When you are on a two-lane road that slows to a crawl due to some inspection or check-point, and there’s a road that merges into your lane, do you notice how instinctively everyone will begin taking turns allowing cars into the flow of traffic? Admit it, you yield to the courtesy yourself and allow your fellow commuter to merge! Did anyone ever ASK you if you thought was a good idea to do such a thing? Did you participate in a survey where it was decided this is how you should behave? No, people just naturally fall into orderly processes if one naturally presents itself or others create one to facilitate orderly behavior.
The same concept applies to meetings. Left without a defined, repeatable, orderly process, at best nothing is accomplished, at worst, you’ve allowed chaos into your meeting, and an attitude of irritation to creep into your attendees minds. There are simple ways to create a natural process to help you herd the sheep. Before I list these tips, let me describe what I observe as the different types of meeting attendees:
- Wall flowers: Always sit in chairs flanking the walls of the conference room…and nearest the door if possible
- Mixologists: They see the world from different perspectives, don’t always provide answers–but ask good questions
- Historians: Interrupt to tell you “how it was done” 20 years ago, and why its important to keep doing the same
- Radio Broadcasters: Always in transmit mode and just like to hear themselves talk
- Stealth Bombers: Hoard info and wait until after the meeting’s over to release their wealth of knowledge in the hallway
- Note takers and Doodlers: Always have pen to paper but you’re not quite sure “where” the notes end up
You can ensure that all of your meetings achieve desired outcomes by doing the following:
- Be deliberate with your invitations and invite only those who will contribute to your objective
- Create an agenda to achieve specific objectives
- Create name tents or place cards to seat attendees exactly where you want them based upon how you plan to steer the conversation
- Make sure all participants ideas/questions/comments are shared – NO wallflowers or stealth bombers allowed
- Make sure you have someone there to take notes (typist or shortand) who can post minutes on a shared content portal and distribute links to all attendees
- Ensure that open action items are followed up and details communicated to all attendees
Your reputation is at stake and it doesn’t take long before others recognize if they are successfully merging into a lane of productivity (contributing and being kept informed), or if there’s no point in participating week after week!
This post was made after reflecting upon personal experience of what does/doesn’t work. Leadership is an art, the herd will follow—they are just looking for a good sheppard.