W.A.I.T Why Am I Talking? – A Better Meeting Guide by Alan O’Rourke

We have all been at those meetings. The ones where people talk for the hell of it and without thinking. Before you know it the meeting is over and nothing is decided, much less discussed.

Less is definitely more when it comes to meetings. The smart people know what to say, when to say it and keep it concise.

Inspired by a note I spotted in the occupied office I have designed a handy flow chart for your meeting room that might keep things on track.

Find out more about Alan, see his flow chart on this topic, and reading more great content by following this link:  http://workcompass.com/w-a-i-t-why-am-i-talking-a-better-meeting-guide/



why am I talking

Break Your Addiction to Meetings


Manager, noun.

Textbook Definition: An individual who is in charge of a certain group of tasks, or a certain subset of a company. A manager often has a staff of people who report to him or her.

Modern Translation: An individual who races through the halls in a frantic attempt to make the next meeting on time while also answering e-mails on his or her mobile device.

A few of you may adhere to the textbook definition of “manager,” and if so, kudos to you. But most managers no longer have any time to manage the people who report to them.

If you’re a manager caught in the frustrating cycle of frequently canceling one-on-one’s, delegating poorly, and feeling out of touch with your team, you probably already feel bad enough. I’m not here to make you feel worse. But I do want to encourage you to start taking steps to not only fulfill your own responsibilities, but also to develop an awesome team. These strategies come from my time coaching work with managers on how to more effectively lead their teams — without working more hours.

You can’t give other people what you don’t have. So if you’re confused and scattered, your team will be too. You need to make time to get clear on what you want to achieve out of every interaction; this means spending more time on priorities, prep, and follow-up, and less time in meetings. Reducing your meeting time so you have more time to think strategically will require a group effort, but you can make it happen with some simple strategies.

First, reduce the number of meeting invitations you accept. Ask yourself whether you’ve fallen into the common trap of looking at your calendar as a popularity contest. Do you measure your value by how many meetings you’ve been invited to? Going to a lot of meetings may make you feel important, but it’s not a good way to allocate your time. Before accepting a meeting invite, ask yourself, “Do I really need to attend?” If the answer is “no,” decline the meeting or use one of these less time-intensive strategies:

Ask for a pre-meeting look at the agenda so you can pass on your comments to the facilitator to share. (Bonus: this may force the facilitator to actually make an agenda!)
Send someone else from your group to communicate your team’s position.
Request a copy of the meeting notes after the fact.

If you still struggle with feeling guilty or possessive about turning down any meeting requests, reframe the question this way: “If I was sick on the day of this meeting, would it need to be rescheduled?” If you answer, “No,” there’s a good chance you don’t need to attend. If you do need to go to quite a few meetings, but only to give strategic input, not to assist with tactical implementation, then request your part of the discussion happen at the beginning of the allotted time. Following that part, excuse yourself from the discussion.

Second, reduce the number of meetings you schedule — and reduce their length. Do you schedule meetings where you spend most of the time talking — perhaps giving “updates” to a room of people subtly checking their phones? Do you default to scheduling hour-long meetings (or longer)? If so, you need to reprogram your default response of “when in doubt, schedule a 60-minute meeting.”

Your new default should be to choose the least “costly” time investment that still accomplishes the end goal. Don’t schedule a meeting for something that you can solve in a phone call, and don’t make a phone call for something that can be communicated in an e-mail. If you must schedule meetings, challenge yourself to make them leaner. Try out 30-minute or even 15-minute meetings, and set a goal to finish early. If you find you consistently need more time, you can increase the meeting length in the future, but often with increased focus, you won’t need it.

Once you are modeling good meeting etiquette, ask your direct reports to follow good meeting procedure, too:

Don’t schedule meetings for FYI items that you can communicate via e-mail. Only use meetings for discussions and decisions that must happen with a team, in real time.
Send a clear agenda when you send the meeting invitation — not two minutes before the meeting — so it’s easier for everyone to tell whether they need to attend.

Designate someone to take thorough notes on the discussion, the decisions, and the rationale behind those conclusions. Circulate those to your manager, and anyone else who might need to be in the loop — but doesn’t need to come to the meeting.

Finally, keep your calendar clear by blocking in work time. Seize the freed-up time before it evaporates. As you transition from a reactive state to a proactive state, you might feel a little disoriented with all your new-found time. But now that your calendar isn’t so full of “busyness,” you can fill it up with actual business. Do so quickly, before work expands to fill the time available. Set aside time for e-mail, meeting prep, one-on-ones with direct reports, and strategic thinking time. Keep your commitments to yourself in the same way that you would with someone else so that you (and others) can trust you to get things done — and on time.

By cutting down on the number of meetings you’re in, you’ll free the people around you to make reasonable choices without always looking to you for input. That will automatically reduce the number of meetings you need to attend, and instill more confidence in your team. And if you’re using that time to shape strategy and set clear priorities, your team will make the right decisions — whether or not you’re in the room.


Here’s a decision-tree that you can use as an effective replacement strategy:


Why Consensus Doesn’t Work

When a group needs to make a decision, it is a common practice to seek consensus. We do this by asking people to vote. Building consensus is after all key in a democratic process. When you have a vote, in essence you “have a say” in the outcome. Even if the vote doesn’t go your way, you still had the privilege of having a voice.

Voting may be an effective way to elect someone into office. After all, you will rarely, if ever, get 100% of people voting to agree on any one candidate, or anything else for that matter. Besides, if everyone agreed there would be no need to even have a vote.

However, contrary to popular belief, voting is a terrible way to make decision by a team.

In fact, achieving consensus does not help teamwork or foster collaboration, but rather impedes it.

There are two fundamental reasons why…

1. Because the only people who own a decision made by a vote are those who voted with the majority opinion.

Everyone else gets to say I didn’t agree, which all too often results in behavior that undermines what needs to happen after the decision is made; and

2. Because the process of building consensus more often than not becomes about winning the debate at hand so you can get enough votes to prove you are right or your idea is the best one.

Unfortunately this tends to polarize people creating a camp of winners and a camp of losers, rather creating the sense that you are one team. Furthermore, when you are focused on winning, you are not inclined to learn from the opposing viewpoint. This is a big reason why an intelligent group of individuals does not necessarily function as an intelligent team.

It’s not that consensus is all bad. It has it’s place and purpose, but it isn’t enough if you want to function like a high performing team. Nor is pursuing agreement likely to help you leverage the collective intelligence of the individuals in any group.

So go ahead and use a consensus building process to get the opinions and issues on the table.

Use it to ensure everyone’s view is represented and help people understand the different points of views and options available.

Take a vote so you can “take the pulse” on where people stand.

Yet that is where the value in consensus building ends when it comes to making a decision that must be owned by every member of a team to succeed.

If you want everyone on the team to actually own a decision, you must shift the conversation from achieving consensus to building alignment. This requires that you shift your context and process from one of voting to gather agreement to one of choosing to align behind a shared commitment.

When you vote you simply declare your opinion. If the vote doesn’t go your way, you don’t have to pretend you agreed. If things don’t work out, you can reserve the right to blame “them” or say “I told you so”. Choosing, on the other hand, requires you to do the work necessary to be able to stand behind a decision as if you made that decision yourself. If things don’t work out the only place to look is in the mirror.

It is admittedly much harder to build alignment than it is to build consensus. In fact, It can be hard work for everyone involved, but it pays dividends when it comes to doing the hard work.

Want to strengthen your team with every decision?

Stop calling for a vote and start asking for a committed response by requesting of each and every team member to do the hard work of choosing the best possible decision together.