Why should Mark Zuckerberg run his meetings with GAIKU?

Poorly run meetings can crush productivity. This is what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks, and we couldn’t agree more. If you don’t have efficient meetings, you could end up feeling exhausted and having lost a lot of time that you could have used to be productive. So, how does Mark Zuckerberg make sure that the meetings at Facebook are efficient? Well, in a Quora post, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says that Mark Zuckerberg has done a great job improving the efficiency of meetings at Facebook. He made a simple but effective change by implementing two meeting rules:

  1. Send relevant materials in advance to those who will be attending the meeting. This way, attendees can prepare for the meeting at their own pace, so you won’t waste a lot of each other’s’ time during the meeting if some people still need to catch up. People need to know what to expect and what is expected from them. Send relevant documents or other information and make sure invitees have enough time to prepare for the meeting.
  2. Set a clear goal at the start of a meeting. Sandberg wrote that Zuckerberg got managers to set a clear meeting goal at the start of the meeting. It always starts with the question “are we in the room to make a decision or to have a discussion?” The answer could be “by the end of this meeting, this decision needs to be made,” or “we’re here to discuss X.” This way, meetings won’t stretch on for too long because all attendees can stay focused on the goal and will know when they’ve accomplished it. A clear goal gives you a reason to meet. What do you hope to accomplish as a result and what actions do you expect from the meeting?

Mark Zuckerberg clearly knows the weak spots and understands that good preparation is key! This is exactly what we believe at GAIKU. Everything needs to be clear before the meeting starts if you want to be efficient. So, how could GAIKU help? How are Zuckerberg’s’ ideas implemented in our online meeting platform? GAIKU is your guide before, during and after a meeting. It helps you streamline your meeting flow to ensure efficiency and engagement. And if you want your meeting to be efficient, it all starts with good preparation, just like Zuckerberg says.

Before a meeting

GAIKU lets you create a meeting, set a goal and let people know what to prepare. Then you can add and share your agenda points and collaborate on the meeting agenda before the meeting starts. You can add the estimated time for every agenda point so GAIKU can be your timekeeper as well! A friendly reminder will let you know you have an upcoming meeting so you can start off your meeting on time and well prepared!

What else?

Although we agree that good preparation is hugely important, what happens during and after the meeting is important as well. That’s why GAIKU is here to make the whole meeting process, from beginning till end, more efficient.

During a meeting

During the meeting, you walk through the agenda and you can add notes, decisions and action points as you go. All actions will be saved and action points will be sent out to the responsible people. Virtual meetings will run smoothly through video, sharing documents and screen sharing.

After a meeting

After the meeting, the meeting notes and action points are sent out with one click, so all important notes will be saved and available for everyone. Also, all attendees can rate the meeting which will eventually help teams analyze and improve their meetings.

Conclusion

So, what do you need for your meeting to be successful? Good preparation, a smooth and engaging meeting where everyone keeps the goal in mind, and making sure at the end that everything is clear and people know what to do. Though a lot of strategies to halt bad meetings are easily actionable and endorsed by lots of big name CEOs, however, not everyone has adopted them. Many leaders still allow employees to wander into meetings without a clear idea of what’s going to be discussed or what exactly they need to accomplish in the meeting. Are you one of them?

Be a great leader, be like Mark Zuckerberg and make every meeting count. Now, all you and Zuckerberg need is GAIKU. Click here to see how GAIKU works. It’s free, so give it a try and improve your meetings!

 

Source: businessinsider.com


active listening

Active listening - Improve your communication skills!

During a meeting people are constantly communicating via both words and visuals cues. However, sending messages is not the only part of the communication process. Receiving (listening) is just as important. Think about it: when you say something to someone, but that person is not paying attention or doesn’t try to understand you, your message has been sent for nothing. So, let’s take a look at an important listening skill, called active listening. Active listening plays an important role in the communication process in meetings (and outside of meetings, of course), so how do you do it?

Active listening

Listening is not the same as hearing and requires both focus and a concentrated effort. You need focus in order to understand the messages that are being sent to you. Active listening means fully concentrating on what is being said and trying to understand it, rather than just passively hearing the message of the speaker.

Use verbal and non-verbal signs

Show interest in the speakers’ message by using both verbal and nonverbal signs, such as maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and smiling, or saying ‘yes’ or ‘mmm-hmm’ to encourage them to continue speaking. This will make the speaker feel more at ease. If you don’t give these signs, or if you are obviously distracted by something, it could give the speaker the idea that you’re not listening and then he would not feel encouraged to continue speaking.

Don’t judge

Remain neutral and non-judgmental, especially early in the conversation. Active listening is about patience: pauses and short periods of silence from the speaker should be accepted. Don’t jump in with questions or comments, give the speaker some time to explore their thoughts and feelings and try to understand them without judgment!

Show understanding

When you feel like the person is finished speaking, ask relevant questions, ask for clarification if needed, summarize the person’s message in your own words, and give the speaker the chance to correct. This way, you ensure the speaker that you’ve listened to him and that you understand what he said. After this you can share your own thoughts.

Conclusion

Sending and receiving messages and trying to understand them, that’s what communication is about. The steps above will help you be a great listener. And remember, active listening is a skill that requires practice, so start practicing today!

Interested in learning more communication skills? What about giving and receiving constructive feedback?

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Download our free ebook about meetings

Do you want to learn more about meetings and how you can improve them to save time? This blogpost is part of our ebook ‘A brief introduction to meetings’. Other chapters include meeting agenda, meeting types, meeting rhythms, what are meeting minutes, giving and receiving feedback, group decision making methods, and much more.

CLICK HERE to go to the download page.


self-organizing teams

Building a self-organizing team

In Scrum, development teams are guided to be self-organized. The concept of self-organization is very important in Scrum and Agile philosophies. The Scrum framework prescribes that teams should be self-sufficient when it comes to achieving the sprint goal and performing their tasks. “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams”, the Agile Manifesto states. This raises a few questions: What are self-organizing teams? Why do they need self-organization? And how can a scrum master guide a team to be self-organizing? Could they work for non-Agile companies?

What are self-organizing teams?

Self-organizing teams, as the name suggests, take responsibility and manage their own tasks and don’t rely on a manger to tell them what to do. Self-organizing teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by managers outside the team. Members of the team have the best skills, abilities and knowledge for the job, which make them the right people to select the most efficient path to achieve the sprint goal. It requires (and implies) that teams actively experiment with approaches, learn from failures and continuously adjust. That’s why, in the context of Scrum, self-organization should probably be called ‘self-optimization’.

Why is self-organization important?

Self-organizing teams are important and beneficial for any Agile team. Why? Here are a few good reasons:

  • More efficient team process. Self-organizing teams are responsible for achieving the sprint goal. They are free to select their own path, which will most likely be a more efficient path. This does require that teams are cross-skilled in many ways.
  • Quality and speed. Self-organization improves speed and quality so self-organizing teams become increasingly efficient.
  • Facilitate learning. Teams are constantly on the road of self-optimization, because they learn from failure and successes. Although self-organization requires learning, learning in itself is an advantage of self-organization.
  • Improves ownership. When a team has the autonomy to self-organize, the team members will feel more responsible for their work and the sprint result. This will definitely increase the sense of ownership that team members feel.
  • Improves motivation. On top of all of this, increased autonomy and self-organization improve motivation within the team.

What does it take to build a self-organizing team?

Let’s take a look at 7 essentials of a self-organizing team:

  • Motivation. Team motivation is key! Team members should be focused and interested in their work.
  • Teamwork. Team members should work as a team rather than as a group of individuals. They should manage their work as a group, so encourage teamwork.
  • Trust and respect. It’s important that team members trust and respect each other. They should believe in each other and go the extra mile to help resolve issues.
  • Commitment. Committed individuals are vital in a self-organizing team. Committed team members communicate with each other, and are aware of their task to deliver, individually and as a group. There are various meetings, such as the daily stand-up meeting, that encourage team discussions and commitment.
  • Continuity. The team should be together for a reasonable duration to grow into a self-organizing team and stay that way. So, changing its composition every now and then might not help. Continuity is important for the team.
  • Improvement. Team members of a self-organizing team should be continuously improving their own skills and recommend innovative ideas and improvements.
  • Competency. Team members need to be competent for the job. They need to have the right skills, qualities and mindset to have confidence in their job. This way they need little direction from above.

What else? You’ll need a scrum master who can coach and facilitate any of the above ingredients to set the team on the right track and help them along the way. He or she is primarily responsible for making sure there’s a good working environment, which is a must for the blossoming of a self-organizing team. So, a self-organizing team still requires mentoring and coaching, but doesn’t require “command and control.”

Also, senior management should ensure that they don’t get in the way of the team’s work; they need to act as supports rather than distractions. Senior management should also keep in mind that often it’s essential that team members fail before they can deliver and that a self-organizing team is not made in one day.

How to guide a team to be self-organizing?

Creating a self-organizing team is far more challenging than you might think. Use a three-step process: 

Step 1. Training. Team members need to get the desired skill set. Provide any needed classroom or on-the-job training to make each employee competent. Also think about behavioral and communication training. After this, you can assume the team has the capabilities to exhibit self-organizing behaviors.

Step 2. Coaching. Now, it’s important that the scrum master adopts a coaching style to help team members with any difficulties. Some people may require more support and guidance at the beginning. At the end of this phase, a team will be self-organizing, but it’s important to keep your eye open and keep observing and listening to all team members. A self-organizing team needs to keep adapting and improving.

Step 3. Mentoring. Keeping a team self-organizing is an ongoing process. You’re never really done. Once the team is self-organizing, the key is to sustain this for the longer run. The scrum master should always be a mentor who helps the team go to the next level. A self-organizing team doesn’t need “command and control,” but it does always need coaching and mentoring.

Conclusion

You now know how self-organizing teams could benefit you or your company. You know what’s essential to have a self-organizing team, and three steps to guide a team to self-organization. Keep in mind that building a self-organizing team is an ongoing process, and you’re never done. Also, self-organization is not only useful in Scrum, but might be good for any kind of project. What does your organization need?


cultural differences in meeting

Handling cultural differences in your meeting

International companies have employees all over the world. Working with multicultural teams offers a lot of advantages, like deep knowledge of different product markets, culturally sensitive decisions and strategies, and 24-hour work rotations. However, besides these advantages, there are also problems that come with working in a multicultural team and company. In this blogpost, we’ll discuss what the most common cultural differences are in meetings, and how you can cope with culture-based challenges.

What are some cultural differences

People are different and meetings with multicultural employees and/or clients require a unique approach. The way you hold a meeting in Japan is different than in Brazil. This makes having cross-cultural meetings difficult but could also give you a broader perspective of the company or situation. To anticipate and respect other cultures that might enter the meeting, be prepared and do your homework.

Are you working with people from different cultures? Below you will find the most common differences from different parts in the world.

Cultural differences in meeting table 2We can see that there are different ways of starting a meeting, holding a meeting, communicating with one another, and having different opinions about what is polite. We’ll discuss this further in the next paragraphs.

Cultural differences in how time is viewed

Time is the same everywhere, but it’s not viewed the same around the world. Imagine having a meeting with someone and the person is multitasking between phone calls, and people are walking in and out of the room. Would you think this is ‘a waste of time’? Overall there are two ways to look at situations like this: the monochronic way and the polychronic way.

Monochronic: In this type of culture people are very aware of time. There are many expressions in English-speaking countries and Northern European countries like ‘wasting time’ or ‘lose time’. There is a grand awareness of the concept of time and turning up late for an appointment or meeting is seen as rude and disrespectful. Everyone’s time is considered valuable and should be spent usefully. People in a monochronic culture focus on one thing at the time, plan carefully, and are concerned with completing tasks in a systematic way. That’s why meetings in this culture usually stick to the agenda, start on time and don’t allow interruptions during the meeting. Going ‘off track’ is not something that is considered positive and should be avoided. Efficiency is an important aspect that is valued throughout companies.

The Japanese take this especially seriously. Sticking to the agenda and to the set time of a meeting is very important. If a meeting goes over time, that reflects on the people in the meeting. They seem inefficient and unclear in communication or they didn’t prepare well enough to end the meeting on time because of that. Therefore it is utterly important to end the meeting within the allocated time to not ‘lose face’ and save your dignity.

Polychronic: the polychronic culture in, for example, Latin America, Southern Europe, and the Middle East, has a very different take on time. They multitask and believe that time cannot be controlled and is flexible. A company where this culture is dominant won’t necessarily stick to the agenda of the meeting. Instead, meeting attendees are do multiple tasks during the meeting, walk out of the meeting, or take calls.

Cultural differences in communication

In the Netherlands, the culture is down to earth and direct. Communication should be clear and it’s not about reading between the lines, which would be inefficient. Most Northern European countries are like this just like some other English-speaking countries like Australia and the U.S.

The way people in the Netherlands communicate says a lot about a culture. Because monochronic cultures are trying to be as efficient as possible, too much chit-chat before a meeting and indirect communication are not acceptable. Direct communication is honest and straightforward, you can say exactly what you mean. When you think something is not right or should be slightly different, people will say this during the meeting. On the other hand, in many countries in the world where a polychronic culture rules communication is careful and related to saving face. They want to protect another’s esteem and honor.

If you’d like a more in-depth research on specific countries, check out this website.

Cultural differences in meeting

Tips on how to manage

Of course, you don’t want to clash during meetings with clients or colleagues. So how can you make sure your multicultural meetings run smoothly?

The Harvard Business Review writes about this subject. They identify four problem categories that can create barriers to a team’s success:

  1. Direct versus indirect communication (like we saw in the infographic)
  2. Trouble with accents and levels of fluency
  3. Different ways of looking at hierarchy and authority
  4. Conflicting norms for decision making

Make sure, as the facilitator, that you know the root of the problem so you can find an appropriate solution.

Expectations

Be specific before the meeting starts about what you expect from people in the meeting. You want to be clear about how you will run the meeting and establish the ‘norms’ at the beginning.

“I’ve been to meetings where the hierarchy was very different than what I was used to. Luckily we were quickly used to each other at that moment so that was good. But I can imagine that when I would have a meeting in Japan, our very different cultures would really clash in a way. My advice would be to read about cultural differences before entering the meeting. You’ll know what to expect or how to behave, and you would better understand other people’s behavior.” Arjen Halma – CPO at GAIKU

Be clear

Don’t leave anything to the imagination. People always have a different view on things if they are not clear. Confusion is even more likely when there is a cultural difference. When you say, for example, the meeting starts ‘on time’, people can still interpret this as more or less within ten minutes from the start. Be clear about what you mean and don’t assume that people understand immediately. This way everyone has the same idea and it helps to avoid irritation. As a facilitator, it’s important to involve every member and at the same time respect everyone’s cultural assumptions.

Taking all this into consideration, our last advice would be to do your homework before meeting with any culture. This way everyone will feel respected and you can truly enjoy a diverse team. 

 

Want to learn more? Check out How to handle different personalities in your meeting.

Download our free e-book about meetings!

Do you want to learn more about meetings and how you can improve them to save time?

We’ve created an e-book ‘A brief introduction to meetings’. Chapters include meeting agenda, meeting types, meeting rhythms, what are meeting minutes, giving and receiving feedback, meeting room environment, group decision making methods, and much more.

CLICK HERE to go to the download page.


giving feedback

How to give and receive constructive feedback

Feedback is an essential part of a healthy company and also one of its largest challenges. Some people don’t like giving feedback, some don’t like receiving it, and not a lot of people know what constructive feedback is. Let us explain a bit more about it and what the steps are to give and receive feedback.

giving feedback

What is feedback?

First of all: feedback is a gift! The term ‘feedback’ is used to describe the helpful information or criticism about behavior or a prior action of someone, communicated to that person so that he or she can use that to adjust and improve current and future actions and behaviors. So, it’s is a good thing. It helps people, teams and companies improve!

Why is feedback important?

Let’s state that everyone wants to improve his skills. That’s human nature: to always get better at what you do. Besides a self-evaluation, learning what needs improvement requires feedback from other people. It gives you insight in your behavior, and it reminds you that you’re not alone in this world.

Giving feedback

Giving feedback is a delicate situation. It has to be done right if you want it to be constructive. You don’t want to insult or attack people personally, so be careful choosing your words! There are 4 steps to respectfully do this:

  1. Start with an observation of the situation from your personal perspective: “I’m seeing/hearing you do/say this …”
  2. What is the effect on your feeling and/or behavior: “This gives me this … feeling and that’s why I do this ….“
  3. Give space for the opinion of that person: “Do you recognize this?” OR “what do you think of this?”
  4. Offer help and/or advice.

For example: “Hi Jane, I noticed that you haven’t delivered a project in time for the second time this month. It makes me feel a bit stressed because it’s slowing down the team.Do you have any thoughts about this? Is there anything I can help you with?”

Giving feedback this way helps you retain respect in the relationship and give space for other opinions. It focuses on describing rather than evaluating. Be specific and focus on behavior and not on the person. This way, it will not evoke any defensiveness from the other person and sets a constructive tone for the conversation and relationship.

Receiving feedback

Receiving feedback also has its challenges. It’s not hard to receive any feedback in the way it’s described above. If feedback is presented differently you might get defensive and be less open to a conversation. What you can do in that case:

  1. Ask for clarification and use follow-up questions
  2. Make a summary of what’s being said to avoid misinterpretation
  3. Demonstrate appreciation of the situation: “It’s clear to me” OR “your intentions are clear.”
  4. Share your own opinion: “I think…”, “I have heard of this before”, “I agree” OR “I disagree, because…”, ”what I’ve learned from this…”
  5. End with a follow-up: “This is what I’ll do with it…”, “I’ll take it into account the next time”, “I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do.”

This way you can solve a lot of problems that arise in a workplace. With these tips, you can ensure a safe environment where you can help each other thrive and share feedback.

Good luck practicing, and remember, feedback is a gift!

Want to learn more? Check out How to handle different personalities in your meeting and 4 great group decision making methods to help you and your team work better together.


engaging meetings

8 tips for engaging meetings and energized attendees

One big problem in meetings is that attendees are not engaged and don’t deliver any useful input. Meetings can be strenuous at times and it’s hard to keep your team engaged. Every business has a certain meeting culture and that’s often hard to change. But there are different methods that can be used to make sure you get more input or discussion in your meeting, to turn them into engaging meetings.

We’ve listed some easy suggestions to help you keep everyone (including yourself) energized and engaged if you’re leading a meeting.

Tips for engaging meetings

  1. Make sure you encourage discussion items. People tend to avoid tension or disagreements in a meeting. But some healthy discussions between colleagues can create engagement and get the issue out completely.
  2. Have others contribute to the meeting with their own agenda points. Meetings can quickly turn into a lecture instead of a discussion. Give attendees the opportunity to contribute to the meeting agenda and meeting goals, so those who contribute ideas or agenda points are more likely to participate.
  3. Remove the chairs and stand up. Let people stand up once in awhile. Ok, so don’t throw away your chairs, but also don’t let people come in and sit down till the bitter end of the meeting. Attendees who stand up have higher levels of engagement and even become more creative in brainstorming.
  4. Make the meeting content visual. Use visual elements in your meetings, like sticky notes, graphics, and idea mapping. Visual tools will be more interesting to the attendees and this will help them to be more energized and engaged. Interested in improving your slide decks? Read our tips for creating awesome slide decks that won’t put your audience to sleep!
  5. Create smaller groups for discussion. If you want engaging meetings, give more people the chance to talk. The more people get the chance to talk, the more engaged they become. So, design activities in the meeting that invite people to form smaller groups for discussion. Smaller groups also allow shyer team members to feel more comfortable contributing.
  6. To get greater involvement in decisions, consider listing all ideas and giving participants several votes to cast. In the end, the group’s preferred priorities are clear.
  7. Give team members a responsible role. To get more engaging meetings, give attendees a responsible part in the meeting. For example, one person can be responsible for leading a discussion and another can be responsible for taking notes. This will definitely increase participation and ensures that every team member has an interest in the work. Also, it gives attendees an opportunity to grow their courage and confidence.
  8. Throw in some games for more engaging meetings. Energize your meetings by throwing in some games. This will make the meeting more fun and lighten the mood. For example, setting people at ease by using an ice-breaker at the start of the meeting is a great way to get everyone relaxed. Participants will feel more comfortable with speaking up.

Conclusion

We’ve listed a few tips to help you create higher engagement in your meetings. Try them to figure out which ones work best for you! Do you have any other strategies yourself? Let us know!


recurring meetings

Recurring meetings: the rhythm of your meeting culture

Once there is more than one person in a company, structured communication must be a priority. This communication needs focus and alignment to make sure that problems are spotted and solved quickly. Let’s take a look at four recurring meetings and their purposes: daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly.

Daily meetings

The first recurring meeting type is the daily meeting. It’s a short, fast-paced meeting that is held every day, ideally during the start of the working day, for 5-15 minutes. During this meeting, each team member answers the following three questions or a variation on that:

  •    What did I do yesterday?
  •    What will I do today?
  •    Are there any impediments in my way?

Why hold a daily meeting like this? Think about transparency, engagement, and commitment. It’s not a status update meeting in which everyone lets the boss or manager know what tasks they’ve accomplished. Rather, the focus is on each other’s accomplishments and remaining work in order to achieve commitment and transparency in your team.

Weekly meeting

Then there’s the weekly meeting. The purpose of this recurring meeting is to discuss tactical issues that come your way each week and review the goals you set for yourself and your team. How far along are you and what are the next steps?

It’s important to prepare for this meeting and think about issues beforehand, but always keep in mind that it should be relevant for the whole team (if not, meetings could continue for days).

A rough planning of a weekly meeting:

  1. Start with good news for five minutes.
  2. Numbers (KPI’s) are shared very briefly and reviewed for ten minutes.
  3. For 20 minutes the team synchronizes on customers, employees, and partners.
  4. You finish talking about subjects that need further discussion. This could be anything and can take from 10 to 30 minutes.

Monthly meetings

Monthly meetings are typically one to three hours long and best held in the morning when people have the most energy. This meeting is used to solve strategic issues relating to the whole company.

Stick to two or three issues in a meeting and make sure you schedule at least one hour per topic so that the team can dive into a topic without the distraction of deadlines and time management. At the end of the meeting, set new goals for the next month and make them measurable.  

The biggest challenge in implementing this recurring meeting is failing to schedule enough time for them or putting too many items on the agenda. When you’re scheduling a monthly meeting, make sure that more than enough time is scheduled for each topic. If it means clearing everyone’s calendars for an entire day, so be it.

Quarterly meetings

The final recurring meeting type we’re discussing is the quarterly. Plan this meeting for half a day, where the only focus is to define the new quarterly goals. This meeting is typically off-site, providing an opportunity to step away from the daily and weekly issues. During this meeting the business can be reviewed in a more holistic, long-term manner.

The meeting agenda should be:

  • Comprehensive Strategy Review. Industries and competitive threats change, so it’s important to review strategy about four times a year.
  • Team review.
  • Quarterly goal reviews and next quarter goals. How you divide these goals depends on your team and company. You may also divide them further into three parts so you have your monthly goals as well or leave that to the person responsible for it.

One of the challenges you might face is the tendency to overburden and over-structure the meeting. The meeting shouldn’t feel like a presentation to executives but should be focused on reflection and discussing the state of the organization.

Don’t forget to also celebrate the achieved quarterly goals from the past quarter. We make sure to celebrate successes each quarter at GAIKU. The whole team may not be directly working on quarterly goals, but we make sure that everyone gets to celebrate the achievements since we are working towards the same end goal.

Which of these recurring meetings are held in your company? Do you have any thoughts about them?

Need a helping hand with recurring meetings?

GAIKU is here to save the day! Especially for your recurring meetings. Our meeting platform gives guidance before, during and after your recurring meetings. You can easily create agenda and action points and share them with your team. Give GAIKU a try and improve your meetings!


group decision making

4 great group decision making methods

People generally hold meetings to come to a decision. However, group decision making is not very easy. Things like incomplete information and narrow perspectives can make your group decision making a challenge. Also, groups often make ineffective decisions because they either fail to list alternative solutions or do a poor job of evaluating and selecting solutions.

Before we discuss a few group decision making strategies, let’s make clear that a good leader is key. Make sure you know who is leading a specific project or task and has the final responsibility. There are several things the leader can do to help a group make decisions more efficiently:

  • Clarify the goal of the meeting. Create expectations with actionable agenda points.
  • When people seem totally blocked and unable to come to a decision, go back to the initial question or purpose and phrase it in other words.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a group decision making technique designed to increase the range of ideas and solutions available for the group to explore. The goals is to generate as many ideas as possible. This technique doesn’t provide a solution or decision itself. Instead, it produces a list of ideas that will later be considered, discussed, and evaluated when it is time to reach a final decision.

The ground rules of brainstorming include the following:

  • Don’t judgeWhether an idea is good or bad doesn’t matter. Judging and criticizing isn’t good for the mood and creative flow. People shouldn’t feel afraid to speak up. Empower your co-workers.
  • Assign a moderatorAlthough the entire point of a brainstorm involves a free flow of ideas, you can quickly get off track. Choose a moderator who knows the project and can drive conversations toward original thought and successful teamwork.
  • Change physical environmentSwitching environments can influence the way your brain works and what kind of ideas come to mind. Stimulate your brain by brainstorming outside or in another room.
  • Independently prepareGive everyone about ten minutes to come up with their own ideas before you discuss them together. This way you’ll make sure you won’t get stuck with common suggestions but you’ll probably have more diverse ideas to begin with.
  • Identify goalsYou don’t want to waste time endlessly writing down ideas. Clearly state the goal of the brainstorming session so that everyone stays focused. For example: “Identify ten possible ways to get more employee happiness.”
  • Set a time limitBy setting a time limit, you know that the agreed upon goals must be met by a certain time. This will encourage you to stay on track and come up with as many ideas as possible within the timeframe.
  • Avoid groupthinkGroupthink occurs when people in groups seek to eliminate conflict entirely. Positive reinforcement and agreements are great, but shouldn’t stand in the way of critical thinking, creativity, and quality.
  • Write everything downEvery idea, good or bad, should be briefly put down on paper or a whiteboard because you won’t remember everything. You don’t want to end up scratching your head because you forgot all those great ideas.
  • Work togetherDon’t get attached to your own ideas. Everyone will have good and bad ideas, but in the end it’s all about the best ideas that solve the problem. So, help develop other people’s ideas too.

“I have a lot of good experiences with brainstorming sessions, but only because a clear goal was stated before the session. Also, one person should be in charge of leading the brainstorm session to make sure everyone stays focused. Otherwise you can’t make any sense of the chaos.” Jorick Serto – Creative Strategy Manager at GAIKU

Polling

Polling can help determine how people are feeling about a certain issue without requiring anyone to commit him or herself to anything. Managers or leaders who are going to make the decision might do this by asking a question like, “If we were to decide now, how many of you would favor option one?” You can simply raise your hands, or not. It gives an idea of how people think about a certain topic and this information allows for better decision making.

Nominal Group Technique

This group decision making technique is similar to brainstorming except that it’s more structured.

The nominal group technique involves the following steps:

  • Write down ideas in private. After the problem at hand is defined and understood, members silently generate their ideas in writing without discussion with each other.
  • Share ideas. Take turns reporting your ideas to the group, one at a time, while a facilitator writes them on a flip chart or whiteboard. Again, no group discussion occurs. This listing continues until each member has no more ideas to share.
  • Discuss ideas. The next step is discussing all ideas. The purpose of this discussion is to clarify, criticize, or defend the stated ideas.
  • Vote on ideas. Each person privately and anonymously prioritizes the ideas according to a rank-ordering system.
  • Calculate the group decision. The final decision is calculated mathematically, based on the votes of the previous step.

Dialectical Inquiry

If it’s a yes/no decision, you could use this technique. It works as follows. There are two groups, one favoring yes, and one favoring no. The first group will list all the pros, and the second group will list all the cons. Then everyone will discuss their findings and reasons. This technique ensures that decision makers consider all alternatives and opposing views in decision making and it helps managers to make an informed decision. Make sure that at the end there is one person making the decision and that everyone will have to abide by that. This way you avoid tension and encourage acceptance at the end.

Conclusion

In meetings, making decisions is an everyday occurrence, and it can be a challenge when you’re dealing with different people and opinions. There are a lot of ways that will make it easier to make group decisions. We’ve discussed brainstorming, polling, nominal group technique, and dialectical inquiry. Each of them could be useful in different situations. Try them, and find out which one works best for you.


meeting etiquette

Meeting etiquette: how to behave during business meetings

Meetings are here to work better together so you can get things done. People seem to forget that sometimes and come into the meeting cranky and unmotivated. Sitting in a one-hour meeting with a few cranky people, or even one will bring down the positive and energetic vibe you’d like to have. Even though attending meetings is not a passion for most people, there are some unwritten meeting rules (we call them meeting etiquette) that could make meetings a bit easier for everyone.

In general, there are a few meeting rules to consider every time you organize or attend a meeting.

1. Show up on time and come prepared

It shows that you are dependable and that you care about other people’s time. Of course, these things can differ in each part of the world. When you work in Europe or North America it’s appreciated to be on time. Just know what kind of people you are meeting and what they expect from you. Also, come prepared, it will save you time during the meeting.

2. Make introductions

If some people in the meeting room don’t know each other, begin by making introductions. If you know everyone, you can introduce them, or ask people to introduce themselves to the rest of the group.

3. Come to the meeting with a positive attitude

No one likes to meet with grumpy and unmotivated people, that really kills the mood in the room. So try to leave things that you were working on behind and enter the meeting room with a positive mind!

4. Stay mentally and physically present

It’s completely normal that your mind wanders off once in a while. But when you notice that that’s happening, come back and focus on the meeting. You’re there for a reason, don’t let it be a waste of time!

5. Be a good listener with an open mind

Listen to what others have to say and try to understand them. Show interest and remain neutral and non-judgmental. Also, wait for your turn to speak. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

6. Ask questions

Try to engage in the meeting and ask questions. Probably not every item is as relevant to you as to the others and that can get boring. Still, you can engage in that by asking follow-up questions and if the situation allows it share your point of view. The key is to ask questions that inspire a new way of thinking and expand their range of vision. Try to ask open-ended questions that start with “how…”, “what do you think about…”, “can you explain more on…”, “why did this work?”, “what do you suggest we do?” etc. Avoid open-ended question that only have one correct answer.

7. Contribute to the meeting goal and agenda

If it’s desired that you contribute to the meeting agenda, make time to do so! It shows that you’re engaged and that you want to participate in the meeting. Give your ideas, ask questions and offer solutions.

8. Attack the problem, not the person

If you disagree on an issue, make sure to attack the problem and not the person. Speak about facts or from your own experiences and opinions and don’t attack someone else personally.

9. Do not have your phone out

Multitasking in meetings kills productivity. People who use their phones, laptops or tablets, are often distracted. Unless the device is absolutely necessary for the meeting, turn it off or on flight mode and put it away.

10. Clean up after yourself

This is especially true if you were drinking or eating during the meeting. You need to clean up after yourself and leave things the way you found them, so the next person or the people you left behind are not irritated by your mess.

Share meeting rules with your team

It’s important that people who hold a meeting know and understand the same meeting rules. Without that, people may get irritated or less engaged. If you’re facilitating a meeting, share these meeting rules, pay attention to them and if they’re followed by all attendees. If someone is repeatedly breaking one or more meeting etiquette rules, it might be a good idea to discuss this.

Are there any other meeting rules you want to add? Or meeting rules you would take out? Let us know!