If you want to have better meetings, you should start by making sure your meeting participants know how to do their job.
How hard can it be? They show up and react to what’s going on, right?
That’s exactly what I used to think, but then the years changed my mind. There’s way too much bad meeting behavior out there for me to believe people know how to effectively contribute to a meeting’s success.
Sure, it’s possible they do know what they are supposed to do, but simply make bad choices. Those choices could be influenced by:
- Poor role models
- Weak leadership
- Lack of preparation
- Stress and fatigue
- Strained relationships
Still, I’m convinced a lack of knowledge and skill are major contributing factors as well, and today I want to do something about that.
For everyone who doesn’t have a clue about how to behave in a meeting, let me suggest eight practices they ought to adopt to be a successful meeting participant. Feel free to share my list with them. If you want a clean copy, suitable for printing, I’ve got you covered.
My suggestions are still a work-in-progress. Your feedback can make them better. What should I add? How should I change the definitions? Which would be most helpful within your organization?
Learn the meeting’s purpose and why you’ve been invited. Do the assigned prework. Figure out what you will contribute, and how you will succeed in your efforts.
Tune out external distractions and focus on what’s happening in the meeting. Work hard to understand the information, intention, and emotion that others share.
Contribute your ideas, opinions, and information to the conversation. Stay on topic. Be clear, concise and respectful. Share time with others who also want to speak.
Engage your curiosity. Seek clarity. Test assumptions. Uncover intentions and rationale. Probe for more information. Request data to support decisions. Ask your questions.
Make your intentions visible. Call out unproductive meeting behaviors. Bring up the elephant in the room. Push the group to do its best work.
Focus on what needs to be achieved. Stay flexible about how to achieve it. Explore interests. Seek common ground. Invite other opinions. Participate in the decision.
Follow the leader’s direction. Make process suggestions when you know a better way. Be friendly to everyone. Take on supporting roles. Model this code.
Support the group’s choice, even if it wasn’t your preferred option. Step up and accept an action item. Do high quality work and deliver on time.