Monday, May 21, 2012

Productive Meetings

Question: What Are Some “Meeting Killers”??

The following article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2012.

Quote: “When it comes time for a meeting, co-workers can be deadly. Discussions get hijacked. Bad ideas fall like blunt objects. Long-winded colleagues consume all available oxygen, killing good ideas by asphyxiation.”

Quote: “Co-workers wander off topic, send texts, disrupt decision-making or behave in other dysfunctional ways. :

 Quote: “Multitasking at meetings is such a given that unless a leader sets a "no devices" rule or schedules "tech breaks," nearly everyone texts or sneaks a peek at email during meetings. And yet, that is nothing compared with real sabotage.”

Quote: “Naysayers are the ones who "whatever you bring up, it will never work," says Dana Brownlee, founder of Professionalism Matters, a corporate-training company in Atlanta. One of her strategies is to take serial naysayers to lunch before meetings to let them vent and try to reach agreement. Once the meeting begins, she sets ground rules, requiring anyone who complains also to offer a solution.”

Quote: “And for the toughest offenders, ramblers, Ms. Brownlee sometimes puts an Elmo doll in the center of the meeting table and tells participants, "Anytime anybody in the session thinks we're getting off track, pick up the Elmo doll." This allows co-workers to express frustration without interrupting, she says.”

Quote: “People who ramble can be equally disruptive. Samir Penkar, a Minneapolis project-management consultant, was running daily meetings among 20 employees at an insurance company last year when two participants kept taking the conversation off-track. So, he started bringing in chocolates. Whenever either "started their rambling, I handed them a chocolate," he says. He repeated the tactic six times over two weeks until the employees learned to stick to the agenda.”

Advice from executives, meeting planners and trainers on productive meetings:
•Set a clear agenda.

•Impose a 'no devices' rule or schedule periodic tech breaks for email, texts and phone calls.

•Redirect people back to the agenda when they ramble or digress.

•Draw out quiet people by asking them in advance for a specific contribution.

•Do a 'round robin,' when appropriate, to allow everyone to contribute.

•Ask early for objections to keep them from derailing discussions later.

•Limit the length of slide presentations.

•Interrupt people who talk too long or talk to each other.

•Set an ending time for the meeting and stick to it.

 Write to Sue Shellenbarger at

A version of this article appeared May 16, 2012, on page D1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Meet the Meeting Killers.

Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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