Meeting after meeting can be frustrating enough, and when the team starts going in circles around a topic, that makes it excruciating. Everyone has information and insights to add. Person after person sharing and then sharing again. At first, it feels productive. If you’re anything like me, at some point there is a realization that you’re frustrated with the conversation and it wakes you up. I always wondered, what do I do now and what do I do in the future to not attend meetings like this?
These questions have been asked since people started meeting, right? Imagine a royal court in some castle somewhere meeting about the building aggression of their neighboring realm. This is literally where they could win or lose. Or, the Greek Senate, blustering on about opinions and philosophies trying to convince each other that their theory is the correct one. Imagine one of those scenarios next time and let your laughter interrupt the circles!
Alright, besides all of the “imagining people in their underwear” stuff, Why is this happening? Is there something that can be done about it? The answer is yes. Several layers of dysfunction could be happening at the same time. I suggest you choose one to start untangling.
Look at the balance of personalities on the team
Lack of understanding or tolerance of each other. News flash – not everyone thinks alike. We need to find a way to work with it rather than let it defeat us. Teams can become unbalanced because we all want to work with people that get us. The team could be skewed toward people who want a lot of information and who encourage a deep dive on the subject. Or, it could be that there are a lot of people who want to start immediately and take action. They may find themselves jumping into more than they wanted to take on. A balanced team with people who want to jump in, people who want to get into the details, people who can organize, and people who can finish is important.
There are many personality assessments out there that have a spin on this. I recommend Kolbe and Working Genius. Try doing them individually and then having a team meeting to share with each other and get some insight as to why we act like that. It’s an eye-opening experience.
Keep the team focused on finding the root of the issue
Someone in the meeting needs to be responsible for the outcome. Knowing that we all have different attributes that make us valuable on the team is a great start. There is likely a person on the team who has an ability to keep the conversation focused. Someone who is good at it and likes the work. It is work. They don’t have to be a subject matter expert. They just have to be keenly focused on finding the thing we are trying to solve. This is a discipline. The good news is that this person only needs to do it during the meeting. However long that is.
Part of the rabbit hole problem happens when we are not crystal clear on what we are trying to solve. State it simply. Work to get clear on what to solve before you move on to the myriad ideas and opinions that everyone has to offer. The conversation will stay more focused if someone takes this responsibility.
Prepare the team for the meeting
I know… boring. I can hear my kids now. How often do you have a meeting on your calendar and rush into it to “work on the problem with the team”? Everyone sits down and starts to get on the same page. Consider how much time you can save with two actions. 1) publish an agenda. It doesn’t have to be a fancy document. Using the description field in the appointment will probably do the trick. This step gets everyone thinking about the specifics of the issue before the meeting. However, having that in the back of your mind in the time leading up to the meeting may save a little bit of time, the real magic comes when people prepare. 2) Everyone attending should take at least 10 minutes prior to the meeting to think about the issue. Take notes. Come to the room with some thoughts.
Preparing doesn’t take a lot of time. It takes some focus and discipline. What it can do is save a lot of time. Rather than processing in the moment, you move that up and offline so that your time together is more potent.
As a team facilitator and EOS® Implementer, I get an outside view of how we systemically avoid accountability and improvement. These suggestions may or may not resonate with you. What is really important is that you take a step. Do it with compassion for your teammates and focus on making the result a little bit better all of the time. It doesn’t have to be perfect today. Just better. Pretty soon, you will look back and find that you and your team have made tremendous strides.
If you are like me and appreciate having a system to start from, check out the Entrepreneurial Operating System®. You will find a set of practical tools made to help entrepreneurial businesses grow and best of all – stop wasting time and emotional energy on meetings that end up being a waste of time.