They usually start out innocuously enough, with a valid topic, all the correct players at the table, maybe even an agenda. But before too long, the meeting takes a headfirst dive.
The Harvard Business Review has a piece today on this very topic — what to do when the meeting takes a turn for the worse, whether it’s because the brainstorming stalls, or one person can’t stop ranting. The author offers several tips:
– Don’t be so quick to agree with each other. Brainstorming is necessary to think of other alternatives. It can be hard to guide your group away from an idea once they start to make up their collective minds. The author suggests:
If you don’t want bad ideas to become the next company mission, you need to be prepared to declare, “I’m not sure that any of the ideas on the table will get us to where we need to go,” early in the game. Very early.
– Get excited. Your coworkers won’t get involved in the meeting if the leaders don’t.
– Speak with authority. Don’t let your pitch rise at the end of a sentence — that makes it sound like you are asking questions.
A tip I’d like to add, too — know when to cut your losses. Are things getting out of control? Are people’s feelings starting to get hurt? It might be time to call a recess and continue the meeting later, when people have calmed down.
What do you think? What other tips can you share?