If you and your colleagues are not committed to a meeting, it can be an excruciating waste of time. Those who speak plod through practiced talking points while everyone else either checks their phone or wishes they were somewhere else.
If you’re using meetings correctly, however, they can be excellent opportunities to help guide your team to a higher level of overall performance.
There’s a simple pre- and post-meeting habit that will help you get the most out of meetings, says Google’s SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock in his book “Work Rules!”
The exercise is straightforward: If you’re a manager, ask each of your employees shortly before the meeting how they plan on making the most of it, and once it’s done ask them what they took from it. You can do this on your own, as well, to keep yourself focused.
It’s a technique Bock picked up from Frank Wagner, Google’s director of compensation, when they worked together as consultants with Hewitt Associates in 1994.
Wagner, Bock’s superior at the time, would take Bock aside a few minutes before a client meeting and ask him questions like: “What are your goals for this meeting?” “How do you think each client will respond?” and “How do you plan to introduce a difficult topic?”
On the drive back home, Bock writes, Wagner would ask him follow-up questions such as: “How did your approach work out?” “What did you learn?” and “What do you want to try differently next time?”
Bock found the debriefing to be important to his career development.
And as Bock answered the questions, he’d also ask Wagner to clarify aspects of the dynamic between him and the client, and why Wagner behaved the way he did regarding different issues that arose.
“I shared responsibility with him for ensuring I was improving,” Bock writes.
He says he often still uses this exercise with his team before they meet with other Google employees, since it’s not only for client meetings. It’s about making any kind of group meeting an active, valuable experience.
The questions can be adjusted to the situation and employee, focusing on how to best keep that individual engaged and concerned with achieving personal goals.
Bock says that the exercise is an “almost magical” way to boost your team’s performance, since it yields results with minimum effort.
“It also trains your people to use themselves as their own experiments, asking questions, trying new approaches, observing what happens, and then trying again,” Bock writes.
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