11 million meetings are conducted in American workplaces every day. And a simple online search will reveal statistics on how unproductive many of them are. Here are some of my favorite numbers – an average American attends over 60 meetings a month, but spends 35 to 50 percent of those meetings unproductively, entertaining himself by checking emails or even sleeping. Another statistic says that these unproductive meetings cost American businesses $37 billion each year.
If we’re spending all this time and money on meetings, shouldn’t we make it a priority to ensure that they are productive, and that each person involved is contributing to their effectiveness?
Let’s pretend for a moment that you and I are actually in a meeting together, and that you’re leading it. Do you know what my Meeting Effectiveness Style is? Probably not. But understanding how your co-workers operate best in meetings—and appreciating that each person is different—can help you get more out of your meetings.
Here are few things to consider:
Do I prefer to think on my feet, or would I rather take my time to think before I speak? For some people it is simply a personal preference while for others it is deeply rooted in their cultural background. For example, US-Americans are expected to be able to immediately respond to even unexpected questions, while Japanese or Chinese people are taught to seriously consider everything they are going to say and to not say anything unless it is perfectly thought through and will be a valuable contribution to a discussion. In my case, I can think on my feet but I need to take my time to feel comfortable with the team.
Will I jump in with my opinion or will you have to actually ask me for it? Some cultures are very comfortable with interruptions. Other cultures prefer to have periods of silence as an invitation for another person to step in, or will formally invite others to contribute. After living in the United States for 28 years, I am still amazed with how Americans take turns. No interruptions and no space in between speakers. How do they know when it’s their turn? And how do you ever adjust to this meeting style when you are an American who happens to be shy?
What happens if there is a difference of opinions? Will I agree to disagree and choose to keep my emotions to myself? Or will I want to engage with passion and persistence? Clearly, the preferred approach in the American workplace would be to keep my calm. But different people have different conflict styles, and personally, if I have to check my passion at the door I might as well check my ability to care as well.
There is so much more for you to learn about me as a participant in your meeting if you want me to be effective and engaged. And most importantly – there is so much more for you to consider about yourself. The truth of the matter is that leaders tend to conduct their meetings as if everybody there operates like them. But that’s simply not true.
Wherever there are people, there are differences. That is simply a fact of life. But how you choose to handle those differences can either increase your team’s creativity and productivity, or can lead to tension and conflict. Some teams literally turn toxic when differences are handled poorly, and no one wants to stick around in a toxic environment.
Connecting Differences, LLC is ready to work with you and your team to make sure that every meeting you have is well worth the investment of your time and effort. Contact us to learn more about facilitating engaging and effective meetings.