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map consult
meeting effectiveness
© Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 1 of 8
Meeting Effectiveness:
Taming of the Bête Noire
In his book "Managing in the next So-
ciety" Peter F. Drucker states that "only
the productivity of knowledge workers
makes a measurable difference - and
right now it is quite poor".
And where do you find all these
knowledge workers?
In meetings.
Meeting-Mania many critics moan. A
waste of time, engineers and scientists
groan. And managers fear, the group
would decide by its own. Bête noire.
But,..
Meetings often represent the only way
to converge different knowledge re-
sources to produce the desired results
within a project or a process.
Meetings also are a unique opportunity
to initiate and steer new dynamics.
And they are the best way to learn and
develop as a group.
So let's tackle this "bête noire" in four
chapters to turn it into a beloved ani-
mal:
Only on purpose
The key to an effective meeting is to
make you aware about the purpose of
the meeting. Distinguish 3 purposes:
Information / Mobilization
• You want to inform about a spe-
cific situation, a (project) status,
and interims results
• You want to present a
(new/change of) strategy, pro-
ject, program, or management
• You want to kick-off a new pro-
cess, a pilot, and a roll out of a
program
• And you want to make your au-
dience enthusiastic about it.
Coordination / Follow-up
• You need to systematically
monitor milestone achieve-
ments, update project status
• You need to regularly review
performance of an organization-
al unit, a team
• You need to ensure cross-
functional/-departmental/-
country cooperation
• And you want to incite partici-
pants to assume responsibility
and take action.
Strategy making / Problem solving
• You feel the need for revisiting a
current strategy or program
• You need to find a solution, or to
make a decision on a complex
issue
• You want to set up a task force
or focus group on a specific top-
ic
• And you need to find the right
delegates or agents to get
things done.
Refrain from going for a multi-purpose
meeting. Better focus on one purpose
only, and organize a separate meeting
for a different purpose.
By consequence, your meetings be-
come shorter; participants can be se-
lected according to their degree of in-
volvement, which enhances the com-
mitment of the participants.
At the end, an effective meeting will
strengthen your leadership position!
Preparation is the cheapest in-
vestment.
The other open secret for an effective
meeting is preparation.
map consult
meeting effectiveness
© Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 2 of 8
It is startling how much efforts manag-
ers invest in cutting costs and rational-
ize processes, and at the same time,
they call for meetings with highly paid
resources, where, at most, there is an
agenda prepared.
The following 7 questions shall help
you to prepare your meeting, in order
to make the best use of time and
knowledge available at the day of the
meeting.
1.) What is the distinctive topic?
Refrain from buzzwords, generalities or
typologies (Strategy workshop, devel-
opment meeting, brainstorming, kick
off,…).
When defining the topic of the meeting,
be aware that you raise or kill expecta-
tions with the description of the topic.
Even a regular coordination meeting
should have a specifying (sub-) title.
2.) What is the context or back-
ground?
What is the overall situation? Any ex-
ternal or internal events, which might
have an impact?
What is the role of that meeting? What
is the intended goal? Is it embedded in
a greater process or program?
Who are the key players and stake-
holders? What are their ideas, con-
cerns, and beliefs? What might be their
hidden agendas?
What would happen if there were no
achievement/no progresses, just stag-
nation? To what extent this may
threaten or protect the group, individu-
als, and the process…?
What would be the logical next step,
after this meeting?
3.) What should have been achieved
at the end of the meeting?
What do you really want to obtain at
the end of the meeting? What should
be stated on the board/flipchart? With
what (in mind) should the participants
go home?
What should not come out of the meet-
ing?
[Do not urge for decisions during the meeting.
Decisions are to be made by decision makers,
not via democratic vote.]
AND: Is the meeting really necessary?
Are there alternatives to achieve your
objective?
Writing out the objectives of your meet-
ing helps to understand its purpose.
Especially for purpose 3, it is recom-
mended that your objective statements
contain three dimensions: action, out-
come, and qualifiers.
Actions: use results-oriented words such
as: develop, generate, identify, plan, priori-
tise, recommend, resolve…
Outcome describes what should be the
visualized result of the meeting, e.g. Ac-
tion plan, key levers, decision criteria, stra-
tegic scenario…
Qualifiers further describe the objective
and put focus on the meeting. This could
happen by stating additional parameters
(time frame, market segment, business
area, product type…) or distinctive charac-
teristics the outcome should have.
map consult
meeting effectiveness
© Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 3 of 8
4.) Who shall/shall not participate?
Who need to participate? Who need not
or even must not participate? For what
reason?
Criteria to select the participants need-
ed:
- Who have the information or
knowledge related to the objective?
- Who will be involved in authorizing
the objective?
- Who needs to be involved in imple-
menting the objective?
[The old principle of representativeness is a
proven democratic mean, however it has a dilut-
ing effect, when you really want to work on
something.]
Furthermore you would enquire: What
might/might not be the expectations of
the participants? What are issues they
are aware of? What do they probably
ignore? What are their hopes & fears?
[For purpose “strategy making/problem solving”:
Make sure that you have a good “mixture” of
participants: ideally, there should be 1/3 protag-
onists, 1/3 antagonists, and 1/3 generalists. If
you keep the antagonists out, they will come
back later, even more forceful. However, select
the constructive thinkers, not the ill minded.]
5.) How much time do you realistical-
ly have available?
The more people, the more time you
need. (If you are truly interested, that
people understand and build on the top-
ic). Unfortunately, the time needed is not
correlated with the intelligence of the
participants, but with the diversity of
opinions.
Be generous with breaks: they can be
very productive!
[For each 90 minutes, count 15 min. break. Add
min 45 minutes for lunch break.]
Again, do not go for a multi-purpose
meeting, Stay away from the nice “open-
end” habits in some companies. Three
2.5-hours-sessions are more productive
than one full day meeting.
Your direct reports and colleagues will
be more than thankful for that.
6.) What should the participants think
through in detail?
Which content needs to be presented
and /or explained?
[Better do not take anything for understood or
granted. For this is a frequent pitfall: people think
that everybody should know, thus they do not
dare to question it. Eventually they won't be in a
position to support the outcome!]
Is any pre-meeting work necessary?
Would it be more efficient if group mem-
bers prepare content ahead of time?
If Yes, how should their input be struc-
tured? What format to choose for the
presentation? (Slide show, overheads,
flip chart, poster, oral speech?) How
much time would be needed then?
[Ideally a presentation should never go beyond
20 minutes. If you have a lot of content to pre-
sent, cut it in 3 times 20 minutes, in between
organize interactions within the group.]
What needs to be discussed? In which
sequence? What should not be dis-
cussed? What is not directly related to
the topic and the meeting’s objective?
At the end draw the flow of the meeting
and plan the interactions for the phases:
Warm up, introduction to the topic, in-
depth work, refocus and wrap-up. With
which questions are you going to trigger
interaction within the respective phase?
How much time do you have for that?
[Remember: for each interaction with the group,
reckon at least 15’; attribute 50% of your time for
in-depth analysis; typically, for a problem solving
session with 9-12 people, you would need 2 to 3
hours working time, plus breaks.]
7.) Check process and logistics
Compare 3 (objectives of the meeting)
with 5 (meeting time available): Is this
realistic? If not, you either have to cut
down on your objectives or you have to
ask for more meeting time.
[Do not compromise. Otherwise, it will
map consult
meeting effectiveness
© Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 4 of 8
fall back on you.]
Review 6: Will the presentation and in-
teractions consistently lead to your de-
fined objectives? Or is it just wishful
thinking? Don’t trust that the people
come up with ideas they are not asked
for!
Calculate the time needed on the base
of 6. Add time for breaks. Does this
match with your time objective? Maybe
you can organize some “pre-digest
group work”, to better focus discussion.
Or you have to revise your meeting’s
objectives.
When should the meeting be held?
(Time period, kind of day, start-end time,
travel times needed by the partici-
pants…) Do you need a get-together in
the evening or teambuilding exercise
during the meeting?
Where should the meeting be held?
Which environment and atmosphere
would be stimulating? Which location or
country would support the objectives?
Virtues of Leadership to Remem-
ber
There are some key virtues of an effec-
tive meeting leadership, which – to-
gether with the preparation – will al-
most guarantee an effective and suc-
cessful meeting.
Welcome doubts and questions.
Listen actively.
Reserve judgment and keep an
open mind.
Visualize contributions of partici-
pants.
Have your eye on the meeting’s
objective.
I call them “virtues”, since they are
more than techniques, they are related
to attitude. And attitudes change slow-
ly, especially one’s own attitude.
I am afraid, that attitude cannot be
changed through intellectual penetra-
tion of the task, but only through prac-
tice and exercise - both being regularly
reflected and developed.
Pitfalls Test The Best
Eventually, be aware of possible pit-
falls, which may occur during your
meeting.
The list below is not complete. Nor are
the hints to sidestep those pitfalls.
i. Participants do not (dare to) speak
up
ii. The group does not come up with
any new idea
iii. Participants arrive late and want to
leave early
iv. Nobody is keen to own a defined
action
v. Quarrels are contaminating the
meeting
vi. Key players do not show up – send
assistant instead
vii. You are running out of time
map consult
meeting effectiveness
© Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 5 of 8
i. Participants do not (dare to)
speak up
What might be behind it?
a. People meet in this setting for the
first time; they do not know each
other very well
b. The meeting language is not the
mother tongue of the participants;
the headquarters’ culture is not
theirs; or they fear not to be elo-
quent enough.
c. People experienced that if one
wants to be on the safe side in this
company, it is better not to put for-
ward one’s own opinion.
d. Participants do not know, why they
are here, and how this meeting will
impact their role or their career, es-
pecially if there are higher hierar-
chical levels than their direct super-
visor.
The Boss is present
I do not believe, that there is any use
of keeping the hierarchy out of a meet-
ing or process (except training or indi-
vidual development processes). Since
the outcome of the meeting should be
implemented in some way, you need
hierarchy for it. If the hierarchy stays
out during the discussion process, it
will be more difficult for it to get the
whole picture, which leads either to
decisions which do not take into ac-
count the reflection of the group (hence
are de-motivating), or to further inves-
tigations and meetings as long as the
hierarchy feels ready to decide (hence
a waste of time and resources).
What could you do about it?
a. Use your facilitation skills: ask
questions and – even more im-
portant – listen to the whole an-
swer; visualize all important state-
ments, even if they differ from each
other.
Create opportunities to work in
small groups, which give the partic-
ipants more confidence.
b. In case of different languages, you
may accept a second language for
your meeting, and ask one of the
participants to play the role of the
translator and co-facilitator.
c. If the culture is perceived as closed
minded or too authoritarian, you
could have pre-meeting sessions to
resolve the people’s fears. Or you
may ask for an impartial facilitator
to help out.
d. If the people are afraid of spelling
out doubts in the presence of their
boss, it might be better to have an-
other meeting without the boss.
That meeting however is not to re-
solve any factual problems, but to
work on this communication issue
and to learn about one’s own be-
havior and thinking pattern
map consult
meeting effectiveness
© Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 6 of 8
ii. The Group does not come up
with any new idea
What might be behind it?
a. The topic is too broad, producing
broad answers.
b. Issue has been discussed for n
times, always with the same peo-
ple.
c. Dominant opinions prevent from
going astray, nipping “crazy” ideas
in the bud.
d. People are caught in their existing
procedures and do-how, they know
too well, what is not feasible.
What could you do about it?
a. Go for the most challenging piece
of the issue. Or: radically put into
question the topic (and the group).
b. Mix the group. Break out in small
groups. Beforehand: Add new par-
ticipants from other functions or or-
ganizational units. Have different
experience levels on board.
c. Ask each one for crazy or utopian
ideas, and defend them from being
turned down during the first part of
the meeting.
d. Present recognized 'truths' in oppo-
sition to the existing experiences.
You may even get an external ex-
pert from another industry/country
to relate about different, also prov-
en patterns.
No ever grand idea
Was ever born
In a big conference,
But a lot of foolish have died there.
F.Scott Fitzgerald
iii. Participants arrive late and
want to leave early
What might be behind it?
a. Are they really concerned? I mean,
concerned in the way they should
expect something from the meet-
ing?
b. Participants are invited due to their
position, not to their capacity to
contribute
Their boss sends participants, to
represent him/her. They cannot
commit, in any way.
c. The meeting was badly planned,
did not consider flight sched-
ules/travel times of participants.
d. The meeting is boring.
What could you do about it?
a. Make this the subject of the discus-
sion: How could they benefit from
this meeting?
b. For purpose 2 & 3, communicate
meeting principles, such as: who-
ever sends a representative, should
give him/her the power to commit, if
the invited persons does not appear
2 times, nor does he/she send an
empowered representative, he/she
won’t be invited any more. [Now,
you have to stick to your principles!]
c. [Too late]
d. Skip parts of presentation: max. 1/3
of the meeting time should be
presentation, 2/3 should be interac-
tion with the group
[If this is not acceptable for you or
your hierarchy, you should ask
yourself or them, if it is economical-
ly wise to have so many people
traveling and spending their time in
one room, just to listen to the hier-
archy, and having a cup of coffee.]
map consult
meeting effectiveness
© Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 7 of 8
iv. Nobody is keen to own a defined
action
What might be behind it?
a. Participants are frustrated, and do
not want to invest own resources
anymore.
b. Participants are scared by the pos-
sible implications of a consensus;
they do not want to take accounta-
bility for an action.
c. Participants do not think that they
have the competences necessary
to take over the task.
What could you do about it?
a. Address the issue in an open and
defensive manner. Be prepared
that participants are disappointed
by lack of decision taking or weak
leadership.
b. Ask yourself if different opinions
and doubts have been expressed
and visualized. Have the proposals
or ideas been concretized and test-
ed? Has it become clear to every-
one, where consensus has been
reached, and where areas of disa-
greement have been remaining? If
not, the ground was not well pre-
pared for the participants to take
and sustain responsibility.
c. Review the activities: are they too
big or too many? It would be pref-
erable, to focus on few actions,
which are pretty clear-cut.
If there are project initiatives, it is
wise to precisely define the first ac-
tion step, together with the group
[use the 3 dimensions described for
the meeting objectives: action, out-
come, qualifier (see preparation,
question 3]
v. Quarrels are contaminating the
meeting
What might be behind it?
a. Participants do not feel that they
are taken seriously.
b. The group is split into two opposing
camps; no one wants to move.
c. There are conflicts among partici-
pants, they are getting personal or
are taking comments personal.
d. There are conflicts between you –
as the leader of the meeting pro-
cess - and the participants.
What could you do about it?
a. Remember the virtues of facilitative
leadership: active listening, reserv-
ing judgment and visualize state-
ments of all parties in an equal way.
b. You need to find a bridging objec-
tive, e.g. where both parties can
see a real interest in. Then you can
work out, in which area or to what
degree they can act together.
Be aware that it is easier to find a
common platform to act, than to
converge the different attitudes and
beliefs into one.
I am not sure if the convergence of attitude and
culture should be an objective at all. In order to
act in a team, people need common goals or
interests, which tie them together. They do not
need to have the culture in common.
Anyway, culture changes slowly; revolutions
had only changed the faces, but never the
culture.
c. Whenever you sense some per-
sonal attack, you should step in,
and redirect the discussion onto the
factual level. Visualize the rational
part of the statement, never the
emotional part.
If this does not help, make a break,
and define – together with the
group - behavioral principles for the
map consult
meeting effectiveness
© Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 8 of 8
rest of the meeting. Do not forget to
establish – again with the ac-
ceptance of the group - possible
”sanctions”, in case some partici-
pants continue to break those prin-
ciples.
It may become necessary to break
up, in order to change the setting
(way and order of seating, agenda,
even the room, split the group for a
while), which shall provoke mental
movement among the participants.
d. I always recommend having a co-
leader, with whom one prepares
and manages the meeting. This
may prove valuable especially in
situations where the participants
develop uneasiness with you, the
meeting’s leader. You could switch
the role with your Co, and observe
the group’s dynamic from a differ-
ent perspective. Already this simple
move may help to resolve the dis-
comfort.
vi. Key players do not show up –
send their assistant instead
What might be behind it?
Key players may have an engagement
that is seen more important.
They do not see the value of the meet-
ing.
They do not attribute high importance
to their role within this meeting, so they
choose to send the assistant to be kept
informed.
They do not feel concerned, at all.
What could you do about it?
During the meeting: Treat the assistant
with the same respect that would be
due for the key player initially invited.
You should conduct the meeting as
you planned it. At the end it should be-
come very clear to all – especially the
assistant – what is expected from the
key player. You should ask the assis-
tant to commit to the meeting’s out-
come and discuss with him/her how to
feed back to his/her superior.
Before the meeting: You should give a
special attention to your key players.
Invite them personally! Involve them in
the prep phase. Share with them the
objectives of the meeting, even better:
develop the objectives together with
them.
If you are dealing with very busy and
important persons, you need to sell the
meeting to them, explain the value of
participating, and welcome their doubts
on the content of the meeting. Sched-
ule the meeting to fit with their agenda.
vii.You are running out of time
This always might happen, even with a
good preparation. Bear in mind that
you always have a second objective,
when organizing a meeting: To en-
courage individual expression, and to
build consensus and commitment.
This sometimes need more time in the
first run than expected. But in the long
run, the time invested will speed up
implementation processes later on,
since the people have really under-
stood and accepted the idea/project or
program.
If you do not see a chance to achieve
the objective in the given time frame,
speak up and say so. You could – to-
gether with the group – agree upon
what to conclude and which items to
postpone. The group will appreciate
your honesty and your sovereignty,
with which you tackle this time chal-
lenge.

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Taming of the Bête Noire_

  • 1. map consult meeting effectiveness © Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 1 of 8 Meeting Effectiveness: Taming of the Bête Noire In his book "Managing in the next So- ciety" Peter F. Drucker states that "only the productivity of knowledge workers makes a measurable difference - and right now it is quite poor". And where do you find all these knowledge workers? In meetings. Meeting-Mania many critics moan. A waste of time, engineers and scientists groan. And managers fear, the group would decide by its own. Bête noire. But,.. Meetings often represent the only way to converge different knowledge re- sources to produce the desired results within a project or a process. Meetings also are a unique opportunity to initiate and steer new dynamics. And they are the best way to learn and develop as a group. So let's tackle this "bête noire" in four chapters to turn it into a beloved ani- mal: Only on purpose The key to an effective meeting is to make you aware about the purpose of the meeting. Distinguish 3 purposes: Information / Mobilization • You want to inform about a spe- cific situation, a (project) status, and interims results • You want to present a (new/change of) strategy, pro- ject, program, or management • You want to kick-off a new pro- cess, a pilot, and a roll out of a program • And you want to make your au- dience enthusiastic about it. Coordination / Follow-up • You need to systematically monitor milestone achieve- ments, update project status • You need to regularly review performance of an organization- al unit, a team • You need to ensure cross- functional/-departmental/- country cooperation • And you want to incite partici- pants to assume responsibility and take action. Strategy making / Problem solving • You feel the need for revisiting a current strategy or program • You need to find a solution, or to make a decision on a complex issue • You want to set up a task force or focus group on a specific top- ic • And you need to find the right delegates or agents to get things done. Refrain from going for a multi-purpose meeting. Better focus on one purpose only, and organize a separate meeting for a different purpose. By consequence, your meetings be- come shorter; participants can be se- lected according to their degree of in- volvement, which enhances the com- mitment of the participants. At the end, an effective meeting will strengthen your leadership position! Preparation is the cheapest in- vestment. The other open secret for an effective meeting is preparation.
  • 2. map consult meeting effectiveness © Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 2 of 8 It is startling how much efforts manag- ers invest in cutting costs and rational- ize processes, and at the same time, they call for meetings with highly paid resources, where, at most, there is an agenda prepared. The following 7 questions shall help you to prepare your meeting, in order to make the best use of time and knowledge available at the day of the meeting. 1.) What is the distinctive topic? Refrain from buzzwords, generalities or typologies (Strategy workshop, devel- opment meeting, brainstorming, kick off,…). When defining the topic of the meeting, be aware that you raise or kill expecta- tions with the description of the topic. Even a regular coordination meeting should have a specifying (sub-) title. 2.) What is the context or back- ground? What is the overall situation? Any ex- ternal or internal events, which might have an impact? What is the role of that meeting? What is the intended goal? Is it embedded in a greater process or program? Who are the key players and stake- holders? What are their ideas, con- cerns, and beliefs? What might be their hidden agendas? What would happen if there were no achievement/no progresses, just stag- nation? To what extent this may threaten or protect the group, individu- als, and the process…? What would be the logical next step, after this meeting? 3.) What should have been achieved at the end of the meeting? What do you really want to obtain at the end of the meeting? What should be stated on the board/flipchart? With what (in mind) should the participants go home? What should not come out of the meet- ing? [Do not urge for decisions during the meeting. Decisions are to be made by decision makers, not via democratic vote.] AND: Is the meeting really necessary? Are there alternatives to achieve your objective? Writing out the objectives of your meet- ing helps to understand its purpose. Especially for purpose 3, it is recom- mended that your objective statements contain three dimensions: action, out- come, and qualifiers. Actions: use results-oriented words such as: develop, generate, identify, plan, priori- tise, recommend, resolve… Outcome describes what should be the visualized result of the meeting, e.g. Ac- tion plan, key levers, decision criteria, stra- tegic scenario… Qualifiers further describe the objective and put focus on the meeting. This could happen by stating additional parameters (time frame, market segment, business area, product type…) or distinctive charac- teristics the outcome should have.
  • 3. map consult meeting effectiveness © Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 3 of 8 4.) Who shall/shall not participate? Who need to participate? Who need not or even must not participate? For what reason? Criteria to select the participants need- ed: - Who have the information or knowledge related to the objective? - Who will be involved in authorizing the objective? - Who needs to be involved in imple- menting the objective? [The old principle of representativeness is a proven democratic mean, however it has a dilut- ing effect, when you really want to work on something.] Furthermore you would enquire: What might/might not be the expectations of the participants? What are issues they are aware of? What do they probably ignore? What are their hopes & fears? [For purpose “strategy making/problem solving”: Make sure that you have a good “mixture” of participants: ideally, there should be 1/3 protag- onists, 1/3 antagonists, and 1/3 generalists. If you keep the antagonists out, they will come back later, even more forceful. However, select the constructive thinkers, not the ill minded.] 5.) How much time do you realistical- ly have available? The more people, the more time you need. (If you are truly interested, that people understand and build on the top- ic). Unfortunately, the time needed is not correlated with the intelligence of the participants, but with the diversity of opinions. Be generous with breaks: they can be very productive! [For each 90 minutes, count 15 min. break. Add min 45 minutes for lunch break.] Again, do not go for a multi-purpose meeting, Stay away from the nice “open- end” habits in some companies. Three 2.5-hours-sessions are more productive than one full day meeting. Your direct reports and colleagues will be more than thankful for that. 6.) What should the participants think through in detail? Which content needs to be presented and /or explained? [Better do not take anything for understood or granted. For this is a frequent pitfall: people think that everybody should know, thus they do not dare to question it. Eventually they won't be in a position to support the outcome!] Is any pre-meeting work necessary? Would it be more efficient if group mem- bers prepare content ahead of time? If Yes, how should their input be struc- tured? What format to choose for the presentation? (Slide show, overheads, flip chart, poster, oral speech?) How much time would be needed then? [Ideally a presentation should never go beyond 20 minutes. If you have a lot of content to pre- sent, cut it in 3 times 20 minutes, in between organize interactions within the group.] What needs to be discussed? In which sequence? What should not be dis- cussed? What is not directly related to the topic and the meeting’s objective? At the end draw the flow of the meeting and plan the interactions for the phases: Warm up, introduction to the topic, in- depth work, refocus and wrap-up. With which questions are you going to trigger interaction within the respective phase? How much time do you have for that? [Remember: for each interaction with the group, reckon at least 15’; attribute 50% of your time for in-depth analysis; typically, for a problem solving session with 9-12 people, you would need 2 to 3 hours working time, plus breaks.] 7.) Check process and logistics Compare 3 (objectives of the meeting) with 5 (meeting time available): Is this realistic? If not, you either have to cut down on your objectives or you have to ask for more meeting time. [Do not compromise. Otherwise, it will
  • 4. map consult meeting effectiveness © Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 4 of 8 fall back on you.] Review 6: Will the presentation and in- teractions consistently lead to your de- fined objectives? Or is it just wishful thinking? Don’t trust that the people come up with ideas they are not asked for! Calculate the time needed on the base of 6. Add time for breaks. Does this match with your time objective? Maybe you can organize some “pre-digest group work”, to better focus discussion. Or you have to revise your meeting’s objectives. When should the meeting be held? (Time period, kind of day, start-end time, travel times needed by the partici- pants…) Do you need a get-together in the evening or teambuilding exercise during the meeting? Where should the meeting be held? Which environment and atmosphere would be stimulating? Which location or country would support the objectives? Virtues of Leadership to Remem- ber There are some key virtues of an effec- tive meeting leadership, which – to- gether with the preparation – will al- most guarantee an effective and suc- cessful meeting. Welcome doubts and questions. Listen actively. Reserve judgment and keep an open mind. Visualize contributions of partici- pants. Have your eye on the meeting’s objective. I call them “virtues”, since they are more than techniques, they are related to attitude. And attitudes change slow- ly, especially one’s own attitude. I am afraid, that attitude cannot be changed through intellectual penetra- tion of the task, but only through prac- tice and exercise - both being regularly reflected and developed. Pitfalls Test The Best Eventually, be aware of possible pit- falls, which may occur during your meeting. The list below is not complete. Nor are the hints to sidestep those pitfalls. i. Participants do not (dare to) speak up ii. The group does not come up with any new idea iii. Participants arrive late and want to leave early iv. Nobody is keen to own a defined action v. Quarrels are contaminating the meeting vi. Key players do not show up – send assistant instead vii. You are running out of time
  • 5. map consult meeting effectiveness © Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 5 of 8 i. Participants do not (dare to) speak up What might be behind it? a. People meet in this setting for the first time; they do not know each other very well b. The meeting language is not the mother tongue of the participants; the headquarters’ culture is not theirs; or they fear not to be elo- quent enough. c. People experienced that if one wants to be on the safe side in this company, it is better not to put for- ward one’s own opinion. d. Participants do not know, why they are here, and how this meeting will impact their role or their career, es- pecially if there are higher hierar- chical levels than their direct super- visor. The Boss is present I do not believe, that there is any use of keeping the hierarchy out of a meet- ing or process (except training or indi- vidual development processes). Since the outcome of the meeting should be implemented in some way, you need hierarchy for it. If the hierarchy stays out during the discussion process, it will be more difficult for it to get the whole picture, which leads either to decisions which do not take into ac- count the reflection of the group (hence are de-motivating), or to further inves- tigations and meetings as long as the hierarchy feels ready to decide (hence a waste of time and resources). What could you do about it? a. Use your facilitation skills: ask questions and – even more im- portant – listen to the whole an- swer; visualize all important state- ments, even if they differ from each other. Create opportunities to work in small groups, which give the partic- ipants more confidence. b. In case of different languages, you may accept a second language for your meeting, and ask one of the participants to play the role of the translator and co-facilitator. c. If the culture is perceived as closed minded or too authoritarian, you could have pre-meeting sessions to resolve the people’s fears. Or you may ask for an impartial facilitator to help out. d. If the people are afraid of spelling out doubts in the presence of their boss, it might be better to have an- other meeting without the boss. That meeting however is not to re- solve any factual problems, but to work on this communication issue and to learn about one’s own be- havior and thinking pattern
  • 6. map consult meeting effectiveness © Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 6 of 8 ii. The Group does not come up with any new idea What might be behind it? a. The topic is too broad, producing broad answers. b. Issue has been discussed for n times, always with the same peo- ple. c. Dominant opinions prevent from going astray, nipping “crazy” ideas in the bud. d. People are caught in their existing procedures and do-how, they know too well, what is not feasible. What could you do about it? a. Go for the most challenging piece of the issue. Or: radically put into question the topic (and the group). b. Mix the group. Break out in small groups. Beforehand: Add new par- ticipants from other functions or or- ganizational units. Have different experience levels on board. c. Ask each one for crazy or utopian ideas, and defend them from being turned down during the first part of the meeting. d. Present recognized 'truths' in oppo- sition to the existing experiences. You may even get an external ex- pert from another industry/country to relate about different, also prov- en patterns. No ever grand idea Was ever born In a big conference, But a lot of foolish have died there. F.Scott Fitzgerald iii. Participants arrive late and want to leave early What might be behind it? a. Are they really concerned? I mean, concerned in the way they should expect something from the meet- ing? b. Participants are invited due to their position, not to their capacity to contribute Their boss sends participants, to represent him/her. They cannot commit, in any way. c. The meeting was badly planned, did not consider flight sched- ules/travel times of participants. d. The meeting is boring. What could you do about it? a. Make this the subject of the discus- sion: How could they benefit from this meeting? b. For purpose 2 & 3, communicate meeting principles, such as: who- ever sends a representative, should give him/her the power to commit, if the invited persons does not appear 2 times, nor does he/she send an empowered representative, he/she won’t be invited any more. [Now, you have to stick to your principles!] c. [Too late] d. Skip parts of presentation: max. 1/3 of the meeting time should be presentation, 2/3 should be interac- tion with the group [If this is not acceptable for you or your hierarchy, you should ask yourself or them, if it is economical- ly wise to have so many people traveling and spending their time in one room, just to listen to the hier- archy, and having a cup of coffee.]
  • 7. map consult meeting effectiveness © Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 7 of 8 iv. Nobody is keen to own a defined action What might be behind it? a. Participants are frustrated, and do not want to invest own resources anymore. b. Participants are scared by the pos- sible implications of a consensus; they do not want to take accounta- bility for an action. c. Participants do not think that they have the competences necessary to take over the task. What could you do about it? a. Address the issue in an open and defensive manner. Be prepared that participants are disappointed by lack of decision taking or weak leadership. b. Ask yourself if different opinions and doubts have been expressed and visualized. Have the proposals or ideas been concretized and test- ed? Has it become clear to every- one, where consensus has been reached, and where areas of disa- greement have been remaining? If not, the ground was not well pre- pared for the participants to take and sustain responsibility. c. Review the activities: are they too big or too many? It would be pref- erable, to focus on few actions, which are pretty clear-cut. If there are project initiatives, it is wise to precisely define the first ac- tion step, together with the group [use the 3 dimensions described for the meeting objectives: action, out- come, qualifier (see preparation, question 3] v. Quarrels are contaminating the meeting What might be behind it? a. Participants do not feel that they are taken seriously. b. The group is split into two opposing camps; no one wants to move. c. There are conflicts among partici- pants, they are getting personal or are taking comments personal. d. There are conflicts between you – as the leader of the meeting pro- cess - and the participants. What could you do about it? a. Remember the virtues of facilitative leadership: active listening, reserv- ing judgment and visualize state- ments of all parties in an equal way. b. You need to find a bridging objec- tive, e.g. where both parties can see a real interest in. Then you can work out, in which area or to what degree they can act together. Be aware that it is easier to find a common platform to act, than to converge the different attitudes and beliefs into one. I am not sure if the convergence of attitude and culture should be an objective at all. In order to act in a team, people need common goals or interests, which tie them together. They do not need to have the culture in common. Anyway, culture changes slowly; revolutions had only changed the faces, but never the culture. c. Whenever you sense some per- sonal attack, you should step in, and redirect the discussion onto the factual level. Visualize the rational part of the statement, never the emotional part. If this does not help, make a break, and define – together with the group - behavioral principles for the
  • 8. map consult meeting effectiveness © Martina Pulver/www.map consult.com/2003-01-20 Page 8 of 8 rest of the meeting. Do not forget to establish – again with the ac- ceptance of the group - possible ”sanctions”, in case some partici- pants continue to break those prin- ciples. It may become necessary to break up, in order to change the setting (way and order of seating, agenda, even the room, split the group for a while), which shall provoke mental movement among the participants. d. I always recommend having a co- leader, with whom one prepares and manages the meeting. This may prove valuable especially in situations where the participants develop uneasiness with you, the meeting’s leader. You could switch the role with your Co, and observe the group’s dynamic from a differ- ent perspective. Already this simple move may help to resolve the dis- comfort. vi. Key players do not show up – send their assistant instead What might be behind it? Key players may have an engagement that is seen more important. They do not see the value of the meet- ing. They do not attribute high importance to their role within this meeting, so they choose to send the assistant to be kept informed. They do not feel concerned, at all. What could you do about it? During the meeting: Treat the assistant with the same respect that would be due for the key player initially invited. You should conduct the meeting as you planned it. At the end it should be- come very clear to all – especially the assistant – what is expected from the key player. You should ask the assis- tant to commit to the meeting’s out- come and discuss with him/her how to feed back to his/her superior. Before the meeting: You should give a special attention to your key players. Invite them personally! Involve them in the prep phase. Share with them the objectives of the meeting, even better: develop the objectives together with them. If you are dealing with very busy and important persons, you need to sell the meeting to them, explain the value of participating, and welcome their doubts on the content of the meeting. Sched- ule the meeting to fit with their agenda. vii.You are running out of time This always might happen, even with a good preparation. Bear in mind that you always have a second objective, when organizing a meeting: To en- courage individual expression, and to build consensus and commitment. This sometimes need more time in the first run than expected. But in the long run, the time invested will speed up implementation processes later on, since the people have really under- stood and accepted the idea/project or program. If you do not see a chance to achieve the objective in the given time frame, speak up and say so. You could – to- gether with the group – agree upon what to conclude and which items to postpone. The group will appreciate your honesty and your sovereignty, with which you tackle this time chal- lenge.