Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How to Artfully Start a Meeting When You Don't Start on Time

Has this happened to you?
You're leading a meeting.
You've got 25 people scheduled to attend.   (For simplicity, let's assume all of your attendees are meeting in person together.)
The meeting is supposed to start at 9 am.
It's pouring rain outside.
At 8:58, you look around.  Only 14 of the 25 people are in the room.
At 9:00, it's still 14.
What do you do?
You've got multiple options, including:
  • Close the doors and start.
  • LOCK the doors and start.
  • Wait 5 minutes and start.
  • Wait until you have "critical mass" and start.
While these are all viable options, they, like the tip of an iceberg, only address what's above the surface:  the TASK at hand.
What's below the surface is the how you manage the RELATIONSHIPS with the people that are there.
The facts:
  • You've got 14 people who managed to get themselves to your meeting on time.
  • They know what time it is.
  • They can see the number of empty chairs as well as you can.
As the leader, how do you make the best decision to achieve the desired outcome, as well as make those that are present feel valued in the process?
The answer lies in being able to hold paradox and transparency.
For example, you could say:
OK, everyone--welcome.  It's now 9:00 am, and you're here.  Thank you for being on time.  I know the commute in today was a mess, and you got here on time anyway. Much appreciated.  As you look around,  you can see we're still missing quite a few people.  We're going to wait a little bit longer before we start, but I wanted to acknowledge the effort you made for the team.  Absolutely noted.  We'll get started as soon as we have critical mass.
You can then start when it makes most sense, and you've not alienated the people in the room by not addressing the situation.
Great leaders make the implicit explicit.
This principle goes beyond just starting meetings on time.
When you share your internal thinking and decision making processes with your team, you create greater safety and trust.
What best practices do you use to share your implicit process overtly with the people you lead?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
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