But Dr. Crow says it’s also important to allow time for some free flow of ideas. “This provides an opportunity to solicit novel and creative concepts,” she says.
Explore this issueNovember 2015
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When this occurs, Ms. Amundson suggests using a tool she calls “the parking lot.” Record on a sheet of flipchart paper important topics that must be addressed at some point but are not relevant at the present meeting. “This does several things: It validates the participant who brings up the issue to encourage idea exchanges and also allows the group to redirect the conversation back to the agenda quickly,” she says.
No. 5: Encourage Discussion & Participation
Just as a patient’s health would be in danger if they withheld information about their health or history, a staff’s collective health could be in danger if members of the team are not comfortable voicing concerns or sharing relevant information with the group. “Reserve space in the meeting for unaddressed issues and encourage feedback and input during this time,” Ms. Fraser says.
Sometimes, individuals tend to be quiet because they have had their ideas invalidated or shot down by a dominant leader or co-worker in the past. Be sure to protect everyone’s ideas.
To encourage participation, compliment others who make comments, Ms. Amundson advises. Also, simply calling on a shy individual can work wonderfully. Say something like, “Sally, do you have anything to add?” and then praise her for her contribution.
No. 6: Reel in Contributors Who Go Off on a Tangent
Busy workers don’t want to sit through side conversations and discussions that don’t relate to them. In addition, by letting people talk off topic, you’ll be perceived as an ineffective leader, unable to manage discussions or staff. “If you want to be seen as a leader, make sure you can run a meeting,” Mr. Hird says.
If you are recording the meeting on a flipchart, ask the person speaking to sum up their idea so you can write it succinctly. Add it to the parking lot to discuss at another time.
No. 7: Visually Track Decision-Making Discussions
Dr. Crow is an advocate of flexible and mutable strategic plans. “Developing a strategic plan for a group stimulates participation and engagement and allows everyone to voice their ideas and views,” she says. “Once a strategic plan is in place, it represents a framework for prioritizing the group’s work.”
Ms. Amundson suggests writing these headings on flipchart paper: decision, discussion, action items, parking lot, next meeting agenda items. Designate one person to write items under the headings. “This becomes the group’s memory and allows for piggybacking of ideas as well as a common understanding when everyone leaves as to what was decided and next steps,” she says.
No. 8: Manage Conflict & Deal with Difficult People
It’s good to have different viewpoints during a staff meeting. But many meeting leaders fear conflict, so they immediately try to quiet any disagreement. “I encourage dissention, as long as it’s respectful,” Ms. Amundson says. One way to foster respectful conversation is to create meeting or group norms, along with staff, such as one person speaks at a time, don’t have sidebar conversations and turn off cell phones.