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Turn meetings into relationship builders

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in Meeting Management,Office Management

Meetings tend to get a bad rap. People complain that they stir conflict and competition among co-workers and generally represent a waste of time.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Ex­­ecu­­tive coach Mary Jo Asmus writes: “Meetings have the potential to be productive if we’re willing to shift our ideas to a broader definition of productivity. In addition to actionable items, a good meeting could increase trust among the participants, thereby promoting deeper relationships and more post-meeting connections.”

Asmus offers six ideas for organizing better meetings that can help strengthen workplace relationships:

  1. Set clear intentions and communicate them to all attendees. Whatever your goal—build relationships, encourage collaboration, come up with action items, etc.—communicate it to attendees before they arrive so everyone is on the same page.
  2. Be a savvy space selector. It’s easier to build relationships in a re­­laxed meeting space. Windows, comfortable chairs, a round table or no table at all are all good options.
  3. Establish explicit guidelines for attendees. Set up a few ground rules for the meeting at the start. Ideas in­­clude no electronic devices, listening attentively and respecting others’ ideas.
  4. Start off with a personal question. An informal, nonbusiness question helps break the ice and paves the way for post-meeting conversations. Questions might include “What are you committed to?” “What gives you joy?” “What are your greatest strengths” or “What new thing have you always wanted to learn?”
  5. Encourage an interactive environment. Meetings need a leader to keep the agenda and ensure the discussion doesn’t fall too far off course, but that person shouldn’t be the one doing all—or even most—of the talking. As a meeting leader, you should consider yourself to be a facilitator and “shoot for 80% of your time listening and 20% of your time talking.”
  6. Split large meetings into smaller discussion groups. If conversation stalls, you can split the meeting into groups of two or three, let them discuss a few minutes, then come back together as a full group to carry on the conversation. This can make it easier for people to think and communicate openly.

— Adapted from “Meetings as relationship-building opportunities,” Mary Jo Asmus, SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Leadership.

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