– Participants will treat each other with respect
– If you don’t understand something, ask

A Few Ground Rules go a Long Way 
You don’t need a long list; just a few key ground rules will solve many problems. However, they need to be explicitly discussed and periodically revised if the same team meets multiple times. 

If ground rules are not deliberately installed, they will grow on their own. Here are some examples of destructive ground rules that take shape on their own: 

– Taking phone calls that interrupt the meeting and distract their team mates
– Arriving late and leaving early
– Remaining quite during the meeting, even though they object to something, then undermining the decision when they leave
– Criticizing others’ ideas without offering solutions
– Wandering off the subject of the meeting
You can probably see how these norms would undermine any meeting. So you might as well grow the ones you want rather than letting ones like these take shape on their own. 

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