We all get in our own way in a plethora of ways – self-doubt, over-compensating, over-thinking, over-confidence, wanting to be dominant or right, and sometimes even by being plain lazy! These traits do not necessarily always get in our way, but they can be triggered by certain situations or scenarios. For me, meetings were my Achilles heel, and in many ways they still are. I had to work hard to get out of my own way in business meetings, and even today I am conscious about not getting in my own way during a business meeting.
Through many years of observing professionals, I realize that the challenges of trying to navigate business meetings aren’t exclusive to me. All professionals, from interns to CXOs, get in their own way when it comes to business meetings. People tend to want to make a point no matter what, some people hold back from saying anything, some tend to dominate meetings, some latch on to just a single discussion point, and so forth. However, the tendency of getting in your own way during a business meeting isn’t hugely surprising if you consider the fact that meetings by nature can be tricky and many times, unproductive. So if you manage to get in your own way, especially while leading a meeting, it can exponentially complicate matters.
Consider some of these statistics from Atlassian’s Time Wasting at Work infographic, which explores how typical companies in the US waste time at work:
- An average of 62 meetings are attended in a month by employees
- Half of these meetings are considered time wasted
- 31 hours are spent on unproductive meetings in a month
Dive a level deeper and you understand that:
- 91% of meetings goers spend time daydreaming
- 96% missed meetings
- 39% slept during a meeting
- 45% felt overwhelmed
- 73% did other work
- 47% complained
With the above extraneous factors and your own inner demons at play, trying to lead a meeting can be a daunting task. I thought hard about this and then devised a little tool to help me from getting in my own way during business meetings. This tool can be arranged how you see fit – either as a quadrant or just as a list of points. The four buckets or areas of the quadrant are as follows:
Topics you are confident about:
This bucket can also be looked as at areas that are core for an upcoming meeting. You should preferrably know the topics in this bucket inside out (trust me, trying to wing it won’t get you far). Study this bucket carefully, and be prepared. The more authoritative and sure you can be, the more likely it is that people will respond well to what you are trying to convey.
Topics you may want to address:
These are topics you may or may not want to visit during the meeting. For example, these could be topics that you still do not have a solid idea about. I divide these into topics that I know certain aspects of really well, and topics that have certain aspects I am not so sure of. In my experience, it is best to stick to the areas that you are sure about. But if you were to discuss the topics in this bucket during a meeting, make it extremely clear that you are basing your discussion on a topic that you are still trying to gain clarity about.
Topics you definitely want to avoid:
These are topics or areas in a meeting you definitely want to avoid, either because you are not confident about them or because they could lead the meeting astray. These topics could be both related or unrelated to the meeting, but no matter what, avoid this quadrant like the plague! In case any of the participants of a meeting question you about this area, just politely let them know that you aren’t ready to talk about this topic as yet, but will be at a later date.
Topics that are not central to the meeting:
While in an ideal world we would all have a perfect agenda for a meeting and would stick to this agenda to a T, in the real world meetings are a place for tangential topics to crop up. Have a list of go-to topics that are unrelated to the current meeting, but are still relevant to your business’s big picture. Restrict the use of this bucket or quadrant, as meetings can quickly become unproductive and futile if you focus on it too long.
Use the four buckets tool judiciously and whenever you need extra guidance either while leading a meeting or while being an active participant in a meeting. I have found that the above four buckets are useful not only during business meetings, but also in situations that require hard negotiations like buying a home or car.
The quadrant isn’t the most sophisticated or the perfect answer to having productive meetings, but it can act as a roadmap that helps you stay on course. Most of all, it can help you stay conscious about getting in your own way during business meetings!
Edwin has authored 9Lenses Insight to Action:A Social Approach to Business Optimization and Snapshot9 What’s Your Picture?:Accelerate Your Business Performance. Click here to download the first chapter of 9Lenses Insight to Action for free!