Meeting Resources: Articles
How often have you seen this happen? Someone (maybe you) announces the start of a brainstorming session in a team meeting. Suddenly some team members avert their eyes; others shift uncomfortably in their seats or exhibit other body language that – loosely translated – says, “Get me outta here”! After a few half-hearted ideas have been generated, the session fizzles. On to the next agenda item. It’s not an uncommon scenario.
Long heralded as a prime technique for generating out-of-the-box solutions to problems (or for exploring opportunities), brainstorming often leads to failure and frustration on the part of team contributors. As a team leader, what can you do to prevent your colleagues from tuning out of what can – if handled skillfully – be both an energizing and productive group activity?
Back to brainstorming basics
OK, let’s have a quick review of the basics – the must do’s for running a brainstorming session. Start by focusing the group on the topic. Then establish – and write on a chart – a clear goal for the session (e.g., “to generate at least six workable ideas for improving our hiring process to reduce the number of bad hires by 20%”). And always reinforce the rules which are:
Yet even when teams follow these rules to the letter, brainstorming sessions can still be frustrating or – even worse – de-motivating to the group.
Making brainstorming work
Here are five suggestions to help you fire up your next brainstorming session and truly tap the collective creativity of your team:
Think back to the teleconference meetings you have managed or attended in the past month. How many really met their objective? How many were a waste of your valuable time?
Kelly, a Project Manager at a North American Fortune 500 company, recently told IWCC:
"I often feel that I am wasting my time in teleconference meetings. Between latecomers, people talking over each other or, even worse, two people dominating the entire meeting, we quickly lose sight of the objective. And, discussions are difficult to follow. I know that I am not the only person who is frustrated with these meetings. Others tell me they are simply tuning out.”
You have no doubt experienced many of the same challenges Kelly faced as a teleconference manager or attendee. You probably asked yourself the same question Kelly asked, “How can I prevent these problems in my next meeting?”
It really is quite simple. First, consider if teleconferencing is your best choice. Then, decide which facilitation and communication skills will help you produce the best results.
When is teleconferencing your best choice?
Let’s face it; teleconference meetings are here to stay. They save your company both time and money. If facilitated well, they can be your best choice when you need to connect with your team to:
How can you produce the best results?
Effective facilitation and communication skills are the key to managing a productive teleconference meeting. With the right tools and skills, you can conduct a meeting that meets your team’s objective and obtains the best results. Try applying these best practices in your next teleconference meeting.
Handle latecomers: The best way to handle latecomers is to try to prevent the problem before it happens. Start by sending out an action agenda to all attendees before the meeting. Include:
Then, one day before the meeting, send a reminder e-mail or memo to all attendees highlighting the importance of starting the meeting on time. Remember to include the telephone access number and codes as well as all teleconferencing call procedures.
But what happens if, despite your planning, you still have a latecomer? The next time someone joins your meeting late, wait for a suitable break in the conversation to invite the latecomer to briefly introduce him/herself. Then, return to the discussion. Try to avoid recapping what the latecomer has missed unless it is essential to the discussion. Otherwise, you risk losing the flow of the meeting and frustrating the other attendees.
Create working agreements: Working agreements outline how you will work together as a team. Develop a list of good meeting behaviors that will help your teleconference run smoothly. Use this list to create your team’s working agreement.
If you meet regularly, this list can be a standard tool every team member applies.
Manage the group dynamics: If you manage the group dynamics well, you will eliminate many of your team’s communication challenges. Here are a few hints to get you started:
George Bernard Shaw once said, “The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” To make sure everyone has the same understanding of what has been accomplished during the teleconference meeting, close your meeting by summarizing the action items, responsibilities and next steps.
When teleconferencing is the right medium for your meeting, take time to help your attendees prepare for the meeting and establish some acceptable ground rules for communicating. You will be well on your way to getting full participation and producing terrific results!