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Archive for the ‘Managing Meetings’ Category

How To Streamline Your Meetings and Make Them More Productive

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

image of a business meetingMeetings are designed to occur in an allotted amount of time to address topics and business in an orderly fashion. In the workplace, you want to ensure your meetings are productive and effective. All too often, however, meetings are sidetracked with time-wasting discussions, unproductive behaviors, and weak meeting leadership. Motivating meeting openers and focused agendas can set the tone for a meeting and guide the session where it needs to go.


Have an Agenda

Proper organization of the meeting is just as important as the content and topics covered. You want to ensure an adequate amount of time is allotted for each topic in order to keep the meeting moving. Create an agenda for your team to refer to throughout the duration of your meeting. This prevents meetings being taken off course by distractions, talkative employees, and side discussions.  

Stay Focused

Focus is key. You don’t want to waste anybody’s time attending your meeting (this begins by only inviting people to the meeting who are absolutely necessary). It’s important to stay within the context of the agenda you’ve set. When you set your goals for the meeting, keep in mind that every meeting should have a purpose. Decide ahead of time what answers or decisions you need to walk away from the meeting with. Then, all discussion should be somehow related to that initial purpose and your set of goals.

Define Takeaways

Takeaways symbolize a successful meeting. If your goals are clearly defined in the agenda and discussed effectively during your meeting, the steps following the meeting should be very clear. The attendees of your meeting should have clear takeaways (who owns what task, and when it’s due). At the conclusion of your meeting, there should be an answer to every question/concern that was discussed. If there wasn’t, there should be follow-up steps to find answers to those questions. Accountability is incredibly important; therefore the meeting leader should take the initiative to clearly define the next steps that should be completed prior to the follow-up meeting. This ensures that by the next meeting, the to-dos of every member were clearly defined and completed.

At CRM Learning, we offer the best team building training videos. Explore our meeting management training videos, like Meeting Robbers, Meetings, Bloody Meetings, and The Invisible Meeting to ensure your meetings will be productive and effective in the future.

How to Avoid the Road to Abilene

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Has your group ever gone down the road to Abilene? This type of trip occurs when a group or team goes ahead with an idea or project due to the phenomenon of “false consensus”: everyone communicates their agreement with the idea, when in fact, some or all actually have objections or concerns, but fail to state them. This occurs in organizations because many people feel they’ll be ridiculed or censured if they voice objections. Trips to Abilene are a waste of time and resources and leave team members frustrated. Avoiding the road to Abilene in the first place is the best way to keep a fear of speaking up from causing your group to support a bad choice.

How to Avoid the Road to Abilene

  1. Encourage Disagreement: Create an environment in which group members are comfortable voicing differing opinions and are expected to stand up for their convictions. Facilitating discussion, keeping conflict healthy, and specifically asking for conflicting viewpoints allow groups to determine whether or not everyone is on board with a given idea.
  2. Avoid Depending on Unanimous Agreement: It takes an inordinately long time to truly reach a unanimous agreement. If people in a group know that the only way the project can move forward is if they pretend to agree with an idea, they are much less likely to present an opposing position.
  3. Create Avenues for Everyone to Voice their Opinions: No matter how you set up a discussion, not everyone is going to feel comfortable voicing their opinion. Setting up alternative avenues for discussion can help avoid that trip to Abilene. This might mean creating an anonymous suggestion box or hotline, or asking people for their opinion one on one. Everything you can do to diversify the way opinions are voiced reduces your chance of pouring resources into bad ideas.
  4. Be Careful with Language: The way a group leader constructs his or her comments can have a vast impact on whether or not members speak up. For example, saying “So we’re all in agreement?” encourages everyone in the group to say “yes.” Instead, consider asking “Does anyone have anything to add?” Being precise with language when wrapping up a discussion or responding to criticism can encourage, rather than put a damper on, opposing views.
  5. Ask “Are We On the Road to Abilene?”: If your group is familiar with the Abilene Paradox, asking straight-out whether it may be in play can help you recognize and get off of the wrong road.

Groups are most able to avoid taking the road to Abilene if they are first familiar with the concept. Video training is an effective way to introduce the Abilene Paradox and reinforce methods for avoiding it. Good training paired with thoughtful group management can dramatically cut back on ineffective group dynamics.

Recommended Training Resource: The Abilene Paradox is one of our best-selling videos. It’s an entertaining introduction to the concept of the Abilene Paradox that helps team members improve their ability to interact in groups and overcome their fear of speaking out.

Beware of These Common Cognitive Biases

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

If critical thinking was easy, everyone would do it.

Every day we are faced with cognitive challenges to effective thinking. From emotions to unchecked assumptions and ambiguous data, we constantly make decisions without applying the rigors of critical thinking. Cognitive biases are frequent barriers to rational thought and effective decision making, but we are rarely conscious of our own biases.

Here’s a great graphic from Business Insider (see just below) that shows 20 of the most popular cognitive biases in decision making. (more…)

How Leaders Keep The Team from “Goin’ to Abilene”

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

How Leaders Keep The Team from "Goin' to Abilene"  In our last article, “The Abilene Paradox – How You Can Skip the Trip”, we explained how group members who sense their group is “going to Abilene” can own up to their true feelings in the presence of the other group members. We further explained that –if the person has misdiagnosed the situation and there is no Paradox operating in the group– by speaking up, the group member has at least opened the door to honest discussion and debate. However, if the situation has been correctly diagnosed and the Paradox is operating in the group, the group member will typically hear nothing but relief on the part of others who’ve been struggling with the course of action the group has agreed to take.

But, what about preventative measures? Are there things that can be done at different stages of the decision-making process to help groups skip the trip entirely? The answer is yes! And, a great deal of the responsibility falls on the group leader to make sure these practices are put into place (1) before decisions are made, as information is gathered (2) during meetings and discussions, and (3) after decisions are agreed upon. Those practices include: (more…)

The Abilene Paradox – How you can skip the trip!

Monday, October 13th, 2014

confroomIn our first article of this series, we learned how a family trip to Abilene on a 104-degree Texas afternoon led Professor Jerry Harvey to discover what he calls “The Abilene Paradox.” The paradox occurs when groups take actions in contradiction to what the individual members really want to do. Remember that Professor Harvey described the Abilene Paradox as the inability to manage agreement rather than the inability to manage conflict.

We’ve also explored six tell-tale signs that will help us recognize when we might be on a” trip to Abilene” and four underlying psychological dynamics that create the conditions for the Paradox. The question is…what do we do about it?

If we believe our group or organization is caught in the Paradox – and is “on the road to Abilene” –Professor Harvey recommends we speak up and confront the Paradox in a group setting. Working within the context of a group is important, because the dynamics of the Abilene Paradox involve collusion among group members.

The first step in the confrontation is to “own up” to our true beliefs and be open to the feedback we receive when we share them. By owning up, we let others know we’re concerned that the group may be making a decision based on inaccurate data. To illustrate this, let’s revisit this workplace scenario (from article two). (more…)

The Crucial Role of Meeting Leader

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Learning to Manage MeetingsIn The Strategy of Meetings, George David Kieffer writes that the meeting leader must “make the team believe that (1) the group is worth being with; (2) individual members will have an opportunity to influence the outcome; and (3) the cause is one that warrants their attention and effort.”

As a meeting leader, how might you get these messages across? Here are a few ideas:

  • Justify the need to call a meeting in the first place. Many valid reasons exist to hold meetings: to inform and discover, build unity, allow a dynamic question-and-answer session, make joint decisions and generate ideas. But there are also plenty of times when assembling a meeting isn’t the best use of everyone’s time; when the work can be accomplished, or the information communicated, just as efficiently (or more efficiently) via phone, email or one-to-one conversation.
  • Before assembling a team and calling a meeting, identify the general purpose and specific objectives. For example, for a customer service problem-solving meeting, specific objectives might be: Determine why the customer service department is missing its deadlines 75% of the time; identify and evaluate ways to decrease turnaround time to 48 hours or less; find a solution that can be implemented before the end of the third quarter and assign responsibility for implementing the solution. These sample objectives are results-oriented, emphasizing specific outcomes. (An example of vague objectives for the same meeting might be “Find out how the customer services reps are doing and, if improvement is needed, kick around some ideas for making things better.”). When possible, link meeting objectives to organizational goals.

(more…)

3 Words That Put Ideas into Action: “I’ll Own That”

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Employee AccountabilityNothing is more energizing than having great ideas fly around a meeting room and everyone is engaged in solving problems and getting things done. In tough economic times, seeing employees express ideas about how to keep the business booming is especially rewarding. “We should put this on the website!” “We can get advertising to highlight this feature in the next marketing campaign!” “Customers will love the ability to download this information!”

You want to keep these great expectations moving from one meeting to the next and ensure that the best ideas are not allowed to stall. It’s important that the great ideas “we” need to act on are not lost. Those ideas are gold and the miners of that gold are in the room.

The Problem with “We”
To get to the gold, you must eliminate the Nothing Has Been Done with the Great Ideas We Had in the Last Meeting syndrome. And why does nothing get done? Because “we” were going to do it.

To harness the power of every employee you must remember that the pronoun “we” doesn’t do anything or get anything done. When a person says “we” should do something, that’s great! What’s even greater, though, is when everyone is led to move a “we” to an “I”… with an accompanying “by-when”.

Imagine how the results of your team will skyrocket when individuals begin saying things like…“We have come up with some great stuff! I am especially excited about customers downloading this information. I’ll own that, and by the next meeting I will have an outline for you.” (more…)

7 Quick Tips for Leading Meetings

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Do you only have a minute to spare? Need a few quick tips for leading your next meeting? Check out the tips below!Effective Meeting Training

1. Be Very Clear on the Purpose of the Meeting
Before your meeting, set goals and decide upon the specific objective for the upcoming meeting. Identify the desired outcome for each agenda item to be discussed. Doing this will clarify what needs to be accomplished during the meeting.

2. Begin Small Meetings with Introductions
First introduce yourself and thank people for coming to the meeting. Review the proposed agenda for the attendees. Briefly explain each item, so people understand what the agenda topics mean and point out the time limit. Ask if there are any questions. Doing this provides structure to the meeting and communicates to the attendees that the meeting has a schedule and a defined set of goals that must be accomplished.

3. Involve As Many People As Possible During the Meeting
Ask silent people for their opinions, call on a variety of people, and don’t allow nonstop talkers to monopolize the discussion – everyone will appreciate it. Having a variety of people contributing not only creates an interesting discussion but also promotes a more in-depth discussion. The more perspectives that are involved, the better your group’s decisions. Making an effort to involve all participants also moves people from a passive to an active role.

4. Make Sure Everyone Understands What’s Going On
Throughout the discussion, it’s a good idea to clarify and summarize what’s happening. This shows consideration for all of your meeting participants and helps maintain focus during the meeting.

5. Remember That Time Is Important
Disorganized and unexpectedly long meetings can demoralize people. Try to put time limits on each agenda item and select a timekeeper. Keep the meeting moving and adhere to the schedule dictated by the agenda. Otherwise, your meeting will go overtime and the attendees will become frustrated.

6. Assign Action Items
When action items arise from the meeting discussion, assign them immediately. Select an individual, a priority level and a due date for the action item. This way, no items will be forgotten or left unassigned. You’ll likely get some volunteers to help fulfill any remaining action items. Naturally, everyone wants to be helpful and cooperative in front of their peers! (more…)

The Invisible Meeting

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Effective online presentationsIn today’s hectic and technology driven workplace, face to face meetings are rapidly being replaced by conference calls and Skype sessions. Business may be taking place on the other side of the country, or the other side of the globe for that matter, and as a result meeting dynamics have changed.

Unfortunately, many people have not yet learned the skills needed to communicate in this type of meeting. Turn your conference calls into meetings of productivity and clear communication with the training video The Invisible Meeting. This video demonstrates 6 effective techniques for making conference calls, or”invisible meeting,” more productive. Teams will learn how to effectively “cyber coordinate,” announce, minimize noise, use clear language, get verbal feedback, and act efficiently as a team. These skills are imperative for the modern workplace, especially as international relationships within corporations deepen. (more…)


 

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