Master your meeting – how to make an impact
6 ways to make your meeting better, not boring
One of the services I offer in my coaching engagements is occasional shadow coaching: I watch the executive I’m working with in action, with her colleagues. Oftentimes, I sit in the back of a meeting room and observe, for the sake of providing feedback on her impact. It’s no secret that, when you lead a team meeting, yours or any cross-function task force, all eyes are on you. How you speak, don’t speak, sit, behave or breathe can have an impact on how others contribute (or don’t), are empowered to speak up (or not), or whether they’ll bring their best to the table. My coachees are sometimes shocked when I remind them that their body language alone can have an enormous effect on what we call the emotional field of the meeting. Here are six simple things you can pay attention to, if you want to keep the energy flowing and conducive to constructive idea exchange.
6 tips to Master Your Meeting
1. Keep your body language open -
No crossing arms or fingers, no clenching your throat, and no covering your mouth. In fact, keep all your fingers clear of your mouth at all times. These postures can communicate hesitation, nervousness, defensiveness, mistrust, judgment—or some combination thereof—leading some to worry unnecessarily or feel inhibited. You may even “lose them” in wondering what’s bothering or displeasing you when, really, they could be engaging with each other or with the agenda at hand.
2. Avoid sighing in your meeting -
No matter how irritated, tired or impatient you feel about the subject or about what anyone says, avoid demonstrating your moods. This is a key way NOT to master your meeting. Replace exasperation with curiosity (“Ok, that’s a new tack, how would that work?”) and any eye rolling or ceiling gazing with note taking, even if you just write down one word. Train yourself to respond by scribbling whenever you feel triggered or annoyed.
3. Eye contact -
Make eye contact with everyone not just with the person making the point or dialoguing with you across the table. Yes, you must maintain eye-contact with the person addressing you and the others, but if you laser-lock gazes with just one person—and worse, if this happens with the same person more than twice in the same meeting—you will “lose the room” and others will start checking out, energetically or emotionally or even intellectually. Keep including everyone in the dialogue (even if it’s just you and one other person speaking) by holding on to everyone with your eyes. Practice whisking your eyes around the table while speaking to keep connecting with everyone. This is easier than it sounds, but requires a little practice.
4. Ask open questions -
[Tweet "Train yourself to avoid questions that invite a yes or no answer."] This puts people on the spot, narrows the conversation instantly, reduces interaction potential, and basically shuts down the space, as we say in team coaching. It can create counter-productive one-upmanship that will, in time, alienate people enough to start deterring them from chiming in constructively. What follows is the risk of people only opening their mouth when spoken too. By you. Not ideal.
5. Resist the need to add value at all costs -
I work on this a lot with clients whose default of needing-to-be-right will inevitably hamper one of the imperatives of being a leader: the need to empower others. If someone makes a strong or brilliant point, you can leave it at that by acknowledging their contribution (there’s more to acknowledgment by the way than “great point Paola!” and we will talk about the art of acknowledgment in a later post) and avoid rushing in to have the last word, or to interject one more perfect addendum to said point. You may be clever and, yes, that extra nuance could remind others in the room that you know your stuff (ok, maybe you do know more) but this is not about you looking good. This is about letting those who are doing a great job shine.
Don’t cut the wind from their sails by systematically displaying more knowledge, refinement, caveats, (fill in the blank.) [Tweet "Rather empower others by letting them fully own the added value they just brought to the discussion."]
6. Watch for dropouts -
Not people walking out, people checking out. Sandra may still be in this meeting but everything about her indicates she has checked out, so draw her back in. [Tweet "This is not about marshalling people to order, it’s about paying attention to the energy in your meeting."] If people are checking out, you may need to adjust your pace, patter or priorities. Sure, people might have their own reasons for tuning out (who knows, maybe Sandra is wrestling a migraine onset?) but as team leader you are at least 50% responsible for how engaged participants are in this meeting. If the emotional field created in the meeting is not conducive to people engaging, it’s your responsibility, not theirs. They ability o amster your meeting your meeting, lies very much in your hands and eyes.
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