Are you tired of meetings where nobody ever makes a decision and nothing ever seems to get done? I’m Holly G. Green, the Architect of Pause, thinking to thrive expert, and author of the new book, Using Your Brain to Win.
Broken meetings are bad for business. They waste time, kill employee engagement, and get in the way of what your organization needs to do to win. Following are tips for conducting more action-oriented, productive meetings.
Start by using “success visioning” to set the stage at the beginning of each meeting. Success visioning uses future, active, past tense questions to focus people’s thinking on the solution rather than the problem. It gets people to imagine the desired future state and then work backward to define how they got there.
For example, start your meetings by asking:
•When we have had a successful meeting, what decisions will we have made?
•How will we have most effectively made those decisions?
•How will we have gotten all the input we needed?
•How will we have exposed any assumptions underlying what we decided?
Notice how these questions force people to respond as if the outcome has already happened? Write down their answers and use them as a framework to guide the rest of the meeting. Taking 5 minutes up front to define excellence will serve you incredibly well and potentially save you hours in do overs.
Technique #2 - “stop jumping to conclusions!” In meetings, there can be a lot of pressure to make decisions quickly so that we can move on to the next important item on the agenda. So when the first idea good idea comes up, we tend to shut down our thinking processes and jump at that solution rather than looking for better or different ideas. Taking the time to consider alternatives often leads to a better solution.
To encourage the team to look for different and/or better solutions, challenge your assumptions by asking, “What underlying attitudes, beliefs or thought bubbles are causing us to see this as the best or only solution?” Solicit alternative viewpoints. For example, “It sounds like we’re all in agreement on the solution here. I’m wondering if anyone sees it differently.” Ask “What if…?” questions. “What if our ‘right’ answer is wrong? What if there is another way to look at this problem? What if we looked at it from the customer’s perspective; how would they solve this problem? What is the second right answer?”
The third step for turning bad meetings into good is to confirm all decisions before everyone leaves the room. Take a few moments to review the decision, why it was made, and who has responsibility for what actions, by when. Say, “We have agreed that X team will ... Did anyone hear it differently?” Get every decision visible so all can see it. After the meeting, send out an email confirming all decisions and actions to be taken.
It takes practice to fix broken meetings. It’s well worth the investment of time and effort.