We’ve all been in meetings where
participants attendees were “misbehaving.” Disengaged, looking at their phones, typing emails, texting, whispering to one another - just generally not paying attention or participating.
If this happens to you all the time, it may be that your meetings tend to be boring, unproductive, and a waste of time. That’s a different issue which can be solved by using the we use in EOS.
But even in Level 10 Meetings, people can exhibit some detrimental behaviors. When I have meetings with my clients, I post my House Meeting Rules to remind everyone about what they can do to make the meeting what it needs to be. I encourage my clients to adopt these rules for their meetings as well.
Here are the rules and what they mean:
1) Be fully present and engaged.
This means no tech allowed. No phones, calls, tablets, texts, emails, social media, and definitely no Candy Crush. Some clients actually collect the phones in a box and keep them right outside the meeting room. The only electronics I allow is a tablet or laptop if the team scribe uses it to take notes, but even then it has to be noiseless. No clicky keyboards, please!
The reason for this tech ban is to allow you to work fully “ON” the business in your meeting. Every email or text you review sucks you back IN the business. And when you divert attention from the topic by checking email, it is scientifically proven that you take from 10 to 20 minutes to stop thinking about that matter and fully regain your focus. Keeping devices out of the meeting room allows you to be fully present and adding your insights to the issues being discussed.
2) Breaks when we need 'em, all break together.
(See #1 again.) Nothing is more distracting or disruptive than one person leaving or entering the room while a meeting is underway. A Level 10 Meeting will never be longer than 90 minutes, so you won’t need a break. In other meetings that last longer, we try to take a break every hour. Frequent breaks help everyone stay alert and focused.
3) No sidebar conversations.
We’ve already established that a good meeting must be disruption-free. But in addition to that, sidebar conversations are not good for team health. Ignoring whoever is speaking by whispering to your neighbor is not only distracting, but it’s just plain rude and disrespectful to the speaker. Everyone’s full attention and focus should be on whoever has the floor.
4) Just SAY IT for the good of the company.
Speak up, speak out, and say exactly what you’re thinking in clear, concise language. If you have a healthy team, your meetings are a safe place to talk. Your opinion is respected and expected, or you wouldn’t be in the meeting in the first place. Everything you say should be “for the good of all, for the good of the company.” If things are kept in that spirit, there is no need for beating around the bush.
5) Use "safe words" if needed!
This openness, honesty, and vulnerability created by #4 still makes some nervous, especially if they need to “speak truth to power” by telling their boss something that may be uncomfortable to mention. If you say something that may sting someone, preface it by saying, “(Name), with all due love and respect…”. This gives the person a moment to prepare to hear something unpleasant. And if you find yourself on the receiving end of such a comment, you’ll have a moment to determine to be objective and not go on the defense.
6) NO ELEPHANTS and NO SACRED COWS.
An elephant in the room is something everyone knows about, but wouldn’t dare bring up in discussions. A “sacred cow” is something everyone acknowledges is messed up, but has agreed NOT to discuss. Healthy teams don’t allow either of these critters to hang around.
You can’t have a healthy business with restrictions or limits oncritical topics. If it affects the business, talk about it. Be brave, “enter the danger,” and refuse to allow dysfunction in any form.
If you have some of these problems in your meetings, consider calling a meeting to roll out your own House Meeting Rules. Let everyone know why this type of thing is bad for business, and outline how things will have to change going forward. It may take a little practice, but your team will get the hang of it and they’ll love the results when they begin to leave your meetings feeling accomplished, energized, and focused on their targets.