“Excuse me! I wasn’t done speaking,” came the plaintive voice across the meeting table, accompanied by the accusatory glower from offended eyes.
Admittedly I did interject, and not for the first time that day, but in my defense the woman had been talking for five minutes straight, trampling over any efforts of her colleagues to help her, and was off-topic and misguided in her understanding. It was time to get the meeting back on track, or it would be off the rails; unproductive and timed-out.
Function as part of the collective - As with many other facets of life, in business meetings many people have learnt to assert their rights but at the same time have not accepted their responsibilities. Generally speaking, one’s responsibility in a meeting is to remember at all times each person is there to serve the whole. We are all there to talk about actions and deliverables – it’s not a personal proving ground. Focus on the things, not the ‘I’.
It’s not all about you, so leave your ego at the door - I have wasted so many hours of life sitting in a meeting room as people use it as a forum to beat their chests and listen to their own voice, shutting others down, or (at the other end of the ego scale) to whinge about their issues.
Be empowered - One of the reasons a company employs you is to add value, and you can achieve this in part by being open-minded, informed and prepared with ideas. If you are stumped on an issue, the team can help brainstorm a new way, but don't monopolize time crying like a victim and acting defensive. In this state you bring nothing.
If you need more information for the meeting, ask the organizer or another relevant person, and don’t show up bleating plaintively about how you knew nothing until you got to the table.
In the event you do arrive at the table unprepared and uninformed, that state is not a topic for the meeting – it may be made as a statement of measure against what you are saying, but cannot be a blame item thrown out at the group.
Pass the talking stick - Any interactive session, be it a business meeting or a group conversation requires all present to be sensitive to visual and energetic cues of the others, allowing the conversation to flow naturally to the person who has something to contribute at the right time. If someone has something to add to what you are saying, it doesn’t mean you will never get to speak again, it means you have inspired them to bounce thought back which provokes more conversation and ideas – and ultimately a more creative environment and better solutions.
In a functioning meeting where all are respectful and time is managed, if everyone is giving full focused attention to the person speaking, the speaker has the best opportunity to deliver their message with clarity, and the listeners will understand and also be inspired with ideas to contribute. The natural flow will be that as ideas surface, conversation rolls spontaneously as all reflect on what is said. Everyone contributes, as all members of the group are giving attention (or energy) to each other and are not trying to dominate individually out of a need for attention. In this environment, each group member will sense whether they are the one that is supposed to talk next, feeling their energy rise as an idea comes to mind. This technique helps everyone in the group participate, with no one member becoming addicted to monopolizing the spotlight.
The ticking clock – Every bum-on-board-room-seat costs money every moment they are there, and if time is not utilized efficiently, you’ll start losing people to their phones and laptops. Meetings (done right) are a forum for efficiently sharing information and ideas, and also identify solutions, actions and responsibilities, and then set everyone off on their assigned tasks. People generally have a short attention span, so stay on topic and on schedule.
In business, grappling with egotists (of all descriptions) is part of the accepted territory, but as more and more of us manage our egos, cease to take things personally, and focus on the task at hand, the boardroom will become a far more fun and creative place to be. Life at work will be increasingly stimulating as all feel they can contribute, and those who allow their egos to run riot like petulant children will expose themselves.
So let’s focus on the solutions and dump the ego battles.
CJ Butler – Campaigning from a background of novel-inspiring bad behaviours ;-)
Debut novel out now – The Japson Club by CJ Butler, available on Amazon, Indigo, Chapters, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Smashwords…and all the other online retailers