Stop Torturing People with Terrible Meetings
by Susan Dunn, The EQ
Q: What do most employees hate the most about work?
A: The meetings.
Here are some ways to apply your emotional intelligence to running the kind
of meetings people would actually like to attend.
Intentionality is one of the highest-level emotional intelligence
competencies because it means accepting responsibility for both your actions and
your motives. Establish the purpose of the meeting. What is your intent? If it's
sheer process, make that clear. If there's an agenda and things you intend to
accomplish, establish that and then stick to it. Get honest with yourself. If
you're having meetings because you think you should, but you don't like them
either, stop doing it. If you're having them so you can get ego-strokes, rethink
this annoying habit.
Running a meeting is not a committee affair. Someone needs to be in charge
and use their Personal Power and Focus to keep things on track. A published
agenda can be distributed ahead of time so people can prepare. Make sure all
points are covered.
One thing that irritates everyone is when the weekly staff meeting (for
instance) becomes a platform for office games. Either it's about getting work
done, strategizing, reporting, planning, and accomplishing something that
couldn't be done better another way, or its about side conversations,
politicking, put-downs, set-ups, back-slapping, power plays, impression
management, manipulation, posturing, truth management and other horseplay.
4. Primal Leadership.
Which one of those points in #3 it is, depends upon the leader and the
emotional tone she or he sets. It's human nature to test the limits. People will
seek opportunity to upstage, divert, impress and maneuver instead of staying on
task, and the first time the leader allows this to happen, the authenticity is
gone. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and stick to it. You are being
watched more closely than you think!
If you think a meeting can accomplish something no other form of communion
can, set it up that way, and then show your commitment and enthusiasm. Your
group will 'catch' it.
5. Respect for everyone. No exceptions.
This means respect for people's time, opinions, contributions and emotions.
If the meeting is to start at 10:00, start it at 10:00. As soon as you wait for
a "key player," #1, you are establishing the precedent that some people matter
more than others (in which case why is everyone required to attend? You see, to
lead, you must "make sense" to your followers), and #2, you have just given
permission to everyone to wait until everyone else is there. You have punished
the ones who are on time and rewarded the ones who are not. Was that your
6. Constructive Discontent.
Being able to thoughtfully and respectfully handle disagreement is one of
the strongest indicators of leadership. It means being able to stay calm,
focused and emotionally grounded during conflict. The opposite of this is the
tendency to rush to conclusions just to short circuit "arguments," or to flare
up in emotional outbursts.
If you expect creative ideas, alternatives and solutions to appear, you have
to create the atmosphere for this. I was in a meeting where the chairman asked
for ideas. The first thing someone offered, he said "No!" This is not the way to
encourage creativity. Establish a period of divergent processing where ideas are
offered and simply considered. Then call an end to that and start the convergent
process where you apply reality to the concepts and start to choose the ones
most likely to work.
8. Know your bottom lines.
Prior to a meeting in which you'll be required to express a position,
reflect on your thoughts, feelings and opinions. Zero in on the elements which
are really fundamental and important to know. Again, know what you think but
also why. If you are going to oppose something just because you hate the person
who proposed it, know that. Be intentional.
9. Interpersonal Connections.
It's the leader's responsibility to manage the meeting in such a way that
respect is shown to all. This means modeling flexibility about learning and
communication styles, introverts and extraverts (don't condone letting
extraverts dominate), left-brain v. right-brain, and authenticity.
10. Process afterwards.
It's a good idea, if you're serious about improving the quality of the
meetings at your office (for which everyone will be grateful), to have someone
you trust (an executive coach is a great choice here) attend and observe and
then process with you afterwards. Did you accomplish what you set out to do?
What was the emotional tone? Who had problems or was a problem, and what was
that about? If you don't learn each time you have a meeting, you aren't doing
your job. You are also modeling for your reports the concept that any notions of
continual improvement and striving for excellence are only lip-talk.
(C) Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, offers individual and executive
coaching, EQ programs for offices, Internet courses and ebooks. Visit her on the
web at www.susandunn.cc and mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org for FREE EQ ezine. Put EQ
for subject line.