Tired of Meetings Going Nowhere? Give This a Try.
Picture this scene: A group of managers has been in a meeting for over 90 minutes. The discussion has been going around and around on a particular contentious situation that needs urgent attention. At least 2 individuals are in disagreement as to what should be done. The decidedly heated discussion has veered towards detailed aspects of each competing solution/proposal. Time goes by and by the meeting’s end there is no consensus or agreement. Time to leave the room and by then, participants are disheartened about the lack of progress. Sounds familiar?
I am certain this type of swirling discussion happens every day in most organizations. Many such meetings can easily spin out of control and raise frustrations levels (best case) or engender open hostility (worst case).
The natural instinct when participating in such meetings is to delve into the details and try to out-argue the opposition. This is typically achieved by raising one’s voice, repeating a point over and over again, or enumerating a slew of facts & details. But such an approach is rarely constructive and misses the point.
Instead of delving DOWN into the details/specifics of a situation, we should seek to ELEVATE the conversation and re-establish the common purpose. When meetings are out of control and the discussion veers into the weeds or off the rails, its essential to take a step back and remind the audience of what they have in common and reaffirm alignment on the broader meaning/purpose of the meeting (the “Why?”). Only once such alignment is achieved and validated by all participants can we start to step down a notch to discuss the process (the “How?”). Once that has been agreed to, only then should we discuss the specifics of the situation (the ”What?”). All too often we start meetings by jumping directly into the specifics of the situation without having ascertained whether all participants agree on the purpose AND the process. Here is a simple hierarchy:
- Purpose/Meaning (Why?)
2. Process (How?)
3. Situation/Content (What?)
Keep this simple 3-level hierarchy in your back pocket and use it the next time a meeting starts to spin out of control or if you find the group stuck in the weeds. Demonstrate your leadership skills by being the one to propose a re-alignment around the meeting’s objectives and to reaffirm the shared goals of the participants. Without sounding too “preachy,” simply ask participants if they are all aligned on the big picture and write it down for all to see. Reaffirming the common goal(s) automatically gets people back on the same team and should defuse a good part of the tension in the room. Once this has been achieved, try next to agree on the process(es) being followed or proposed to achieve the desired objective. Again, seek general (verbal) buy-in from all participants. If there is any misalignment or resistance you then need to decide if a consensus can be reached in the meeting (are all the right people present?) or if the topic needs to be postponed or escalated. Finally, only once the purpose and process have been agreed to by all, can you tackle the execution aspects of what needs to get done, by whom and when.
Of course, every situation and meeting is unique. There are no “universal” silver bullets. But if you find yourself at your wit’s end in a meeting that is spinning out of control, try this technique and see if it helps right the ship.
Andrew Hyncik is an International Strategic Marketing & Product Development veteran with 20+ years of experience in the Medtech, Healthcare, CPG and Pharma industries. For more Medtech insights, original articles or expert services, visit www.MedtechMojo.com