Meeting Effectiveness

By: Dr. Jeff Magee
Posted: 05/15/2012

Keeping the proverbial “monkey” on the appropriate person in and outside of meetings is essential to organizational effectiveness.

Some meetings become a breeding ground of opportunity for the veteran, who has learned how to strategically place work (in essence, delegate his or her work) onto the backs of others. The ability to maintain accountability with appropriate individuals for work assignments in meetings is essential in lean business times and lean labor environments.

A powerful tactical engagement approach for use in the next meeting you facilitate will allow you to keep everyone focused on the core agenda and on solutions and productivity.

An ACTION© Memo is more of an immediate engagement action than an actual written document. Its intent is to solicit two factors:

STEP ONE – Ask for clarity of the “WHAT” factor from the other person. Examples might sound like:

“What is the problem?”

“What is the issue needing attention?”

“What is the subject for discussion?”

STEP TWO – Direct the discussion of all appropriate individuals toward “HOW” the “WHAT” factor can be addressed. Examples might sound like:

“How can this be addressed?”

“How can this be fixed?” Or when the interrupter is dissatisfied with what he or she has just heard,

“How can this be addressed differently from what we have just presented?”

A great application for this technique is for getting an unwanted, inappropriate or ill-timed issue that is raised in a meeting (and not on the agenda) off of your back. It will also ensure that it does not get dumped on someone else’s back.

By using this tactic, you communicate to the other person’s psychology that you will not assume their work. You will, however, assist them in finding a solution. So the next time someone interrupts a flow of energy in a meeting or introduces a subject that may have nothing to do with the agenda, write down the “WHAT” factor of his or her issues on a small slip of paper. When the interrupter stops talking, politely hand that piece of paper to that person; invite them to draft two or three alternative solutions for “HOW” to address that “WHAT” factor, and get with you later in the day. As you hand that ACTION© Memo to the other person, turn your eye contact away and continue with the agenda, precisely where you were at the initial time of the interruption, as if you were never interrupted.

The power here is that, while you are continuing forward, the interrupter will begin to realize that you won’t fight them – you will engage them!

The bonus application to this technique transcends many aspects of one’s life.

Consider the next time someone approaches you while you are on the telephone. The old you would have had a dialogue like this: “Just a minute, I’m on the telephone.” The other party would acknowledge and wait. While you continued talking on the telephone, the other party would start to pace, and when you would move the telephone receiver away from your mouth, the other party would politely hand you their paper stack accompanying his or her question. At that moment, you typically would accept the hand- over, and they would say they would come back. You would say something like, “Thank you,” and they would walk away, having just reversed the delegation task back to you – hence placing the monkey back on your back. Now when they approach you, deploy the ACTION© Memo approach, either verbally or as a written request. 

And for the parent, the next time a child comes to you to tattle-tale on another child, set the child down with pencil and paper, and grow a solution-provider instead of a complainer by directing the child.

“Here, write down ‘what’ they did and two or three other things they should do instead. When you have that written down, come get me.”

Then walk away.

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