be personally accountable
It seems like a lot of us are characters in the children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. You remember. But just in case, a brief synopsis. Once upon a time, there was an emperor whose only worry in life was to dress in elegant clothes. Two scoundrels tricked the emperor into thinking that the outfit they had made him for a royal procession was beyond compare, made of the finest materials and threads. In fact the outfit didn’t exist. The townspeople and royal court all looked on, seeing but saying nothing. It took a young child to tell him, well…to tell him he was actually naked.

So what’s the connection between this childhood story and the meeting mess we sometimes find ourselves in? We all know a bad meeting when we experience one. The question is, are we more like the bystander townsfolk or the little child who calls it like he sees it?

Commit to not waiting out another bad meeting. Next time you get a meeting invitation and  you  have  no  idea what it’s about, call, email  or  text  and  get some  clarity.   Opt out if there isn’t a clear reason for your attendance. Rather than feel your blood pressure rise as people tangentize, refocus to the issue at hand, using the meeting outcomes or agenda.   If you are sick of being the only person who participates, encourage those who haven’t spoken to voice their opinions. Take accountable action. It’s a great way to start.


dig into dialogue
I recently attended an online meeting. Red rectangular boxes were showing up on my computer screen in stark contrast to the blank white board. The boxes were meant to highlight important text. Problem was, there was no text. It took 10 minutes for someone to point it out.  If 12 people won’t point out a minor technology problem, no wonder we have trouble participating in candid dialogue in a meeting context.

72% of us say we experience open and candid dialogue around important issues only rarely or sometimes. At the same time 48% of us say our ideas are frequently encouraged and close to that percentage say those contributions are valued. It could be that we are encouraged and willing to speak up but not speak straight. Maybe the last time we tried to spark debate someone took it personally, tempers flared or people withdrew. It’s hard work to craft an alternative point of view in a way that encourages healthy debate and avoids defensiveness or blame. And we all know how hard it is to listen to a differing view when we already know we are “right”. Whatever the reason, we all suffer the consequences of dancing around the edges of dialogue. Healthy debate can unleash innovation, generate speed, and create levels of collaboration we have yet to experience.
Take some “start small” steps for encouraging open, candid dialogue in your meetings. If you want people to be more candid you are going to more than likely have to ask directly for it. Candor is unsettling to some people. When people are more candid and in a constructive way, acknowledge it. 

Practice listening to discover what some one really thinks rather than to defend a position. Ratchet up your curiosity by asking more “what if” questions instead of making so many “why not” statements. You might change more than your meetings.



What We Meet About

Status/update (85% often and frequently responses)

Information sharing (74% often and frequently responses)

Collaborative problem solving (58% often and frequently responses)

Decision making (54% often and frequently responses)

Idea generation (43% often and frequently responses)

Strategy development (36% often and frequently responses)


What’s Going Wrong

72% of us say we experience open and candid dialogue around important issues only rarely or sometimes.

48% of us say our ideas are encouraged frequently or often

45% of us say are contributions are valued frequently or often

65% report that they only rarely or sometimes have clarity around next steps such as who will do what and by when

52% of respondents believe they have the opportunity to bring their best thinking forward only rarely or sometimes

60% of respondents observe a dip in productivity during and/or after an ineffective meeting



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