From the electric shock of Brexit to Team GB’s golden triumph in Rio, the Summer of 2016 has been nothing if not eventful. It is perhaps this very eventfulness that has made the Summer season seem to pass in a flash. Indeed, it is hard to believe that tomorrow will bring September with Autumn hot on its heels. Though we cannot forsee what new ‘events’ will surprise us in the following months, there is one thing we can predict with certainty: September will bring an endless stream of meetings at work.
Budgets will need to be set, strategies agreed, plans laid and meeting after meting will be required to do this. Inevitably, these meetings will bring out the worst in many of your colleagues: negativity, defensiveness and conflict will all rear their unhelpful heads. So what can you do to make the meetings you attend as productive as possible, and to encourage positive behaviour from your team?
1. Don’t shoot down ideas; there are no right or wrong answers.
How often do you say ‘I can’t’ or ‘that will never work’ during meetings? These phrases stop ideas from being shared or developed, and the frequent use of this sort of language nurtures a culture of negativity and conservatism. When someone makes a suggestion you don’t agree with, don’t immediately leap to say ‘that won’t work.’ First state three things you like about the idea, then outline your key concern. In this way, you avoid setting yourself immediately in conflict with the person who has shared their idea. Moreover, you make it easier for other people to offer up their suggestions, as they will not fear being shouted down and humiliated.
2. Defer judgement; you never know where an idea will take you and outlandish ideas can trigger great realistic ones.
It’s so easy to immediately dismiss an idea as unfeasible or unrealistic. However, instead of shutting the idea down outright, why not explore it? By discussing how it might work, not why it won’t, you open the door to new ideas being discovered during this exploration. You also will keep everyone in a positive, productive frame of mind.
3. Build on ideas and credit the other person for triggering your idea.
If someone’s idea triggers your own, acknowledge it. Try saying ‘building on Tom’s idea, I think we should….’ This eliminates the sense that there is a competition to find the right idea, with each person out for themselves. Instead it nurtures the feeling that all ideas are owned and shared by the team.
You may not be able to get out of the many meetings likely being crammed into your diary over the next few weeks. However, you can adopt behaviours and language that makes them as productive and enjoyable as possible. Try using these three tips and see how much better your meetings become.