All sorts of things go on at meetings but it is disappointing how rarely a productive and creative exchange of ideas leads to good collective decisions. Nevertheless, use of assertive technique can facilitate positive and productive meetings.
Meetings produce many of the decisions that affect how you do your job, what your future opportunities are going to be, and what direction your organization as a whole is going to take. If you are able to function well, powerfully, and clearly at meetings, then you can have a positive influence both on your own prospects and on how the organization itself develops.
If you bear this manager's formula in mind, it becomes clear how to make the other decisions that arise in chairing a meeting. When someone is rambling on miles off the point, when should you intervene and bring him or her back to the agenda? When an argument arises that in your judgment is more of a personal sparring match than a debate useful to the meeting, when should you step in? When someone slaps a suggestion down without allowing due discussion, at what point do you ensure that discussion does take place?
The question to ask yourself is: "What is necessary to be assertive on behalf of the task of the meeting?"
Defining The Task of the Meeting
To manage a meeting successfully you must know what the task of the meeting is, so you must be properly prepared. Familiarize yourself with the agenda and read previously circulated papers. Deluged by printed material, we all have to learn ways of reading that are not unlike the "active listening" model of listening,that is you learn to read very fast and summarize the main points for yourself as you go along..
Only if you have absorbed preparatory materials properly can you identify the "task of the meeting." In Mind Your Manners, John Mole comments dryly on the tendency of some managers to regard such pre-meeting work as optional:
It is not usual for everyone to be well prepared. Even when papers are previously distributed, they will not always be read. Lack of preparation does not inhibit passing of opinion and judgment.
This does not make a good impression on colleagues and competitors.
A meeting brings together people with:
* Representative interests
You have to make sure all their data can be pooled and that the best possible synthesis can take place. You will need to use the skills of "contacting your strength," using the core phrase, and good prompting.
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