OK, so you're meeting with a handful of colleagues. And you've even done the requisite pruning to coax the collective into making the big decision--and yet by the time the meeting's over, nothing got done.
Writing for HBR, Schaffer Consulting managing partner Ron Ashkenas details that there's more happening here than meets the eye:
meetings are not simply logical business mechanisms, but are also social systems that are embedded in the cultural and emotional reality of an organization. This means that whoever runs a meeting also has to take into consideration a number of non-rational dynamics that aren't covered in the standard meeting manuals.
This is something easy to grasp at a conceptual level--yes, meetings are filled with human mammals--but hard to make a personal conviction. To do so requires a lot of emotional intelligence, which probably didn't get covered in school.
Thankfully, Ashkenas supplies us with a taxonomy of the unconscious factors affecting a meeting. Essentially, everybody bring their own bundle of consciousness into the conference room, and consciousness is a murky, fantastic, weird thing. He helps us to be conscious of the following:
- For some people, it'll be a high priority; for others, it's just on the calendar
- Some will be prepped, some will phone it in
- Some will care a lot, some couldn't care less
- Being in a meeting can be a status symbol, so folks join without contributing
- Meetings can be "much-needed social gatherings" for distributed teams, so a lot of time is spent catching up
- Some people like to be lead, others will bristle at the thought
- Some managers will take charge, others will waiver
So what are we to do? If you understand that all these storylines are afoot, Ashkenas notes, then you'll have a better time attending to them and directing the actions into actually getting things done. A well-run meeting, then, requires a fair bit of mindfulness.
Hat tip: HBR
[Image: Flickr user Antony Mayfield]