listen, listen: how to have a good meeting
sit at a table surrounded by familiar faces. Someone is speaking
animatedly while the rest listen with rapt attention. When it is
your turn to speak, you bask in the attention and respect emanating
from your coworkers. At the end, you leave the room feeling a great
deal has been accomplished, in terms of planning and completing
tasks and goals, as well as improving relationships.
this describe a typical meeting in your department? If so, wonderful.
If not, read on. Inside UVA spoke with a few experts on organizational
behavior to collect some pointers on how to have a successful meeting,
especially when there's a potential conflict.
everyone present should take some responsibility for how things
go, the person calling the meeting needs to do some advance planning,
said John W. Lord, director of Organizational
Development and Training. Before deciding to have a meeting,
the person calling it should decide whether the issue is appropriate
for a group discussion, as well as whether a third party should
be brought in.
If a meeting is to be held, the manager or leader should then consider
several strategic questions, Lord said. Before the meeting, should
he gather information or speak to certain individuals? How anxious
is he about the issue? What process will engage people and get them
to express themselves? How confident, mature and open are the groupıs
members? How will he handle resistance or silence or someone trying
to dominate, and make sure the quieter people have time to reflect
before they speak? What would a successful meeting look like?
the beginning of the meeting, the facilitator may need to allow
time to clear the air, so people's "emotional agendas"
don't prevent them from thinking clearly, Lord said.
the group might want to determine some ground rules, such as those
the meeting is under way, it's important to take time to clarify
the issue at hand, said University Ombudsman Brad Holland. "People
often want to jump straight into problem-solving, without listening
to and considering everyoneıs concerns."
could spend the whole first meeting defining the issue," Lord
said. For instance, "in an academic department, deciding what
kind of person to hire can lead to defining the departmentıs mission,
determining what roles are filled by current members and what needs
arenıt being served."
suggested having people write about the issue at hand, describing
it from different angles.
the discussion, it's important that the group listen to everyone
present because until people are satisfied that their perspective
has been understood, they're only going to focus on voicing it,
He emphasized the need to encourage people to listen carefully to
one another, adding that the facilitator or anyone at the meeting
can use active listening techniques like repeating what the last
you have to listen deeper and ask probing questions to help an employee
clarify what he's really concerned about," Holland said.
He recommends trying to get everyone to speak, even if it means
calling on people directly.
people won't participate as a means of holding their ground,"
said Darden professor Martin Davidson, whose teaching, research
and consulting focus on intercultural diversity within organizations.
'It's important to help these people move from seeing an issue as
a matter of principle to seeing it as something that can be discussed
-- not, 'Is affirmative action correct or incorrect?' but, 'Can
we make a good hiring decision about this person based on what the
But what can be done when the discussion isn't moving forward and
everyone seems stuck?
"Say what you see happening," Davidson advises. "If
people just keep restating their positions, say that. If you can
get people to drop down a level, they'll move closer to resolving
everyone will leave happy. "You can talk about consensus, but
choices may have to be made that donıt please everyone," Lord
said. "At the least, you want people to leave feeling that
they were respected and encouraged to have their say."
Managers shouldn't hesitate to call in a mediator if they think
that would be helpful, Davidson said. "A mediator will speak
separately with advocates of each side to get a sense of their issues,
concerns, stakes and dreams, seeking to diagnose, not just the people
or the issue, but also the culture of the place and the structure
for decision-making," he said.
Lord and Davidson both recommended following up with people within
a few days of a meeting to see if there were issues that hadn't
been addressed and ensure that everyone is feeling comfortable with
rules for meetings
One person speaks at a time;
Don't dwell on the past;
Use "I" statements and avoid blaming others;
Keep the focus on interests rather than positions.
with meeting facilitation, call:
Development and Training, 924-4398
for Organizational Development in the Medical Center, 924-2502