Monday, July 07, 2014


Beware of Control disguised as Preparation...

I find that many clients feel the need to prepare thoroughly for meetings. They understandably want to do things ‘professionally’ and minimise the risk of things ‘going wrong’.

That’s fine until you examine motives...

Often the preparation is about limiting the options that people have to express themselves. ‘We don’t want people whingeing about the same old things’ is a common cry; or ‘Geoff will hijack the conversation if we allow him’. This boils down to controlling the agenda to promote the outcomes that the organisers want and, indeed, is the way that many meetings are run.

The result is people feel unable to speak freely and the meeting will lack authenticity. The structure will also inhibit creativity.

Sometimes the organisers don’t even realise that they are attempting to control outcomes. They genuinely believe that limiting conversational freedom is beneficial for all concerned and that they know best. You may have a struggle disillusioning them and you may have to either go with it or walk away.

Paradoxically, when you explicitly encourage everyone to express themselves freely, many of the moans and whinges surface in more constructive ways as individuals take responsibility for the impact they have.

Of course a degree of preparation and planning is essential, but bear in mind Napoleon’s dictum:

A battle was never won according to plan ... and a battle was never won without a plan.

I like to have an agenda – most clients insist on it. But once the meeting has started I like to respond to the need and adapt as required - rip it up if necessary. Start, stop and break times should remain sacrosanct in my view as once these are transgressed, respect for the process is undermined.

The agenda needs to encourage freedom of expression, not contain it.

Finally, when there are particular core issues to be addressed, I find it helpful to start with a concise presentation outlining the issues. This then forms a stimulus for dialogue, but not a constraint upon it.

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