We often hear and tell others that communication is the glue that keeps us together whether that be among teams, businesses, organizations or couples. Just what is this glue we are talking about?
The process of communications has many dimensions. We learn about techniques for listening, talking, writing and understanding body language but, as important as these are, they don’t get to the shadow behind communications.
A shadow projects our image when a light shines upon it. Sometimes the shadow is distorted and other times it clearly outlines the shape of our body. A shadow follows us around and is often attached to us in some way. And, there are times when we can identify someone just by seeing his or her shadow.
How does all this relate to communication? When people communicate with each other they hear words, see body language, hear tone of voice but often don’t understand the shadow behind the expressions. The shadow is the profile of the person out of which communication is filtered. That shadow reflects the make-up of the person.
When we communicate, we communicate out of the context of who we are. Who we are is continually informed by our culture, family, positive and negative experiences, education, religion, relationships and so on. This is the backdrop or the shadow from which we communicate. In turn those who we communicate with also have their own shadow which continually informs them.
When we think about communication in this context - outside of the technical aspects of listening and speaking, as well as the sensory aspects of hearing, seeing, smelling and touching - we can begin to appreciate some of the difficulties we have when we communicate with others.
At times we express our frustrations, either directly or indirectly such as “I don’t know where you are coming from” or “I just don’t understand your point of view,” or “why don’t you understand.” One of the factors underlying why we don’t understand relates to the shadow. Particularly if that shadow is not similar to our own.
Perhaps our communications with others would improve if we took the time to understand “where the person is coming from” - to try and understand what is going on within the person's communication shadow? This means taking the time to learn and reflect upon the person's shadow and how it impacts the way we communicate with each other. This is the basis for empathetic communication - we begin to walk in the other’s shadow for a while, and in turn share our own shadow with them. At the root, we get to know others as individuals and they get to know us in the same way
Understanding an individual's communication shadow is extremely important given today's diverse workforce. Most businesses are populated with people who come from a variety of cultures. They are often expected to immediately fit into our businesses and organizations without us spending the necessary time to appreciate the milieu from which they gained most of their first experiences.
This unknowing complicates our communication. And, that complication may find its expression in several ways, such as: misunderstanding words, gestures, family practices, and religion, or, not accounting for awful experiences as a result of war, poverty, persecution or discrimination.
So how do we uncover the shadow of our colleagues, employees, bosses, friends and associates? Here are a few hints:
Find opportunities to explore each other's shadow such as when you are with other person:
Our communication shadow is with us daily and is behind every conversation we have with others. Shine a light on yourself so that you can understand it and don’t be afraid to share it with others. It just may be the opening you need to understand and appreciate your co-worker, employee, friend or partner.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie, MSW, FCMC
It sounds strange but we do need resistance if we want to change. Resistance is that force which pushes against moving ahead. Yet without resistance we will unlikely go forward. Positive resistance to change uses force to propel us forward, negative resistance to change uses force to push us back or hold us in a place where we don't move forward or backward. During the change process there is always force to push us forward and counter force to push us backward or to remain in a static position.
Whenever we problem solve we also experience force and counter force, because solving problems is all about change. A problem is usually something that gets us stuck in time and somehow we need to resolve it in order to move forward.
When we attempt to resolve problems we often use "push" force to move forward and when there is resistance, a counter force or push back, we attempt to remove the resistance by more push force. This pushing may erupt into physical clashes or angry outbursts. Great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, based on Gandhi's example, changed the resistant dynamic by countering physical push force with peaceful "pull" force.
Our sphere of influence isn’t like that of Gandhi or King, but it is important none the less. Most of us are wrapped up in small to medium size businesses or organizations where people often resist change. Resistance to change plays out when a new leader enters an organization with a different vision for its success than the prevailing one; or when there is a slump in the marketplace and drastic change strategies are needed for the business to survive; or when an organization's Board gives direction to shake up the organization because in its view the organization is stagnant, atrophied or no longer meets current market place realities.
One approach to resistance is the use of "dictatorial" push force. In such instances we hear statements, often based on fear tactics, that go something like this: "you better change or you no longer work here," or, "let's move resisters to innocuous positions," or, "let's make things as uncomfortable as possible so that people leave." This method is based on dual thinking: it's "my way or the highway." In essence it's an either-or proposition. There's no third way - there's no breakthrough thinking about alternative ways to deal with resistance.
It appears from a distance that this type of dictatorial force is emerging within in the Trump administration. The same "push" force is experienced in smaller organizations where employees are displaced or moved out in an undignified manner. In these situations I have even heard language similar to that used in war such as, "they are casualties" or "we have a lot of collateral damage."
There may be times, however, when the force of "push" is necessary. In these circumstances "push" methods should maintain the dignity and respect of those being pushed while at the same time maintain the integrity and ethical standards of those doing the pushing. One CEO I know calls this "benevolent" force.
In a previous article I suggested that the skills for breakthrough thinking as it pertains to problem solving include empathetic listening, patience and dialogue. These same skill sets are also key to implementing "pull" strategies.
My preferred approach views resistance as an opportunity to find a third path arising not as an either/or choice, but as a way to resolve the problem using a balanced push-pull force. A balanced approach suggests combining the "benevolent push" force with the "pull" force ,or, using them in "tandem." However, there are situations when it's best to use the forces separately. In other words, I mostly "pull", other times I benevolently "push" and still others I use "push-pull" forces in tandem. Moving through resistance in this way isn't easy but it does generate positive engagement and buy-in from those affected with far fewer "casualties," while at the same time supports the dignity, respect and integrity of everyone involved.
Questions to ponder: Do you understand "push" and "pull" as methods of "force" when dealing with resistance? What is your experience regarding "push" and "pull" forces when you encounter resistance in resolving organizational or personal problems? Should we use "push" and "pull" methods deferentially? Are there times when "push" should be the preferred method of force? If so, how should we use it?
Let me know what you think.
Many years ago, I learned that we solve problems not by focusing on opposites but by finding opportunities for breakthrough solutions. We often think in two-way or duality terms such as an "I'm right, your wrong mentality." One solution to this dual thinking is to pose a win-win solution. That somewhere between the two positions there must be a middle. The result usually means each gives up something to obtain a resolution, and in finding that resolution each loses something in the transaction. The other solution to the win-win scenario is win-lose, or lose-lose. I win, you lose or we both lose. In these situations, we go head to head and negotiate a middle ground, lose, win or walk away.
Win-win, win-lose, lose-lose are strategies where people often leave the situation feeling unsettled. They give up something to gain something, or don't give up at all. In a breakthrough resolution approach, we are not thinking with a win-win mentality, we are thinking opportunity, something new, a third dimension or a new creative outcome. For breakthrough solutions to reach full fruition dialogue, collaboration, empathetic listening and transparency of thought are necessary.
Finding breakthrough solutions belies the more conventional approach of individual competitiveness. Rather than competing, a breakthrough approach relies on mutuality and collaborative effort. The process of coming to a solution each empowers the other. In this way, a solution benefits both while at the same time expresses something new. A new entity arises from the two positions but different from them.
If we can resolve problems using this method perhaps we can begin to transform injustices in our workplaces, engender greater respect for each other, strengthen mutual high regard, and in the end, find more enduring solutions.
To become "breakthrough" champions we need to learn how to become less selfish and egotistical, or another way of putting it, we will need to learn how to become more adult in our approach and less of the righteous and petulant adolescent.
One of the keys to breakthrough thinking is to blank out the way we usually solve problems. Rather than framing a situation from one's point of view as a position to defend we suspend all judgement and approach it with new set of lenses. We look for mutual opportunity without the resistance of personal positioning.
Does this mean we suspend our experience? After all, we are who we are based on our experience - it forms our world view about how we approach others and our problems. The short answer is no. It is how we frame the situation and our response that becomes the basis of our breakthrough. An example of this often occurs in meetings when people say such things as 'this is the way we handled this issue in the past," or "we tried that back in 2002, and it didn't work." This is not breakthrough thinking, this is rear view mirror thinking.
Breakthrough thinking draws on our experience without specific reference to the past and looks for new opportunities in the present that will lead to a better outcome in the future. Too many good solutions get shelved because people shut off the flow of creative thinking by dwelling on the past rather than using that experience to explore opportunities which lead to solving today's problems.
When we seek a breakthrough solution we don't think in dualistic terms such as right and wrong, black and white, this way or that way, but rather in triangular or ternary terms. What flows from this and that, black and white, right and wrong, past and future, produces a third opportunity. What flows from black and white is gray, neither black nor white; what flows from right and wrong is situational choice based on conscientious discernment, and what flows from past and leads to the future is the wisdom of the present. Each is a distinct entity different and unique from the other, but flows from the energy of the two to make a third opportunity or result.
At times breakthrough thinking seems to come from a force outside ourselves. It is one of those "ah, ah moments," where a bolt of creativity strikes, and we ask, "where did that come from?" It presents itself not in dualistic terms but as something new and fresh. It may be a result of our subconscious working on the issue, or may be a force beyond ourselves, which many refer to as their Spiritual Source. It is Archimedes in the bathtub or Mary in the last meeting who said, " I just had a unique idea that I think will break our log jam."
It is not easy to arrive at a breakthrough because we seem to be wired to think in opposites and defend our positions rather than seek a third, different course. It takes discipline, energy, collaborative effort and a mutual commitment to go beyond our present world view.
Let's take a couple of typical examples from my own consulting practice:
One of the challenges with breakthrough solutions is that it leads to change because the solution is different from what exists; and this is the rub, because people are often resistant to change (see articles on change). However, if they are engaged in finding a breakthrough the change is embraced as a natural flow from the solution; if they are not engaged then preparatory work is necessary. An edict will not work but a process of open communication, encouragement, empathetic listening and engagement from the ground up will.
What to do: Breakthrough solutions are not always easy, nor are they always possible. However, if we strive in good faith to seek solutions outside of our constricted thinking we may discover better solutions, or at least be clearer about the problem at hand and possible opportunities they present. In any event when approaching breakthrough solutions:
Keep ego in check.
Be open to all possibilities.
Listen deeply and empathetically
Communicate and collaborate openly.
Wait for, and discover together, the "Ah!Ah!" moment.
Prepare self through meditation and work with others unselfishly.
Think opportunity, not in dualistic terms but in third-way and creative terms.
Boris (not his real name) a client of mine found that he was always behind. He was constantly responding to interruptions and getting off task. He was forgetting to follow up on requests, waking up at night with things he was supposed to do and didn't. He was trying to keep a list of all his activities in his rapidly failing memory bank.
One of the exercises most successful people do is to take ten minutes at the end of the work day to examine how their day went and to plan for the next day. They review what they did and what they didn’t do. They then look at tomorrow and see what is on their task list and what they need to carry over from their today's incomplete list. Having set their list of tasks they then put them in order of priority and tackle the most important ones first thing in the morning. Oh, one more thing, they make sure their priority tasks are linked to their overall goals.
This is a simple exercise but it works. It keeps us focused on the important and not on the urgent and ensures that we are marching toward our goals and objectives. It is not always easy to keep "on task" because of the numerous interruptions we have during the day, but having the task list in front of us will keep us on track.
What to do: Take ten minutes at the end of the day and look back. Complete the exercise described above and add some more ingredients like: Think about what good you did, what good you could’ve done and the things you could've avoided. Ask: Do I procrastinate on certain tasks? Why didn't I complete this task? Can I do it tomorrow? Is it a real priority? Did I serve an employee, colleague, or customer with a positive attitude? Can I do better tomorrow. Now look ahead and reset your priorities.
By the way when Boris began tracking and planning his activities he slept better, didn't need to be reminded about what he forgot, and actually produced more in a day with less stress
Want to learn more: Consider one of Priority Management's programs at: www.prioritymanagement.com ; read a good book on time management - I found David Allen's book "Getting Things Done" to be a good resource.
Revised from the Archives of Fontanie Learning Solutions.
Note: Image from Microsoft Clip Art
From time to time leadership teams are faced with a major strategic decision to reduce and redirect dollars and human resources to meet a major downturn in the marketplace. Let's take the scenario where they don't want to let staff go, nor do they want to shift their services away from what they know what works and what made them successful. Revenue is dwindling fast and if they don’t do something soon they know they will be attending one of those dreaded meetings with their banker.
If you are in this position it is time to take a surgeon’s look at all your policies, processes and procedures. Engage your key management personnel in finding ways to do more with less. Your task is to map out everything and measure it against your overall strategic direction. In today’s parlance this would be akin to LEAN, - when we did this we called it "Finding Efficiency." Your overall strategy is to find the savings to weather the storm without terminating employees. One way to accomplish this is to follow a rigorous decision-making process with the following steps:
Finally, make sure that the decisions you make accomplish the results you intended. So evaluate the results on a quarterly basis and “tweak” the decision to meet new conditions as they arise. Here is what I found when companies did this: the economic storm was weathered and the company moved ahead with an improved bottom line which allowed them to keep their valuable people and improve services to their customers in the long term.
From the archives, Fontanie Learning Solutions
We have plenty of opportunity to fritter away precious time in our places of work.
We allow noisy interruptions such as someone knocking on our door and asking, "You got a minute?" to leaving the "sound" on that lets us know that an email has arrived. We also allow silent ones like having little sticky notes on our walls or on our computers and loading our virtual or physical desk top with files, folders and notes. All of these interrupters take us away from our most important priority of the moment. We get further behind and then claim we are "overloaded" with work. Perhaps we fail to realize that every time we are interrupted we lose about 8 minutes of time. Why? Because our mind needs to disengage from what we are doing, deal with the interruption, and then reengage back to the task at hand.
What to do:
Set aside quiet time to work on your most important items. Some companies have established a policy for their employees not to interrupt their colleagues for the first hour of the day. That time is set aside for them to work on their most important priorities. Failing a company policy, make an appointment with yourself. Guard it just like any other appointment and close your door or put a 'do not disturb' sign on the door or doorway, letting others know that you are busy.. When you have completed that important task you can then remove the 'do not disturb' sign and give the person the attention they deserve.
Break the multitasking myth: Many people think they are good at multitasking. The truth is, they are not. It is estimated that only 2% of the population can multitask without loss of productivity or personal energy. This suggests that for the 98% of us who think we can improve our productivity by multitasking, in reality we are reducing it. Studies show that multitasking increases mistakes, slows down productivity by as much as 40%, dampens creativity, increases stress, impacts relationships negatively (think people viewing their cell phone messages while talking to others), and can place us in very dangerous situations (think driving and texting). The answer to multitasking is to focus on one thing at a time, or at least work on similar things consecutively, e.g. pay all bills at one time, even in this case we can only pay one bill at a time
Control Cell Phone Usage. Related to multitasking is the misuse of cell phones. Cell phones give us a sense that we can do many things at once, but frankly they can be a huge distraction at work. Consider those who check their phones in meetings, text under the desk, hide their phones in files and folders during a meeting, have their phones on during meal time, maintain personal social networking while employed, and look things up on their cell phone rather than on their employer's computer because it would not be considered appropriate. Cell phones can be a great tool to affirm relationships, improve productivity and be a mini-computer in our hand; but, they also can be great time wasters and a cause for discourtesy and disrespect if we don't manage them properly. The issue here is one of self-discipline where we need to manage cell phone usage rather than allowing it to manage us.
Commit time for sleep and rest. We now know that if we are sleep deprived we can expect less productivity and more on the job accidents and mistakes. Improve both your efficiency and effectiveness by getting the appropriate amount of sleep.
Delegate but make sure you delegate appropriately. Delegate the "what" and leave the "how" to the delegatee. His or her "how" may actually improve your "how." If so, both you and the members of your team have gained. Of course if the person doesn't know "how" to do the task then coaching is necessary - yet another learning opportunity has presented itself.
Turn off the "sound" your email makes when it lands in the inbox. If you use Microsoft Outlook go to your inbox, open the tab "tools." and click options. Under email click "email options" and then click "advanced email options" and unclick "play a sound." Presto another interruption disappears.
Commit specific time for your email. Go to your email three or four times a day and at a time when you can respond to the messages. This way you can give due attention to the email rather than being interrupted by it.
Set aside time for energy breaks and physical exercise. A vehicle can't run without fuel and must have the right fuel to run. It also needs regular maintenance if it's to operate at top efficiency. So too we need proper food, fluids and physical activity if we expect to function at our best.
Learn to say "no, I don't have a minute right now." Ask how important the issue is and if its really important you may have to take the minute. However, I have found that most people who ask "got a minute?" don't have important and urgent matters that require immediate attention. Let them solve the issue themselves and have them report later on how they handled it. You can then praise them for a job well done or turn it into a learning opportunity for them.
Work on your priorities and commitments throughout the day. Before you leave the office take 10 to 15 minutes to plan for tomorrow, record your achievements, prioritize and reschedule the tasks left unfinished, and thank those that helped you succeed during the day. Then go home relaxed knowing that you have done your best. When you wake up in the morning you will have a plan of action ready rather then asking yourself that profound question: "What am I suppose to do today?"
The Learning: When we apply one or two of these strategies each week they help us to: become self-leaders through focus and self-discipline, take ownership of our responsibilities, be accountable for our actions, improve relationships, become more productive, and respect our own and each other's resource we call time.
Thanks for reading
Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC Updated from Fontanie Learning Solutions Archives
Knowledge is the first step to learning but to take that knowledge and do something with it moves us to action and that is the first step to change. Every day we have numerous experiences. Take one of those experiences and identify in some detail what actually happened during that experience. Clarify ways to improve next time; and then make a call to action - do something - act to change a behaviour, add a strategy to overcome an obstacle, or reset priorities to match core values. What ever it is - learn from the experience and develop positive actions to improve.
When we use this method of learning we turn every day occurrences into learning opportunities.
We make learning continuous when we open our mind to it. A 76 year old can be just as excited about learning something new as a young child. That's why some people say they will never retire. They are always open to new possibilities.
What someone thought they knew about themselves or something thirty years ago often pales in light of what they know today. The "knowing" today is often deeper and has many more dimensions than 30 years ago.
What to do:
At the end of each day take a few moments to identify a positive or a problem experience that happened during that day, reflect on what happened during that experience, clarify ways to improve and then jot down an action for improvement. Put that action in your to do list for the next day.
Remember: “Learning and change are inseparable friends”
Listening is so fundamental to our communication process that we can easily take it for granted. Unless one has extremely limited interaction with people the opportunities for listening abound in the workplace. We need to listen up when a customer is front of us or on the telephone, or when someone comes to us with a problem or a solution, or when we are coaching an employee, or when ______ (you fill in the blank). Every time we encounter an individual our listening antenna needs to go up.
There are five levels of listening behaviors with level one being the most comprehensive.
Level One: These are the people who listen to understand all the communication signals of the speaker - the tone, emotions, body language and technical elements and even what is being said behind the words. They are the ones who send off the signal: "I am listening intently so that I can walk a mile in your shoes." They are the "empathetic listeners." They are the ones who hold eye contact and listen deeply.
Level Two: This listening behavior tends to be more "factual and technical". These people have an ear for factual information, sometimes at the expense of "feelings" or "emotions". They are often called the "objective listeners."
Level Three: At level three we have the "selective listeners" or those who listen to confirm their point of view or pick out only what they want to hear. They listen only for the elements of the discussion that they are in agreement with and often miss the whole point of the conversation.
Level Four: Here we have the "pretenders." They give the impression they are listening but are often doing something else. For example we can "hear' these people when we are speaking with them over the telephone and they are busy working away on something else; or when we are making a presentation and they are gazing at us like deer caught in the headlights, or texting, or reading their e-mail - all the while nodding their heads to give the impression that they are listening.
Level Five: You guessed it - they are the "ignorers." They are not listening at all, which when we really think about it may be an "oxymoron."
To listen well we need to develop strong listening habits. Here are the four basic rules for strengthening a good listening habit:
1. Hear what is being said - this means giving undivided attention to the person who is speaking.
2. Understand what we have heard - this means clarifying what is said by asking questions,
3. Interpret our understanding of what was said. -this means the rationalization process of quickly putting into context our understanding of what was said.
4. Recap or paraphrase our understanding of what was said - this means repeating in your own words our understanding of what is said.
Remember all communications are perceived but 70% to 90% are screened out or changed by the person who perceives them. If you want to improve your listening habits consider this learning opportunity "Priority Influencing" at http://www.prioritymanagement.com/ and check out an office near you.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie MSW. FCMC Updated from the archives of Fontanie Learning Solutions.
The first conundrum about time management is that we can’t manage time. We can only manage ourselves within the time that we have. Time marches on, tick by tick, without us or without our awareness. The second conundrum is that it takes discipline to manage oneself.
Self-discipline is that elusive quality that forces us to keep to task and to keep on focus. It is elusive because we often want to do something else rather than do what we know we need to do. We let our emotions take over, or do something easier than what we know we should do, or, if we are honest, we are lazy and just don’t want to do it. We give in to our weaknesses, feelings and temptations. We lose the will-power and self-restraint to keep on focus and task. This is why, with all our good intentions, we don’t do what we should do within the time that we have.
The first element in managing the time we have then is to manage our selves – to become strong-willed self managers, to become self-disciplined individuals. Once we understand that this is what keeps us on focus and task we can then put the other elements together.
In organizations, we have the big picture – the strategic intent of the organization or of the business. It is spelled out in the vision, mission, goals and values statements. From this big picture teams and individuals establish work plans with specific measurable objectives. These objectives are often called SMART objectives. They are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Trackable. The objectives are the specific “what” of what we are to accomplish. They are the major “dos” for us to do. This strategic intent gives us our focus for our work.
From big picture focus, comes work. Work is the “doing” of the objectives. It is translated into our roles and responsibilities. It finds itself in our day-to-day activities – answering telephones and emails, writing emails, inputting data on computers, meeting people, making sales calls, writing letters, documenting calls, completing specific administrative tasks to get the work done – all related to our specific roles and responsibilities. This is our daily work.
When we look at our work objectively we see that what we do is all related to building relationships with others. So, the key to our work is building relationships. However, in doing all this work we are constantly making decisions about what to do. Each time a telephone call or email comes in, or when we are asked to complete a task, or attend a meeting we make decisions about what we are going to do concerning the request, directive, or conversation.
As we make the decision, we give it a level of priority. We ask ourselves four questions: 1) Is it important and urgent? If it is important and urgent, I must do it now. We give this item an “A” priority. 2) Is it important and non-urgent? It is important but I have time to do it later. If so, this also becomes an “A” priority because it is important. 3) Is it urgent but not important? If it is urgent and not important perhaps someone else can do it. Or, if we can’t delegate it to someone, it becomes my “B” priority. I will do it when I can fit it in my day. But remember we still must complete the task. 4) Is it not-important and not urgent? If so then it is something we can delete or not do.
In the process of making these four decisions we are deciding to “Do it now,” “Do it later,” “Delegate it to someone else,” “Defer it to another time,” or Delete it altogether. Ah, the all important “Delete Button.” A button people often forget is on their key board and in their head. Use it when necessary.
When we go about our work there are things we do that are not related to a specific decision as described above. They are related to a multitude of tasks and activities. These are assigned to projects. Projects have many tasks and activities but within each task or activity we need to go through the same decision-making process. So, although a project has many tasks and activities, each one is assigned a priority as well as to when and who will carry it out.
As we go about our day, there are unscheduled interruptions – those dastardly activities that interrupt our thought processes and activities. They may be more important than the priority we are working on, or they may not be. So, we are back in the decision-making process. How important is the interruption and when should I complete it? Or, should I delete it?
The final context of managing self during work time, is the evaluation process. At the end of the day we review what we have accomplished during the day. As we accomplish a task we check it off. Those we didn’t complete because of unscheduled interruptions, we decide when we should do it. Will it be the next day or later?
When it’s time to close the day – the last ten to fifteen minutes of the work day – it’s time to plan for tomorrow. That’s when we review the day’s accomplishments, prioritize tasks for the next day and set time frames when we intend to complete them.
At week’s end or month’s end we look at all the completed items on our list and measure them against our over-all strategic intent and determine whether we are on target, what has taken us off focus and what are we going to do about it. The evaluation process is a great way to maintain focus on the big picture and making sure our work is moving towards the end in which it is intended.
Keeping self-management in relation to time in context, and following a process of decision-making, prioritizing tasks, checking off completed tasks, determining when to complete unfinished tasks and evaluating our work against our strategic intent will keep us focused, on-point and give us a sense of accomplishment. We can say not “what did I accomplish today?” but “I accomplished these things.” The result is a positive reinforcement of what we do and provides us a greater sense of self-worth.
A great program to get back into control is offered by Priority Management within its Working Sm@rt program. You can find it here.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC
Meetings are pervasive throughout industry, business, government and our private lives. The corporate and government world spends millions of dollars on meetings and it is estimated that one third of those dollars are wasted. We waste millions because we don't run meetings well, the wrong people attend, the team leader isn't in control, the agenda isn't clear and participants don't engage sufficiently to make sound decisions. Along with these process and procedure failings are the indirect costs associated with travel time, facilities, materials, lost productivity, lost sales, and general operating costs.
The good news is that we can do something about this waste. We can strengthen our skills to run effective meetings.
Meetings have several purposes. They are required to inform, persuade, influence, instruct, stimulate and ultimately to make decisions. Make sure you are clear on why you are calling participants together for a meeting.
There are six important tasks one should complete before calling a meeting. They include: clarifying your objectives for the meeting – in other words clarify why are you calling the meeting in the first place in one to three statements; deciding who should attend and when they should attend; preparing the agenda so that it clearly indicates which item is for decision, information or action; scheduling the meeting including the date, time for each agenda item, and the expected end time for the meeting; and arranging for the physical setting, ensuring there is sufficient seating, proper room set up, and appropriate technology for presentations, and don't forget the coffee and juices.
As a meeting facilitator or meeting leader, you have several important functions. Here are seven to keep in mind:
As a facilitator/leader, not only do you have these seven functions to juggle you also have several group relations functions to fulfill as well. These include:
Encouraging: Drawing others into the conversation by helping them to express themselves and contribute to the team or group.
Empathizing: Being sensitive to interests, concerns, ambitions, frustrations and other group emotional reactions.
Harmonizing: Contributing as a peacemaker by smoothing out interpersonal clashes and moving unproductive behaviour to productive behaviour.
Modifying: Changing your opinion when facts warrant it. Remember you can’t change others opinions, only your own. You can give people the opportunity to change their thinking, but only they will do so and not because you said so.
Gatekeeping: Keeping the channels of communication open. In any group setting there are several channels of communication operating at the same time, the leader/facilitator’s role is to keep those channels flowing.
Evaluating: Requesting the group to assess how well the meeting went and whether it met the objectives laid out at the beginning. This is important if you wish to incrementally improve your meetings.
The next time you are charged with facilitating or leading a meeting review this article and you may find your meetings more productive with less time wasted. Rather than hearing, “Oh no, not another meeting!’ maybe you will hear, “We get things done in our meetings, decisions are made and we know what to do after them.”