top of page
  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

6 Ways to Keep Meetings From Getting Off Track

Check out my #1 tip for keeping a staff or board meeting (or even a family meeting) on track. Click here to watch the short video. Many of you know my Director of Client Relations, Zan Jones, who books me to speak at conferences around the country. She has worked with me for 6 years. When she first began working with me I noticed she would sit quietly in meetings. She has an outgoing personality so this surprised me. When I asked her about it she shared how one of her bosses in her prior corporate job used to attack people personally in meetings and embarrass them horribly if they made statements he didn't agree or that weren't 100% accurate. Because of this she was guarded about what she said in meetings. Think of all the good ideas Zan's boss missed out on because people were afraid to speak up. If her boss had focused on the issues rather than the people his meetings may have been a more productive. Stay in the Smart Zone by using the following Smart Moves for keeping your meetings at work and at home on track:

  1. Focus on what is right rather than who is wrong when dealing with confrontational issues. Address issues, not personalities. Ask "What" and "How" questions instead of "Why" questions. Ideally the conversation style should be open with quick and honest communication.

  2. Take it offline. It's okay to acknowledge issues that aren't on the agenda and tell the person voicing the issue that you'd like to discuss it after the meeting.

  3. Hug the Tree. This is the concept of sticking to the main point in a meeting. Think of the tree representing the topic and the tree branches other tangents. When having group discussions don't allow the conversation to go off point by discussing an old issue or something unrelated. Avoid "war stories" from the past that take the discussion off track. I discuss how to hug the tree in this video.

  4. Recognize what high emotions mean. Regardless of personality type, as long as a person is communicating with high emotion, he or she does not feel understood. And before someone can trust others he/she must first feel understood. Without trust among meeting members there will be suspicion within the group and less cohesion. Click here for a short video on emotions and trust where I talk about this in more detail.

  5. People will behave differently in a meeting setting than they behave one-on-one. Peer pressure and intimidation affect how people interact in a group. Be cautious about calling on a new person in the meeting unless you've given him/her a heads-up beforehand. What is no big deal to you could be really embarrassing to a new person.

  6. Set a time limit and start on time. Not only should a time limit be set on the meeting itself but time limits should be set for each agenda item. This will keep the meeting moving and forces the meeting leader to be organized. Staying on one topic too long or not knowing when the end is near will send your meeting attendees to browsing their Blackberries. Consider starting a meeting at odd times. In his book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Verne Harnish says to start meetings at a time like 1:07 pm vs. 1:00 pm. He says that irregular starting times are more memorable.

bottom of page