How well are your meetings functioning? Through this series of articles I have been highlighting the many factors that must be considered for your meetings to go well. While conducting your meeting there are several meeting participation pitfalls that your meeting facilitator should help you avoid.
The most serious meeting participation is the leader who wants to give the answers to everyone in the room. Don’t get me wrong there are times when we need answers from the senior leader but this should be rare. Great leaders see their role in the meeting is to ask the right questions and to access the ideas of their team. They realize there are many ways to do things and there is rarely a right or wrong answer. So they put big ideas on the table, ask difficult questions, and get the team to debate those ideas. Once hearing everyone’s point of view they then combine that with their opinions and make the best decisions possible given the circumstances. The leader’s job is to access the brains of the team, not to be the brain.
Another common mistake I see in meetings is the tendency to jump too quickly in to problem solving mode. As soon as a meeting participant raises an issue, concern or problem everyone moves too quickly to find a solution or provide an answer. The value of having multiple people available is to first determine the real problem to solve. The best value participants can bring is asking great questions. It is common that a presenter consciously or unconsciously leaves out important information that the other participants need to know. Usually once these facts are uncovered you may find that there is a more fundamentally or broader issue to solve than the original symptom that was mentioned at the onset.
Another common meeting participation pitfall is how the leader of the meetings goes about making sure that everyone gets involved in the meeting. There are a some dimensions to this issue.
If you do not contribute, you have wasted your time and everyone else’s. Everyone has something to contribute. Failure to speak up begs the question “why are you there to begin with.” It is important that leaders recognize those people in the room that have lower self-confidence and tend to defer to others and make sure you are accessing their brain power. For many people, failure to speak in meetings did not mean they did not have a lot of value to bring. It is your job to make sure that you get it.
Have you ever attended a meeting and there is person in the room that has to have their opinion heard on every point? They hog up all the talk time! These people seem to love to hear their own voice and think that because they are talking they are the smartest and most valuable people in the room. These people need to be taught to give others a chance to speak and should be limited to the amount of time they are permitted to speak.
It is important to identify what is not being said. Watching people’s body language, listening to tone, and understanding why they say what they do is many times more important than what they say. 93% of communication is not the words people use. A good leader is actively listening during the meeting. This helps ensure that when decisions are made and plans are set that everyone is committed.
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