Do you complain about meetings being a waste of time since nothing useful comes out of them? Or about conversations that aren’t producing any results. Wondered why? On my train journey from London to Cambridge today, I was watching a video on ending the meetings the right way by Paul Axtrell published by Harvard Business Review 2015. Paul mentions that closure is one of the most important parts of a meeting design without which things can be left unclarified, unchallenged and/or uncommitted. It is a vital skill to deliberately close a meeting/conversation.
According to Deborah Tannen “Each person’s life is lived as a series of conversations” and meetings are a series of conversations too. In these conversations, we get an opportunity to clarify issues, set or get direction, and move forward with our objectives. Changing the conversation can alter our experience of life. Conversation matters and every conversation can be enhanced, ultimately creating impact. According to Paul, here are some of the points that are important for us to remember.
- Meetings are a competitive advantage for every organization that masters them
- If you call a meeting, you are responsible for the time and talent in the room. Treat them with respect
- Even if you don’t organize a meeting, own the meetings you attend. You will see different things and participate differently
So what does each conversation require? Here are my notes from the video:
- Setup – what and why – so that everyone knows the context, how to participate and understands the intended outcome. Think about
- What does this group need to talk about?
- What is the topic we need to talk about?
- What is the best way to have the conversation?
- Process – path to conduct the conversation. Steps to consider are
- Here’s what I would like to do
- What thoughts or questions do you have?
- Is this clear? Does it make sense?
- Is it worth doing?
- Is there anything in the way of your supporting this?
- Is there anything missing that would help?
- If we address these items, will you align?
- Closure – deliberately ensure that the group is aligned and ready to leave the conversation with awareness of the value created. If you feel like you are going through the same conversation with a group over and over again without any action, it is due to the improper closure. 5 steps to wrapping up each conversation
- Completion – Check whether everything has been said or asked? Else, you may have people repeating the same topic at different points of time or leaving the meeting misaligned/unclear.
- Alignment – Check whether everyone is OK with this decision? If someone isn’t OK you have to find out the reasons why and try to get him or her on board.
- Commitment – Commonly missed step about checking for next steps i.e. who is going to do what and by when. If missed nothing seems to move to action. Getting firm, clear commitments is the primary way to ensure progress between meetings.
- Value – Stating what you are taking away from the conversation. This can validate both the conversation and the individuals in it.
- Acknowledgment – Is there anyone who contributed to the conversation in a way that we need to acknowledge?
I know how I want my meetings to end from now. I am definitely going to start with spending the next couple of weeks on closing my meetings thoughtfully.