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By Gerry Murray. 17-01-2021
(Scroll down for a laugh)


"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome."
~ William James

Have you ever been in a meeting and sat there wondering what's the point, where's it all going, why am I even here? 

This week I'll continue to explore the skill of framing.

To make it useful, I'm going to apply it to meetings and, in particular, how you can use framing to improve the quality of the meetings that you have.  

You could, of course, apply these frames to anything you choose. 

I've found myself in many client situations where we realised that our first task would be to help them improve how they run their meetings, simply because our projects would get stuck on a regular basis or even de-railed.
 

Why is this the case? 

Knowledge workers, in particular, appear to be measured and rewarded in many organisations on being busy. Therefore, I've noticed a propensity to jump right into activities.  The key driver for this in a meeting is the agenda if you're even lucky to have one! 
 

Learning to count

Most agendas are unrealistic. Meeting organisers fail to apply some simple maths. If you have allocated a 60-minute meeting with 6 people and there are five points on your agenda, in a perfect world, everyone would get 10 minutes and therefore 2 minutes per agenda point.  That would assume that the meeting started on time and that all interactions were clinical i.e. no social chit-chat, etc...
 

What's the solution? 

There are several ways to improve your meetings and I'll feature them in the coming weeks. One key way to improve your meetings is to apply what's known as The Outcome Frame

It's actually quite straight-forward, in theory. All you need to do is to ask everyone a simple question: 

"What do we/you want to have at the end of this meeting that we/you don't have now?"

You can ask this at the beginning of the meeting as a tour de table or in advance when you're planning the meeting and deciding who to invite. 

With some groups that I've worked, I've used a flip chart or a whiteboard to write down the desired outcomes of each person. You'll often find quite some overlap. However, if there are too many desired outcomes then this can be turned into a positive thing. 

I often ask if you could only have one or two of these outcomes at the end of this meeting which ones would these be, with the caveat that the others can be transferred to another focused meeting if we don't get to them in this meeting. 

It's also useful to get everyone's input on how they'd know that each outcome has been achieved. Without agreement on this, a lot of unnecessary discussions can take place. This gives you what is known as decision-making criteria

A question that I often ask, which often gets some smiles is:

"We've allocated 1 hour for this meeting. If we were to achieve these agreed outcomes within 40 minutes, would it be ok to end the meeting early?" 

I've yet to meet someone who would complain if a meeting or a presentation ended early! 
 

Expressing an Outcome

An outcome is NOT an activity. It's something that comes out of activities. It's a result. It's usually expressed as an achievement. For example: 

At the end of this meeting, we'll have a clear understanding of what we need to do next. 
 

How would we know? 

We'd ask everyone if they have a clear understanding and get them to express what we're going to do next.
 

Essential Outcomes

Apart from subject-specific outcomes, I recommend that on a personal level you add in a few more for every meeting:

  1. I will get and maintain Rapport with everyone in this meeting
  2. I will have XYZ at the end (subject-specific)
  3. I/we will have a clear Next Step(s)

The first one is extremely important as it forms the basis of getting an agreement. When you're out of rapport with another person it's hard to get their cooperation. In fact, in my experience, if you can't achieve rapport then it's not worth attempting to achieve anything else. 

The last one is equally important. So many meetings end with no next step and this leaves many people frustrated. So, get into the habit of allocating 5-10 minutes to identify and agree on next steps at the end of every meeting, even if this is only to hold another meeting where people come better prepared!
 

Starting in 2021

I'm pleased to announce that I'll be bringing you a new podcast in 2021. The first six episodes are recorded and in the final stages of production. Once they're available on the podcast channels, I'll be providing a link. 

What is the podcast about? You'll have to wait to find out...

Gerry
 

Humour

I told a joke over my zoom meeting
It wasn’t even remotely funny

Zoom meetings are basically seances with the living...
Brian, are you there? Make a sound if you can hear us. Is anyone with you? Can you hear us?

A successful businessman had a meeting with his new son-in-law.
"Welcome to the family!" said the businessman. "To show you how much we care for you, I am making you a 50% partner in my business. All you have to do is go to the factory every day and learn the operation."
The son-in-law interrupted. "I hate factories. I can't stand the noise."
"I see," replies the father-in-law. "Well, then you'll work in the office and take charge of the administration and accounting."
"I hate office work," said the son-in-law. "I can't stand being stuck behind a desk."
"Wait a minute," said the father-in-law. "I just made you a half-owner of a very profitable business. You would be financially set for life. But you don't like factories, and you won't work in the office. What am I going to do with you?"
"Simple," said the son-in-law. "Buy me out."

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