ClearWorth on Meetings
If you choose to be employed and join an organisation there are two things you can’t avoid. Firstly, you’ll have to be part of a team or group and secondly, as a result, you’ll need to go to meetings.
Teams and meetings are the essential tools of getting work done for an organisation. You can’t do it on your own and you have to talk to each other to know what’s going on, who’s doing what and where you fit in to the plan. It seems a tragedy or a crime, then, that meetings get such bad press. You have to do them but everyone cites them as a problem. Industry seems to be working with a broken tool and making life difficult for itself. Many people now take meeting malaise to be as inevitable as taxes and death, as unavoidable as gravity – that which cannot be cured must be endured
To make meetings matter means rethinking why the meeting is taking place and developing the skills, tools and techniques which make the processes of conversation and interaction work together to the best effect.
If we had to name one thing that makes meetings fail or falter before they start, we would choose the lack of an objective. It’s astounding how often people attend meetings in business without knowing what it is there to achieve and what will exist at the end of the process.
Objectives are the destination not the process. So saying what the meeting will be about does not do the job. The objective must be clear about what will be on the table or in existence at the end of the process. This is the meeting’s purpose, its reason for existence.
A frequently used acronym for objectives is SMART. Many attribute this to Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives approach first popularized by Peter Drucker in his 1954 book The Practice of Management.
The first published use of the SMART acronym seems to be somewhat later. The November 1981 issue of Management Review contained a paper by George T. Doran called “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives”. It discussed the importance of objectives and the difficulty of setting them.
“How do you write meaningful objectives?’- that is, frame a statement of results to be achieved, Managers are confused by all the verbal from seminars, books, magazines, consultants, and so on. Let me suggest therefore, that when it comes to writing effective objectives, corporate officers, managers, and supervisors just have to think of the acronym SMART. Ideally speaking, each corporate, department and section objective should be SMART:
Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
Assignable – specify who will do it.
Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.”
Our view is that SMART is useful but it doesn’t seem to make managers write better objectives for meetings. The A and R are the most commonly changed letters in the acronym and the most common variant seems to be Achievable and Realistic which then sparks a debate on what the difference is between those two terms.
Perhaps it’s worth noting that Doran also said in the same article:
“It should also be understood that the suggested acronym doesn’t mean that every objective written will have all five criteria.”
If meeting organisers, facilitators and attendees at least get Specific, Measurable and Time-related for their stated meeting objective that’s a dramatic improvement on the examples we’ve seen and worked with over the years.
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Once objectives are clear it’s important to focus on what goes on in the meeting itself. We teach facilitators, influencers, negotiators and leaders Behavioural Intelligence. This is Emotional Intelligence in action – noticing what is going on and consciously choosing the next thing to say or do.
Meetings and interactions at work are one of the places where this behavioural skill is most important and relevant. Behavioural intelligence or managing behaviour is about raising awareness, so that you notice your own and others’ behaviour, and make conscious decisions about it.
In ClearWorth, we rate Behavioural Intelligence as one of the most important things for anyone to learn in business. We use a model developed from Neil Rackham’s Behavioural Analysis to help leaders, managers, facilitators and negotiators improve their behavioural skills.
There are four classes of behaviour, and you need to learn to spot these in yourself and others. Each of these behavioural classes has its purpose, and each breaks down into four or fewer behaviours.
20 Behaviours to Make Meetings More Effective
Initiating – Getting things moving, or keeping things moving
Making Proposals – Putting forward a suggestion for consideration
Seeking Proposals – Encouraging others to put forward suggestions
Building – Extending or developing another’s proposal
Directing – Issuing an instruction to one or more members of the group.
Clarifying – Increasing your own or others’ understanding
Giving Information – Providing facts, data or opinions to others
Seeking Information – Seeking facts, data, opinions from others
Summarising – Restating in brief, the content of previous discussions
Testing Understanding – Establishing whether or not something is understood.
Reacting – Evaluating others’ contributions and responding
Disclosing – Describing your own feelings in relation to a proposal or the situation
Supporting – Declaring agreement or support for another’s proposals or thinking
Disagreeing – Stating disagreement or objection to another’s proposals or thinking
Attack/Defend – Attacking others or defensively strengthening your position with “put downs”.
Controlling – Managing the flow of information
Bringing In – Inviting contributions from others who are not actively participating
Shutting Out – Excluding others, or reducing their opportunity to contribute.
These are not skills; you can already do them. The skill is in noticing what’s needed and consciously deciding to do a specific behaviour from the list not just reacting from your gut or letting your emotions take over. Teaching this list and the concept of Behavioural Intelligence to teams, groups, boards of directors, leaders, managers and meeting facilitators has dramatically reduced the amount of time taken in meetings and improved the outcomes or end results.
Copy the list of behaviours and check which ones happen most or least in your meetings.