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6 Item Checklist for Running Impressive Meetings

6 Item Checklist for Running Impressive Meetings

In 2006, I was elected President of the spanish chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, a volunteer-led organisation for successful entrepreneurs. Honestly, I was a mix of emotion: both proud of the honour; but nervous that I would not be capable of leading the group.

Our first board meeting was chaos. There was a paper agenda, but I failed to keep people focussed on the agreed discussions. Each board member would throw their own opinion in for every small point. We spent almost 4 hours sucked into petty administrative details. It was tiring.

I learnt over the next 3 months that my way of running meetings was not effective. It was not only that we were not agreeing and taking decisions, we each left the meeting less motivated than when it began. This was a volunteer board.  If I had been one of the board members back then, I would have skipped as many meetings as I could.

“That’s it, I don’t need this crap. I am going to Quit”

I was on the verge of resigning the presidency, and of resigning as a member due to my frustration. I said to myself “I am paying for this, I am frustrated and members are blaming me for every little thing that doesn’t work out”.

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I attended a training session for new chapter presidents run by a wonderful Canadian entrepreneur. She began the training “There are two types of people in this room: the first have had a mission to become chapter president for years, have conducted a campaign with a clear manifesto, bring a team and are now celebrating the achievement of a multi-year goal; the second…  went to the bathroom at the wrong moment and came back to find that they had been nominated for president…  and still feel that they didn’t really ask to be in the role.”

She paused while we laughed “I don’t care which is your path. But you have a clear choice to make… You can spend the next year saying that you didn’t really choose this; or you can decide to make the role your own. This training is for those who chose to make the role their own.”

She got me. I knew that I was the “bathroom-at-the-wrong-moment” president, not the multi-year campaign. I knew I was waiting for others to step up and make things fun. I knew that I had abdicated any real responsibility for the role to others. I made a decision in that moment to go for it. I decided I had nothing to lose. I had mentally decided to leave the organisation, resign my role – so there was no “risk” to me if I decided to make things run “my way”.

Over the next 2 years, I learnt how to run meetings that get volunteers engaged, proud, active and delivering big results. What works for volunteers also works for corporates, universities and professional associations.

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The Golden Rule of Leading Anything

It is always the leader’s responsibility. If you lead a meeting and it is not fun, it is your responsibility to act. If somebody comes unprepared, it is your responsibility to act.  It does not matter whether you wanted to be the leader or did not want to be the leader; it does not matter whether the others are older, richer, wiser, better looking, sexier or taller: your role comes with full responsibility.

If you don’t accept the Golden Rule, go play tetris or candy crush. Don’t bother with the rest of this blog post.

The 6 Item Participant Checklist for Impressive Meetings

1. Participants Felt Heard

My girlfriend is brilliant at this. I can come home and rant about something stupid that happened at work. She listens. She listens without adding her judgement. Often, my rants are idiotic. (I think she knows…  She doesn’t say.) She isn’t aiming to fix me. She accepts that I am saying that I am frustrated, that something unexpected happened. After about 2 minutes of feeling heard, I realise that I am ranting and I let it go.

2. Participants Leave Energised

An hour of talking about problems is not an engaging hour. What inspires us? Big dreams. Great locations. People’s life stories. Progress. Celebrating small wins. Recognition of good efforts. A big bureaucracy trades in problems. A volunteer organisation trades in the gift of people’s time.

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3. Participants Leave with New Perspectives

John D. Rockerfeller, the richest man in the world back in the 1850s, was famous for his ability to look like he was almost asleep in a meeting… and then suddenly sit forward and ask a question that changed the whole dynamic of the discussion. A meeting leader is not the one with the best answers, a leader is the one with the best questions.

4. Participants are Proud to be Part of the Team

What teams are you proud to be part of? Teams that stand for something. I am proud to be a member of Barcelona Football Club. I love the values of teamwork that I see displayed on the field. I am proud to be part of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation because I am encouraged to dream bigger, to contribute more deeply. I am proud to be part of teams that are encouraging individual members to be the best version of themselves.

5. Participants Have Access to Necessary Resources

I had an interview back in 2005 with Sequoia Capital for a role leading the European division of a global insurance claims processing company. The founder explained their golden rule: if somebody fails to achieve a goal, we place 90% of the blame with their boss. There are only 3 reasons why somebody fails to achieve a goal:  1. they were not clear on the goal (bosses fault) 2. they didn’t have access to the resources necessary (boss fault) and 3. they were not motivated (50% their fault, 50% boss fault).

6. Participants Have Desire to Deliver on Specific Actions

Two parts to this one: desire and specific. Nothing is a greater waste than giving a vague action to a person who sees no purpose to the action. As a leader, you must work to help people see how they personally and professionally can benefit from the action. As a leader, you must work to ensure that the individual understands exactly what success will look like and how they can take the steps necessary.

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The Choice you Must Make, The Golden Rule

Whether you became leader by deliberate action or by accident; whether you conducted a multi-year campaign or left for the bathroom at the crucial moment – you have a choice: wait for a magically sign from the sky or take responsibility now to change things that you do not love. The Golden Rule: If you don’t like it, remove it, change it or step down as leader.

Featured photo credit: Stéfan via flickr.com

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Conor Neill

Professor of Leadership, President Vistage Spain

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

In business, in social relationships, in family… In whatever context conflict is always inevitable, especially when you are in the leader role. This role equals “make decisions for the best of majority” and the remaining are not amused. Conflicts arise.

Conflicts arise when we want to push for a better quality work but some members want to take a break from work.

Conflicts arise when we as citizens want more recreational facilities but the Government has to balance the needs to maintain tourism growth.

Conflicts are literally everywhere.

Avoiding Conflicts a No-No and Resolving Conflicts a Win-Win

Avoiding conflicts seem to be a viable option for us. The cruel fact is, it isn’t. Conflicts won’t walk away by themselves. They will, instead, escalate and haunt you back even more when we finally realize that’s no way we can let it be.

Moreover, avoiding conflicts will eventually intensify the misunderstanding among the involved parties. And the misunderstanding severely hinders open communication which later on the parties tend to keep things secret. This is obviously detrimental to teamwork.

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Some may view conflicts as the last step before arguments. And they thus leave it aside as if they never happen. This is not true.

Conflicts are the intersect point between different individuals with different opinions. And this does not necessarily lead to argument.

Instead, proper handling of conflicts can actually result in a win-win situation – both parties are pleased and allies are gained. A better understanding between each other and future conflicts are less likely to happen.

The IBR Approach to Resolve Conflicts

Here, we introduce to you an effective approach to resolve conflicts – the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach. The IBR approach was developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book Getting to Yes. It stresses the importance of the separation between people and their emotions from the problem. Another focus of the approach is to build mutual understanding and respect as they strengthen bonds among parties and can ultimately help resolve conflicts in a harmonious way. The approach suggests a 6-step procedure for conflict resolution:

Step 1: Prioritize Good Relationships

How? Before addressing the problem or even starting the discussion, make it clear the conflict can result in a mutual trouble and through subsequent respectful negotiation the conflict can be resolved peacefully. And that brings the best outcome to the whole team by working together.

Why? It is easy to overlook own cause of the conflict and point the finger to the members with different opinions. With such a mindset, it is likely to blame rather than to listen to the others and fail to acknowledge the problem completely. Such a discussion manner will undermine the good relationships among the members and aggravate the problem.

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Example: Before discussion, stress that the problem is never one’s complete fault. Everyone is responsible for it. Then, it is important to point out our own involvement in the problem and state clearly we are here to listen to everyone’s opinions rather than accusing others.

Step 2: People Are NOT the Cause of Problem

How? State clearly the problem is never one-sided. Collaborative effort is needed. More importantly, note the problem should not be taken personally. We are not making accusations on persons but addressing the problem itself.

Why? Once things taken personally, everything will go out of control. People will become irrational and neglect others’ opinions. We are then unable to address the problem properly because we cannot grasp a fuller and clearer picture of the problem due to presumption.

Example: In spite of the confronting opinions, we have to emphasize that the problem is not a result of the persons but probably the different perspectives to view it. So, if we try to look at the problem from the other’s perspective, we may understand why there are varied opinions.

Step 3: Listen From ALL Stances

How? Do NOT blame others. It is of utmost importance. Ask for everyone’s opinions. It is important to let everyone feel that they contribute to the discussion. Tell them their involvement is essential to solve the problem and their effort is very much appreciated.

Why? None wants to be ignored. If one feels neglected, it is very likely for he/she to be aggressive. It is definitely not what we hope to see in a discussion. Acknowledging and being acknowledged are equally important. So, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to express their views. Also, realizing their opinions are not neglected, they will be more receptive to other opinions.

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Example: A little trick can played here: Invite others to talk first. It is an easy way to let others feel involved and ,more importantly, know their voices are heard. Also, we can show that we are actively listening to them by giving direct eye-contact and nodding. One important to note is that never interrupt anyone. Always let them finish first beforeanother one begins.

Step 4: Listen Comes First, Talk Follows

How? Ensure everyone has listened to one another points of view. It can be done by taking turn to speak and leaving the discussion part at last. State once again the problem is nothing personal and no accusation should be made.

Why? By turn-taking, everyone can finish talking and voices of all sides can be heard indiscriminantly. This can promote willingness to listen to opposing opinions.

Example: We can prepare pieces of paper with different numbers written on them. Then, ask different members to pick one and talk according to the sequence of the number. After everyone’s finished, advise everyone to use “I” more than “You” in the discussion period to avoid others thinking that it is an accusation.

Step 5: Understand the Facts, Then Address the Problem

How? List out ALL the facts first. Ask everyone to tell what they know about the problems.

Why? Sometimes your facts are unknown to the others while they may know something we don’t. Missing out on these facts could possibly lead to inaccurate capture of the problem. Also, different known facts can lead to different perception of the matter. It also helps everyone better understand the problem and can eventually help reach a solution.

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Example: While everyone is expressing their own views, ask them to write down everything they know that is true to the problem. As soon as everyone has finished, all facts can be noted and everyone’s understanding of the problem is raised.

Step 6: Solve the Problem Together

How? Knowing what everyone’s thinking, it is now time to resolve the conflict. Up to this point, everyone should have understood the problem better. So, it is everyone’s time to suggest some solutions. It is important not to have one giving all the solutions.

Why? Having everyone suggesting their solutions is important as they will not feel excluded and their opinions are considered. Besides, it may also generate more solutions that can better resolve the conflicts. Everyone will more likely be satisfied with the result.

Example: After discussion, ask all members to suggest any possible solutions and stress that all solutions are welcomed. State clearly that we are looking for the best outcomes for everyone’s sake rather than battling to win over one another. Then, evaluate all the solutions and pick the one that is in favor of everyone.

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