4 Guidelines for Effective & Productive Meetings

Keep a Meeting Focused & On-Point

We’ve all experienced meetings where, despite our best efforts, we have found the meeting hijacked. For example, where someone is persistently interrupting or dominating the conversation, where someone continually goes off an unrelated tangent and sidetracks the conversation, where they go into extensive and unnecessary detail, or where someone tries to hijack the meeting for their own personal agenda.

So how do you refocus the meeting and get it back on point?

The first thing to do is to take control of your emotions.  When we feel a meeting is being interrupted or ‘hijacked’, whether deliberately or not, it is natural to feel upset. To deal with the situation effectively you need to quash your frustration.

Four Techniques to Use

Work to a Prepared Agenda

If people have been involved in shaping the agenda then they will be less likely to disrupt the meeting.  Before the meeting send out a proposed agenda in advance and ask the invitees for their input. Give them a time frame within which to make recommendations and ask that they include a reason why they think the item is worthy of discussion. However, the finals decision on what to include or not should be yours.

Having a clear and agreed agenda ahead of time has a number of benefits including:

  • It makes people aware of the purpose of the meetings, the decisions to be made, and the outcomes sought. This helps them to prepare for the meeting.
  • It guides the meeting, helping people to know what to discuss and when.
  • It controls the meeting. If people start to go off-point then you can ask them how what they are saying connects to the issue under discussion.
  • It saves time – people stay on track more easily and go off-track less frequently and for shorter durations.

Listen & Respond

Focus on what the other person has to say, don’t ignore them or try to steamroll them. There are three steps in this:

  • Listen – actively listen to what they are saying and make sure that what you understand is being said is what is meant.
  • Validate – reply to their comments by building on what they have said, this way they understand that you have understood them.
  • Reframe & Redirect – shape your reply, and where it takes the conversation, by framing the subject under discussion so that you can redirect it back to the agenda.

Probe Further

Don’t always rush to redirect the conversation. You want to address issues efficiently that also engages the other person and creates a sustainable solution. Frame the interruption as an opportunity for learning a new perspective.

Be Resolute and Direct

If your colleague keeps interrupting or ‘hijacking’ the meeting then you need to be direct and firm to close down the interruptions.  It may be best to talk further outside the meeting in private.

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Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

What to Do Before You Start Making Decisions

What you need to do before you start the decision-making process

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Decisions Before You DecideWe make decisions every day; small ones, big ones, unusual ones, specific or general and those which have become a force of habit.  We get so involved in the decision itself that we become blind to the key dimensions that surround it. So what are they, why are they important and how can we use them to help us make better and more effective decisions?

The Four Key Dimensions

There are four key dimensions which need to be considered when making a decision.  This includes:

  1. Composition: Who should be involved in the decision-making process?  You need to make sure you have the right people, with the right information, who can contribute and develop the necessary decision.4 Dimensions of Decision-Making
  2. Context: In what type of environment does the decision take place?  Is it an open environment that fosters open, constructive dialogue?  Or a closed environment in which personal interests supersedes those of the group?
  3. Communication: What are the “means of dialogue” among the participants?  Does it involve considerable direct discussion with those with relevant knowledge and expertise, or is it ‘filtered’ through reports from senior people in the hierarchy?  Are there face-to-face meetings or is it via phone, email, reports etcetera?
  4. Control: How will the leader control the process and the content of the decision?
  • Control of the Process how do you want to shape the way that the deliberations are undertaken and followed;
  • Control of the Content how much do you want to control the outcome of the decision

This last factor- Control – is the hardest, and has the greatest impact on the decision.

A Balanced Approach

A balance between control of the process and control of the content is required.  Too little or too much control of the process and/or the content will result in sub-optimal decisions.  Some of the impacts of low or high levels of control on the process or content are shown below.

Impact of the Level of Control of Content & Process in Decision-Making

 Decisions and Control

So how can we achieve a balance in controlling both the process and content of a decision?  There are three steps:

 3 Steps for a Balanced Approach

1.      Be Clear on the Decision

Are you clear on what the decision is that you are making is?   For example, you are looking at how to improve your retention of key customers.  This is not a decision; this is a problem that needs to be solved.  Be careful not to confuse decisions with problems.

2.      Know What Objectives & Outcomes You Want to Achieve

Have a clear understanding of where you want to be as a result of the decision you have made.  Knowing this will help you understand what expertise and information you need, from whom you need to get it, and the people who should be involved.

3.      Have Checks & Counter-Balances

You will find that you and others involved in the decision-making process will fall into common decision-making traps or errors of judgement.  Understanding them, and how to avoid them will provide you with the means to check your collective thoughts, ideas and insights and reduce the likelihood of your decision being subverted.

Use this as a checklist – make sure you address the four dimensions: Composition, Context, Communication and Control – and build the means for better decisions.  Will you share this with your colleagues and those who participate in your decision-making processes?

It’s your decision.


Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.