Tensions Are Running High - How to Turn Down the “Heat”

We’ve all been in meetings where the discussion gets heated. The situation doesn’t just frustrate but downright baffle leaders, particularly when they’re heading up a group of clearly intelligent team members who, come meeting time, may have a tendency to digress and derail, making it impossible to get anything done. These tensions are exasperated during the current state of the world, with emotions surrounding uncertainty and change leading the way. Getting specific alignment around strategy and execution are critical now, and leaders are relying on effective meetings to get their team headed towards common goals.

Team communication needs to feel safe, now more than ever. Your people need to feel respected and heard. People are just getting used to online meetings in place of in-person, and many things can get lost in translation. If your organization struggles with meeting “heat,” here’s how to better control rising tempers and temperature with an approach that supports effective communication, emotional intelligence and respect to effectively execute on current and ever-changing business strategies.

1)   Set ground rules. When our consultants work with clients in Vital Factor Team Meetings, ground rules are established upfront to ensure an effective outcome and to keep people on track. These rules—which can be written on a white board, approved by all present, recorded in meeting notes, and shared for everyone to keep—may include things like: Don’t interrupt; silence cell phones; attack the problem, not the person; be open-minded to different ideas; no sidebars; avoid distorted thinking (judging and black-and-white thoughts); control negative body language (both in-person and when using video conferencing); and think before speaking.

2)    Focus on the goal. The most effective meetings have a clear goal, established by the meeting’s leader/facilitator (or sometimes the entire team by consensus) and understood by all right from the start. This is especially important now, as leaders are determining action plans to adjust to the current business climate and the protocols necessary to follow guidelines in place by the government. People need to know their role in those action plans. If communications unravel or derail, intervene and bring your people back to the goal.

3)   Assign meeting roles. When people are busy trying to manage a meeting effectively, they are naturally less likely to contribute to its demise. One way to keep meetings under control is to create structure with a timeline and agenda, and by assigning various team members roles (e.g., timekeeper, facilitator, note-taker, etc.). This strategy doesn’t just contribute to more peaceful, organized meetings but empowers your team members with responsibility, ownership and important professional skills to achieve the vital goals determined in the meeting.

4)   Communicate successes. What we focus on grows, so discipline yourself to recognize people for productive meeting communications, goal achievement, and a job well done. Speak up and give praise when due, but don’t be afraid to take corrective action when necessary!

What have you been struggling with most with the shift to online meetings? 

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