Erik Barnlund

6 Ways to Prevent a Meeting Meltdown

How to keep your leadership meeting from going “nuclear”

You’ve already had an example of what NOT to do in my recent blog post, How to Destroy a Team Meeting: An Apology to My Team. Yes, it really happened. But since it happened, I’ve been trying hard to do something about it.

It’s about going back to the basic lessons of organizational clarity – and trying hard to make them happen in everyday business life.

I’ve jotted down some notes for myself to help get things on the right path. I’ll share them with you here...

How to have healthy team meetings: A note to myself

  1. Make sure everyone understands the disputed policy or idea as it stands. Without a clear understanding of the standing guidelines, people become confused and frustrated.
  2. Come to the meeting in the right frame of mind. I came to the meeting a little stressed out and tired. I wasn’t ready to have a mature conversation; I was ready to debate and to be frustrated. Know when to have a conversation and when you shouldn’t. Had I scheduled this conversation at a different time, it would have been a healthier conversation.
  3. Gauge the group’s understanding of the situation before speaking. Perhaps if I started by asking, “How many of you know there’s a dress code policy? Do you know where to find it?” things would have gone better. Sometimes the reason people have a different opinion is that they don’t understand.
  4. Don’t take things personally. Part of the reason our discussion failed is that I wasn’t answering questions from a team-oriented standpoint. Instead, I was taking everything being said as opposition to me personally. This is absolutely contradictory to everything we’ve done, and what a business owner should do, to run a healthy business.
  5. Be reflective, not reactive. The reactive response is emotionally charged. It’s based on personal feelings – and it’s usually selfish. Reflective means taking other people’s options into perspectives. It focuses on the greater good of the team. This type of interchange builds trust.
  6. Hold each other accountable as a leadership team when things go off the rails. We’re trying to build ways that we can hit the pause button while we do things to get back on track. Each leadership team member needs to understand the consequences of not hearing another team member’s opinion and taking it into consideration.

Ask yourself these 4 questions BEFORE you engage in a potentially heated conversation:

  • How will I react if the ideas shared are different from my own? If you feel that you’re going to take them personally and find yourself in a reactive state of mind, maybe it’s not the right time to talk about it.
  • Do you know the questions you need to ask to get everyone on an even playing field so that everyone has the same information? Make sure you and your team are informed of all crucial points before starting the discussion.
  • Are you mature enough, present enough and self-aware enough of how you’re making people feel? I don’t want to go into a leadership meeting acting very personally. I don’t want that to happen because I don’t want to trigger the same behavior in others. We only make good decisions when we make them for the good of the team.
  • Are you ready to hit the pause button when you know it’s not going well? Are you self-aware enough to know when it’s time to step away (at least temporarily) from the issue? If a meeting shows signs of going down the wrong track, it’s better to hit pause earlier than later. You can always make plans to gather more information, work on any interpersonal issues and regroup at a better time.

Any time you get off course, it’s how you rebound that really defines you.

So in looking at the aftermath of a heated discussion, it’s about finding opportunities to be real, in touch and authentic to the people around you.

A sincere, “I’m sorry,” goes a long way when you know you’ve let someone down.

I am always shocked about the grace that I’ve been given in those scenarios. And, how genuinely people want to move back to normal as quickly as possible.

The important thing is how we heal and become stronger and not become fractured because of it.

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