Decisions and Dialogue in Meetings
We are conducting many meetings in a hybrid environment. It is more important than ever to be decisive in meetings to establish clarity and accountability. Please review this checklist from Ram Charan’s HBR Article April 2001, “Conquering a Culture of Indecision.” I hope it gives you reminders on how to make sure your culture decisive.
It all begins with dialogue. During each encounter with employees, model honest, open, and decisive dialogue. Ask realism-testing questions and insight-generating questions. Turn dialogue into action. Infuse honest dialogue into every meeting,and clarify accountability for reaching and executing decisions. Decisive meetings are:
- Open–their outcomes are not predetermined. Ask questions like, “What are we missing?” Signal honest searching for alternative perspectives
- Candid–encouraging people to air the conflicts that undermine apparent consensus. When people express their real opinions, not what they’re “supposed” to say, productivity rises.
- Informal–unscripted, with honest questions and spontaneity.
- Marked by closure–people leave knowing exactly what they’re expected to do.
- Use follow-through and feedback to sustain action and productivity. Through honest feedback, leaders reward high achievers, coach struggling employees, and discourage progress-blocking behaviors.
Is the dialogue in your meetings an energy drain? If it doesn’t energize people and focus their work, watch for the following:
Symptom: Confusion prevails. The meeting ends without a clear next step. People create their own self-serving interpretations of the meeting, and no one can be held accountable later when goals aren’t met.
Remedy: Give the meeting closure by ensuring that everyone knows who will do what, by when. Do it in writing if necessary, and be specific.
Symptom: Failure to get all of the information into the open. An important fact or opinion comes to light after a decision has been reached, which reopens the decision. This pattern happens repeatedly.
Remedy: Ensure that the right people are in attendance in the first place. When missing information is discovered, disseminate it immediately. Make the expectation for openness and candor explicit by asking, “What’s missing?” Use coaching and sanctions to correct information hoarding.
Symptom: People stick to narrow views and self-interests and fail to acknowledge that others have valid interests.
Remedy: Draw people out until you’re sure all sides of the issue have been represented. Restate the common purpose repeatedly to keep everyone focused on the big picture. Generate alternatives. Use coaching to show people how their work contributes to the overall mission of the organization.
Free for All
Symptom: By failing to direct the flow of the discussion, the leader allows negative behaviors to flourish. “Extortionists” hold the whole group for ransom until others see it their way; “sidetrackers” go off on tangents, recount history by saying “When I did this ten years ago…,’or delve into unnecessary detail; “silent liars” do not express their true opinions, or they agree to things they have no intention of doing; and “dividers” create breaches within the group by seeking support for their viewpoint outside the social operating mechanism or have parallel discussions during the meeting.
Remedy: The leader must exercise inner strength by repeatedly signaling which behaviors are acceptable and by sanctioning those who persist in negative behavior. If less severe sanctions fail, the leader must be willing to remove the offending player from the group.