There are lots of models that can be used to explain and interpret the way people behave in meetings. Some of these have psychological insight and some have practical relevance, but the beginning of understanding is to really see what is going on, and we see through the questions we ask the world.
Here are ten questions to think about next time you are in a meeting where the whole seems to be somehow less than the sum of its parts.
One – airtime. Who is speaking for what percentage of the time? How long does this speaker hold the attention of the room? What happens when there is a break in the flow?
Two – courtesy. How does this group handle interruptions. Is there talking over each other? Who generally interrupts whom, and to what effect?
Three – deference. What official or unofficial hierarchies are demonstrated in the room. Is there a person who always agrees with the formally most senior leader? Is there someone who speaks her mind, regardless of whether others will agree?
Four – switching off. Can you spot the point at which different participants zone out of the meeting? Are they checking out just for one speaker’s monologue, or one agenda item, or have they “left the building” as far as the rest of the meeting is concerned? Did you spot what was the trigger?
Five – “alpha” behaviours. Do you have physical acts more suited to a Gorilla troop than a meeting of Homo Sapiens? Look out for louder voices, strong gestures, standing to command space, banging the table and other primate instincts.
Six – enabling and facilitating. Can you spot anyone drawing someone else into the conversation? Can you see any signs of supporting, encouraging and nurturing actions?
Seven – content mapping. What actually gets discussed throughout the whole duration of the meeting, including the small talk at the beginning and end. How does the live content compare to the agenda, or the minutes?
Eight – decision making. How do things get agreed? Formally do you use votes, proposing and seconding formal motions, shows of support? Informally how do ideas get adopted into proposals for action?
Nine – emotions. Go beyond the moods and emotional cues of the individuals in the room. What is the emotional tone of the meeting? Is this typical, habitual or unusual?
Ten – effectiveness. Having thought about these dimensions, is it a good meeting? How can it be improved? What are you going to do about it?
Sometimes change needs to be facilitated, before it can be owned. If you want to make your meetings more like an elite squad and and less like a tragic case study then get in touch with us today.