Have you ever rolled your eyes and silently steamed as individuals dominate, drone on endlessly, and talk over one another? Have you left meetings wondering what on earth was that about? How often have you known both you and others have more to contribute yet don’t get the chance?
What enables people to make their best contribution succinctly in meetings?
Astonishingly, many people don’t know how to contribute in meetings. Leaders leading meetings blur the power structures unless they use a process for participation (P4P).
What is this? P4P provides frameworks and proposes a process for participants eliciting their experience and expertise.
This is the opposite of presenting an idea and asking for feedback. Craig presents the decision document on a new product. He’d put his hand up two months earlier and had loved getting the document ready. He presents his prototype and says, “I’d like your feedback on what is here so far.” To his horror, Liam took the lead, criticizing the premise of the product saying it would compete with the most successful product his group had. Linda spoke at length on a key customer’s positive response to current products. Jim asked “Why did we decide to invest in this new product?” Craig’s heart sank realizing his work of the past two months might well be lost.
What is wrong with asking for ‘feedback?’
- There is little or no context for contributing, other than contributing something.
- Participants don’t know what aspect of their experience or expertise is relevant.
- In their longing to be relevant, some people over-participate.
Two things to ensure the best participation in meetings
- Begin any agenda item with a purpose and or outcome. This shapes the context for participants. Is your item to give a direction or to provide information. Do you want a group decision, or do you want to have something new implemented?
- Craft specific thoughtful questions related to the outcome you want to draw out the experience and expertise of group members.
Leadership teams thrive when leaders share their ideas, experience and expertise.
- Jenny presented the corporate team with a direction; all incoming calls were to be in Te Reo, the indigenous language. She provided two scripts; one brief, and the second fuller. She asked her colleagues, “Let’s hear from each of you, the timing for implementation for your business unit and what help you need from my team.”
- Mark presents a policy paper which will shift interest rates for investments. He asks, ‘Firstly, let’s hear from each of you how confident you are that this will achieve what we want, then let’s hear from each of you what risks you see we need to address before this goes live.’
- Anna is working with stakeholders in a controversial and long-standing matter. The diverse views create a tense atmosphere. She comments, ‘We have a range of views around the table. What is needed for us to proceed? We have common ground in that we all want to find a resolution. Let’s hear from each of you, the main roadblock that needs to be addressed from your point of view for us to proceed.” She then summarizes, and says, “There are at least four themes in our responses. I propose we address each of these.” After this discussion, Anna says, “I propose we hear from everyone here, share one action you will take that will progress our current situation.”
Create purposeful invitations
Invite meeting participants to contribute with a clear process so their position, abilities and experience is appreciated. They become disciplined in their response and participation. These meeting create tough discussions, yet vitality and progress are the core experience leaders have in these meetings.
Leaders experience their contributions are being wisely assessed, and those leading these meetings are satisfied the outcomes being sought are achieved.
How might you hone your ability to get the best contributions from participants in your meetings?