Posted in Leadership

Being Prepared, But Saying The Least — Meetings

boy covering mouth

Recently I attended a meeting with our church’s leadership, and as I drove home from it, two thoughts kept bothering me: I wasn’t prepared enough for the meeting, and I said too much in it.

The following week, I set up an appointment with an advisor for input on my meeting contribution. (The role of the advisor is captured well by Michael Hyatt in his post “Who Are Your ‘Trusted Advisors’?”.)

This advisor had heard me present in several meeting environments (including the most recent one), and had watched me interact with church staff and members. He recommended several points of improvement for me, but the one that was most impactful was this:

Be the most prepared guy (gal) at the meeting, with a plan to say the least.

We’ve all been in meetings with people who weren’t prepared to speak authoritatively on a subject, but did it anyway. They spouted content without substance. And even if spouting is done well, waxing eloquently doesn’t equate meaningful content.

We’ve also been in meetings with well-prepared people, who because they were so prepared, subsequently chose to take over a meeting with incessant talk. Again, filibustering doesn’t equate to quality content provider.

What’s the best mix of preparation and spoken contribution in a meeting?

Specifically, what’s the best plan of action when you’re a participant in the meeting, but not facilitating it?

On Being Prepared… a few reminders, for prior to the meeting

  • Have I gathered all my facts?
  • What questions can I anticipate on this agenda topic?
  • Have I searched my paper files and e-mail for all correspondence which may be relative to the meeting topic?
  • Have I studied enough that I have key information and metrics in my head?

On Saying Little… a few reminders, for during the meeting

  • Only speak to a topic after you’ve answered this question to yourself:

Am I speaking to bring value to the conversation, or for some other less worthy reason?

  • Resist the urge to control the output or concerns of others.
  • Listen reflectively.
  • Don’t formulate rebuttal comments while others are speaking.

I’ve by no means got all this down. After most meetings I lead or participate in, I feel there’s ways I can improve.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people said about this about us after they left a meeting…

“They don’t talk a lot, but when they do, they bring a lot of value”?

 

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Only Promote What You're Passionate About

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As 10th grade boys typically did on weekends, my friend Shawn and I were trolling the mall for girls to flirt with. But this particular mall-cruise exhibited another testosterone-induced behavior as well.

My friend and another guy unintentionally bumped into each other near the crowded Cinnabon.  An unintentional bump equated to a reason to fight. The intimidating mall police (sarcasm) stepped in and thwarted any fist to cuffs (that day, anyway).

The following Monday, the “other” guy who had bumped into my friend Shawn (who attended a different school than me) said he’d sure like the chance to fight him.

Since I have the spiritual gift of “helps,” and the strength of “connection,” I agreed to arrange for such a meeting.

A few calls on the brick cell phone, and I’d arranged for a 4 p.m. fight at the local fighting grounds. I was quite impressed with my promotional skills. No less than sixty people showed up to watch the fight. I was a mini Don King. My friend dominated for the onlookers.

The next day, I sauntered through my high school with a sense of pride, as I received accolades for the fight set-up.  I was living vicariously through Shawn’s victory. But my sauntering only lasted until third-hour English class.

One of the kids who wasn’t fond of me (there was more than one) said to me in front of the whole class: “You were sure good at setting up a fight for your friend, but how ’bout a fight with me?”

Oops.

Lesson learned: only promote what you’re passionate about. And I wasn’t passionate about fighting.

Many times in leadership, I’ve been asked to give my voice and support to something or someone. Typically, I’ve promoted as requested. But often, I haven’t been passionate in my promotion.

Passionless promotion can cause these issues:

  1. People can tell you’re not passionate, and therefore your voice becomes white noise.
  2. For the sake of timely promotion, you don’t vet the thing or person you’re promoting, and the implications of not considering fully can often cause regret.

That was the case in my promotion of the fight. If I’d considered that it might lead to my embarrassment in class, an eventual fight myself, and subsequently a scar about my right eye, I might’ve thought twice before I got my Don King on.

As a leader, you have limited capital to spend. Spend it wisely.

It’s fine to promote, but be careful to only give your promotion to things you have vetted, believe in, and are passionate about. When you can’t do that, find someone who can, or simply say “no” to your public promotion of that event, ministry, or person.

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If It Stinks, Investigate (the task a leader can't ignore)

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Photo courtesy of iStockphoto®

You’re approving odd expense reports. You keep seeing someone in a place they shouldn’t be. One department seems to always have the latest technology. An employee quickly minimizes their screen when you enter their office.

These scenarios stink.

In my home I change some diapers, but my wife wins the “most diapers changed” award. My primary responsibility is diaper disposal. Disposal involves picking up the dirty diaper, placing it in a bag, and taking it to the outside trash (where squirrels, cats, and our neighbors can enjoy the smell).

Sometimes before I’m asked to dispose of a diaper, I smell something that stinks (a diaper left on the changing table, bed, or moved by some other child to unforeseen areas, like under a couch). I smell it, but I don’t want to investigate. If I investigate, I’m agreeing to the disposal chore – which clashes with my preferred option: to move farther away from the smell.

Many leaders take the same approach to issues that stink at work.

Investigation of difficult and stinky situations can’t be ignored. Investigation is the incumbent responsibility of the leader, and it shouldn’t be abdicated.

To your boss, board, congregation, denomination or judge, these words won’t cut it: “I thought something was off (smelled bad), but I didn’t really check into it.”

Your lack of investigation makes you culpable. Whether accountable to God’s standards, a judge’s, (or in my case, my wife’s) we must provide an answer for what we did or didn’t do.

What stinks in your work-place today?

What situation have you been unwilling to engage, because it might be trouble? Waiting only increases the trouble. The smell worsens.

Don’t wait for someone else to find out what smells. Don’t wait for the annual audit. Don’t wait until the stink has impacted your organization beyond repair. Don’t allow a dirty diaper to create a spiritual problem in your church.

Good leaders investigate, engage, and deal with whatever they find.

And sometimes after investigation, it turns out to be just a wet diaper, and it hardly stinks at all.

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