Another Quick Meeting Fix (#2)

This one is really easy to use – and effective. Here’s the typical scenario: You suggest a course of action Someone else raises an objection to your suggestion. Someone else makes alternate suggestion; again someone makes an objection.

This can go on for hours. Days, even. It’s like Wimbledon, but without the volleying.

Your group begins to lose energy and grows quiet. Over time, they get discouraged. Subtly, at first, camps form: There is the postiive or “proactive” camp, and the naysaying or “reactive” camp. Although these are false divisions, they take on a life of their own. Members of each camp come into your office after the meeting to lobby you. You have a headache and no time for all these meetings about the meeting. You want the ideas expressed in the meeting where everybody can respond to them, not in the meetings about the meeting, which only you can hear.

This is easy and fun to change. The next time someone – anyone – raises an objection in a meeting:

1. interrupt them

2. paraphrase their objection, and

3. ask them to make a suggestion or a proposal. “Got it, Jim, you object because that approach is too slow; what ideas do you have about what will work?” Or, “I’m hearing a lot about what won’t work – I want some proposals about what will work. Let’s hear some suggestions.”

Critical for success:

The interrupting is crucial. Don’t just cut them off though – make sure you understand their point and can paraphrase it back to them. On the other hand, waiting for them to finish may take too long. We’ve all been in the position of having the floor and being unable to utter a cogent sentence. Sometimes being interrupted and correctly paraphrased is a gift. Let the giving begin! Interrupt as politely as you can, but interrupt.

Be clear about why you’re doing this. You are not an ogre. Mostly. They are not stupid and bad. Mostly. You all have some bad habits. You’re all getting stuck on side of the brain that likes to pick at things, rather than the side that likes to create things. No wonder you’re tired!

Steer clear of Robert’s Rules. Just because you use the word “proposal” doesn’t mean you are now moving and amending and voting and have to buy a gavel. Eeuw. You are creating and building on each other’s ideas. If this goes according to plan, you won’t have time for the General Bob’s stuffy language and convoluted procedures.

In no time at all, your team members will be prompting each other in this way. The naysayer camp will evaporate. No one will be allowed to maunder on about why something won’t work. Instead, they’ll already have an idea or suggestion. Your meetings will be lighter, more productive and much more energizing. This single thing will change the energy of your meetings.

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