So how can we use this information in our meetings as leaders and participants? Here are some suggestions.
Whether you're the meeting leader or a participant, welcome conflict when it begins to occur. Let everyone know that its a good thing. It means that there's passion and interest in the subject and that the engaging participants are digging below the surface into that unknown region of diversity where more truth and complexity is available, along with the possibility of a real solution.
For example, "Suzy and Michael, it's great to hear you discussing this issue with such passion. This discussion is long overdue and I'm happy you're working it through. If it feels uncomfortable at times, that's OK, it should feel uncomfortable. Resolving differences is sometimes painful. Seeking to stay comfortable around this or any difficult situation simply perpetuates it."
Keep Conflict Respectable
When we speak of conflict here, we speak of conflicting opinions versus conflicting people. Make it clear that there is a difference in ideas and opinions and that this is good. Support participants in maintaining respect for one another, refraining from name calling and personal attacks, and get them to focus on owning and expressing their own views versus making assumptions about others.
For example, Suzy might say, "Michael, you think money grows on trees. We can't afford to hire a new salesperson just because you can't do your job." You could coach her to refrain from making assumptions about Michael's values. Suggest a questions instead. Something like, "Michael, how do you think a new salesperson will help us and how do you suggest we pay for one?"
Separate Meetings Types
Patrick suggests four types of meeting structures in his book, the 5-minute Daily Check-in, the 45-90 minute Weekly Tactical, the 2-4 hour Monthly or Ad Hoc Strategy, and the 1-2 day Quarterly Off-site Review. The two most common are the Weekly Tactical Meeting (WTM) and the Monthly Strategic Meeting (MSM).
In the WTM, there is no agenda coming into the meeting. A few minutes are relegated for checkin by each team member around their key tasks for the week. Then a few minutes are used to develop an agenda that contains the top few items that need the most attention based on the check-in. Then for the rest of the meeting, only these near-term tactical issues are discussed. If something strategic comes up that needs to be addressed, it is parked and deferred to an upcoming Strategy Meeting.
Strategy Meetings are scheduled to address strategic decision-making or can be convened Ad Hoc as needed to address an immediate concern. Strategy meetings focus on only one or two issues which are afforded the time they require. Therefore, it's suggested that participants block out four hours for the strategic meetings so that the items can be brought to completion.
Conflict is good. It creates drama and interest and is often required to work through complex problems. Having walked through a conflict to its resolution, participants build trust and respect, qualities that enhance and improve their working relationships and ability to resolve future issues.
Providing a meeting structure separating tactics from strategy prevents much of the jumping around that occurs in most meetings between immediate issues and long term strategy. Both of which need to be dealt with but within different contexts.
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