Stop Torturing People with Terrible Meetings
By: Susan Dunn
|Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks. She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines. Visit her on the web at www.susandunn.cc and mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org for FREE ezine.
Q: What do most employees hate the most about work?
A: The meetings.
Here are some ways to apply your emotional intelligence to running the
kind of meetings people would actually like to attend.
Intentionality is one of the highest-level emotional intelligence competencies
because it means accepting responsiblity for both your actions and your
motives. Establish the purpose of the meeting. What is your intent? If
it's sheer process, make that clear. If there's an agenda and things you
intend to accomplish, establish that and then stick to it. Get honest with
yourslef. If you're having meetings because you think you should, but you
don't like them either, stop doing it. If you're having them so you can
get ego-strokes, rethink this annoying habit.
Running a meeting is not a committee affair. Someone needs to be in charge
and use their Personal Power and Focus to keep things on track. A published
agenda can be distributed ahead of time so people can prepare. Make sure
all points are covered.
One thing that irritates everyone is when the weekly staff meeting (for
instance) becomes a platform for office games. Either it's about getting
work done, strategizing, reporting, planning, and accomplishing something
that couldn't be done better another way, or its about side conversations,
politicking, put-downs, set-ups, back-slapping, power plays, impression
management, manipulation, posturing, truth management and other horseplay.
- Primal Leadership.
Which one of those points in #3 it is, depends upon the leader and the
emotional tone she or he sets. It's human nature to test the limits. People
will seek opportunity to upstage, divert, impress and manuever instead
of staying on task, and the first time the leader allows this to happen,
the authenticity is gone. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and stick
to it. You are being watched more closely than you think!
If you think a meeting can accomplish something no other form of communion
can, set it up that way, and then show your committent and enthusiasm.
Your group will 'catch' it.
- Respect for everyone. No exceptions.
This means respect for people's time, opinions, contributions and emotions.
If the meeting is to start at 10, start it at 10. As soon as you wait for
a "key player," #1, you are establishing the precedent that some
people matter more than others (in which case why is everyone required
to attend? You see, to lead, you must "make sense" to your followers),
and #2, you have just given permission to everyone to wait until everyone
else is there. You have punished the ones who are on time and rewarded
the ones who are not. Was that your intent?
- Constructive Discontent.
Being able to thoughtfully and respectfully handle disagreement is one
of the strongest indicators of leadership. It means being able to stay
calm, focused and emotionally grounded during conflict. The opposite of
this is the tendency to rush to conclusions just to short circuit 'arguments,"
or to flare up in emotional outbursts.
If you expect creative ideas, alternatives and solutions to appear, you
have to create the atmosphere for this. I was in a meeting where the chairman
asked for ideas. The first thing someone offered, he said "No!"
This is not the way to encourage creativity. Establish a period of divergent
processing where ideas are offered and simply considered. Then call an
end to that and start the convergent process where you apply reality to
the concepts and start to choose the ones most likely to work.
- Know your bottom lines.
Prior to a meeting in which you'll be required to express a position, reflect
on your thoughts, feelings and opinions. Zero in on the elements which
are really fundamental and important to know. Again, know what you think
but also why. If you are going to oppose something just because you hate
the person who proposed it, know that. Be intentional.
- Interpersonal Connections.
It's the leader's responsiblity to manage the meeting in such a way that
respect is shown to all. This means modeling flexiblity about learning
and communication styles, introverts and extraverts (don't condone letting
extraverts dominate), left-brain v. right-brain, and authenticity.
- Process afterwards.
It's a good idea, if you're serious about improving the quality of the
meetings at your office (for which everyone will be grateful), to have
someone you trust (an executive coach is a great choice here) attend and
observe and then process with you afterwards. Did you accomplish what you
set out to do? What was the emtional tone? Who had problems or was a problem,
and what was that about? If you don't learn each time you have a meeting,
you aren't doing your job. You are also modeling for your reports the concept
that any notions of continual improvement and striving for excellence are