Think of the last business strategy meeting you held or participated in. Was the objective of the meeting clear? Did you feel like you were floating in a sea of blank stares? Meetings for the sake of meeting have become commonplace. Unfortunately, meetings for the sake of meeting without a goal or agenda may be doing more harm to your business than good. So, how do you avoid this? It begins by breaking down your next strategy session into three different categories: Planning a Meeting, Conducting a Meeting, and Resolving Meeting Problems.
Planning a Meeting
Having an agenda helps ensure attendees know what needs to be provided and prepared in advance. The tone and structure of the agenda should align to your audience.
If your agenda is accompanied by a slide deck, be mindful of the aesthetic of your presentation. Don’t rely on slides to tell a textual story. Be the subject master, not the slide master.
Moving back to in-person meetings? Choose the location and time with their convenience in mind. Group meeting? Secure enough space for all attendees. If it’s a lunch meeting, make orders in advance.
Be mindful of diversity and inclusion. If there is anything on the agenda or in your presentation that can be perceived offensively, take it out.
Lastly, decide who will be documenting items and issues that come up during the meeting. This will enable a recap to be distributed, which keeps you and others accountable.
Conducting a Meeting
Ah, the fun stuff, the tricky balance of engaging in the conversation and absorbing information. Here are tips for balancing these goals:
Be inquisitive. This will help you gain additional information, learn about different viewpoints, note areas of agreement and disagreement, confirm that you are hearing exactly what team members are contributing, and show you are curious to address the needs of others.
Demonstrate Active Listening
Active listening allows for a deeper and mutual understanding of another’s positions. When you paraphrase, check for clarity, and ask follow-up questions, it encourages more participation and keeps the discussion flowing. Active listening techniques include:
- Head nodding and other appropriate gestures to indicate understanding
- Repeating what you heard back to confirm you are on the same page
- Asking follow-up questions to further expand your grasp
- Using words and phrases like “Ah-ha,” and “Yes, I understand,” to comprehension
Read the room
Tune into the energy of the room and look for body language cues. Are people fidgeting in frustration? Do looks of discontent or disagreement abound? These are signs to intervene. It’s OK to gauge sentiment in the room by simply asking people straight-up: Is this resonating? Do we feel comfortable with the progress we’re making?
Bringing focus to the group’s emotional state helps you understand whether they’re engaged or disconnected. If the group is disconnected, jump in and lead them down an alternate path.
Resolving Meeting Problems
Sometimes meetings veer off. Show leadership and reel the group in. As a facilitator, be conscious of when people are repeating themselves or when topics broached are irrelevant or overly negative.
This can be a delicate dance with a client. Tread lightly as follows: “I understand your concerns and I’m going to take note of them so that we can address them at a later time. But in respect for your time, I’d like to get back to the topic, so we know how to better address your concerns” or “Everyone is raising good points, but we are veering off topic. I’m going to add these to the meetings notes. We can make time for this topic the next time we meet.”
Employing these tactics doesn’t guarantee conflict mitigation or resolution. It’s on you to harness the power of conflict in a positive way. Manage the discussion to listen to all viewpoints, lead the discussion to identify areas of consensus and contention, and do your best to make everyone feel heard.
You might not have an answer in the moment, but that’s when you reengage that bit of verbal dancing: “I want to do a little more research before committing to a solution, but I’ve heard and documented your concerns and I’d like to follow up with the best option.”
Again, be cognizant of non-verbal communication cues expressing frustration. Understanding body language in this context can help see when there is true agreement versus spoken agreement simply to end the meeting. Address body language disagreement head on otherwise you may not have another opportunity to save the meeting.
Being proactive regarding your next business planning session will ease stress, build confidence, and impress upon those in attendance that they are a priority, which are likely to serve you and your goals well for the short-term and long-term.
Planning a meeting, conducting a meeting, and resolving meeting problems are skills crucial to developing a strong financial professional practice.
Are you interested in building a career in financial services brining these skills to the table?
2021-129847 Exp. 11/23