How well are your meetings functioning? Through this series of articles I have been highlighting the many factors that must be considered for your meetings to go well. When conducting your meetings there are several participation pitfalls that your meeting facilitator should help you avoid.
Are You Seeing Your Role in the Wrong Way?
The most serious meeting participation pitfall is the leader who wants to give the answers to everyone in the room. Don't get me wrong - there are times when we need answers from the senior leader, but those times should be rare. Great leaders see that their role in the meeting is to ask the right questions and to listen to the ideas of their team. They realize there are many ways to do things, and there is rarely only one right answer. They put big ideas on the table, ask difficult questions, and get the team to debate those ideas. Once they have heard everyone's point of view, they can then combine their team's input with their own opinions to make the best decisions possible, given the circumstances. The leader's job is to access the brains of the team, not to be the team's brain.
Do You Tend To Jump Into Problem-Solving Mode Too Quickly?
Another common mistake I see in meetings is the tendency to jump too quickly into problem-solving mode. As soon as a meeting participant raises an issue, concern, or problem, everyone moves too quickly to find a solution or provide an answer. The value of having multiple people available is to first determine which is the real problem to solve. The best tool participants can bring is the ability to ask great questions. Presenters consciously or unconsciously often leave out important information that the other participants need to know. Once these missing facts are uncovered, you may find that there is a more fundamental or broader issue to solve than the original symptom that was mentioned at the onset.
Is Everyone's Contribution Heard?
Another common meeting participation pitfall is failure of the leader of the meeting to make sure that everyone gets involved in the discussion. There are a few dimensions to this issue.
Failure to Voice Your Opinions, Questions, and Concerns. If you do not contribute, you have wasted your time and everyone else's. Everyone has something to contribute. Failure to speak up begs the question "why are you in this meeting." It is important that leaders recognize the people in the room that have lower self-confidence and tend to defer to others and make sure to access their brain power. For many people, failure to speak in meetings did not mean they did not have a lot of value to bring. The leader's job is to make sure to get that value.
Over-contributing. Have you ever attended a meeting where there is person who has to have their opinion heard on every point? They hog up all the talk time! These people seem to love to hear their own voice and think that because they are talking they are the smartest and most valuable people in the room. These people need to be taught to give others a chance to speak and have limits set for the amount of time they are permitted to speak.
Active Listening. It is important to identify what is not being said. Watching people's body language, listening to tone, and understanding why they say what they do is many times more important than what they say. The words people use comprise just 7% of communication. A good leader is actively listening during the meeting. This helps ensure that when decisions are made and plans are set that everyone is committed.
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