Great office meetings are built on a series of conversations

Getting everyone to agree on one conclusion can be a daunting task. But when it comes to meetings most everyone readily agrees that meetings can take productive time away from work. Meetings tend to get a bad rap and rightly so if the same topic is discussed with no resolution in sight.

An operations manager once described his management meetings similar to a captive audience watching a show between two colleagues as they argued about business solutions with each one defending their view. The team would sit in silence watching these two guys every week get defensive leaving everyone discouraged and tired.

Unfortunately he’s not alone in feeling frustrated about the time spent when he could have been working toward other projects. When team members lack input there is a tendency for passive aggressive behavior to occur and rather than participate, most will become observers counting down the minutes to leave.

Meetings are necessary to communicate messages across teams but more important is the working relationships that are formed from them. Healthy teams produce healthy conversations that pave the way toward good discussions where ideas are openly discussed. Good meetings energize rather than paralyze creative input and help form a foundation for moving business forward.

The truth is, meetings don’t have to be arduous tasks; rather, they should be effective tools in building good working relationships and generating new ideas. No doubt some of the most innovative designs and changes take place in meetings.

In his book, “Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations,” Paul Axtell suggests  the key to a great meeting starts with the quality of your conversations.

According to Axtell, “meetings in essence are a series of conversations and effective conversation is like a puzzle with all the pieces in place” improving conversations in your meetings can have a dramatic impact. If you want to get more out of your meetings, begin by developing awareness of how conversations take place.

GettyImages_485561855Here are some ways to help you see meetings in a different light and encourage conversations:

• Listen for when a conversation goes off track and gently guide it back to the subject at hand.
• Pay attention to indications of who would like to join in the conversation and invite them in.
• Notice when someone interrupts; note what happens to the conversation and to the person who was interrupted.
• Listen for when clarity is missing, and ask a question that causes clarity to emerge. For example the next time you notice yourself wondering what someone else means, ask for clarity.
• Pay attention to whether specific actions are agreed upon after a discussion.

Your ability to manage and lead groups will influence your career opportunities; your leadership is often judged on well you conduct meetings. The notion that a meeting is a series of conversations broadens your view on the role of each team member.

As in a conversation with another person if you don’t participate it becomes a one sided event and it would be consider awkward if all of sudden you started checking emails while the other person was talking. Next time you are in a meeting, pay attention to the relationships formed and how your behavior contributes to their success.

How would you describe the key factors in a good meeting?

Kim Thompson