I had a fascinating conversation with an M.D. today around the need to improve the effectiveness of meetings. His challenge is how to improve communication, make meetings more effective, get buy in at meetings and change the pattern whereby decisions are fought against or ignored after meetings.
The MD decided to get feedback on the meetings he held or was involved in. This was consistent and reflected a lack of satisfaction with the input at meetings; the same ground was often covered, decisions were not actioned, ownership of actions was not defined sufficiently.
He decided to make some changes; he introduced the idea of the plus delta. Effectively, how can we make a positive difference in a meeting? So now we insist that all attendees respect the others right to speak and have an opinion. The only caveat is that attendees must be positive.
This sounds reasonable in approach and tone and is a method often employed when seeking to change or invigorate an organisation.
Can we see the problem?
Unfortunately, many executives see “positive” as an absolute; something that is an objective standard by which all inputs can be measured. It is not; it is a subjective judgement on input based on our view of what is progress, support, the right decision, the right approach, the need for action.
How can we be true to ourselves and be positive? We can’t
We can be true to ourselves and hope our view is seen as positive or in a truly empowered environment we can be true to ourselves knowing that in itself is the most positive thing we can do and be.
In effect the Chief Executive is asking people to be true to themselves and agree with him as it is his subjective criteria that will judge input positive or otherwise
When we are true to ourselves we own our opinions and reactions to others. We do not judge others but are open about how we perceive and react to others. We take ownership of our reaction to a suggestion, plan or strategy; we do not ascribe qualities to it that our subjective. In short, we do not say “That’s not a good idea” or “That won’t work “or “That’s a good idea” ( in whatever way we dress those up. ) We do say “I’m not sure it will work because my view of the facts is …. “or “I think it is too risky for my risk appetite” This has two tangible benefits for meetings
We do not criticise or judge the contributions of others so they do not feel intimidated about contributing
We value our contribution and, being open about our own drivers, allow the debate to be informed and positive to keep it moving forward.
In effect we give people the method or language through which they can engage with us. For example, saying “I am nervous about your idea because I feel it is too risky or a diversion of resources “does not criticise the proposal. The speaker “owns” the discomfort with the plan and also shows the way to move the debate forward i.e. how do address the issue of resource and are there ways to mitigate the risk. If these are addressed satisfactorily I am then on board.
In a wide perspective this is an important sea change in how we think about our relationship with external events, data and ideas. In immediate terms this will improve a team dynamic considerably by enabling individual ownership of their views and empowering discussion.