Meeting Rules: Turbocharge Your Meeting with Rules of the Road

Turbocharge Your Meeting with Rules of the Road

Turbocharge Your Meeting with Rules of the Road

Written By Dick Massimilian
Published Fall 2020

When people that aren’t used to working together meet, when a collective decision needs to be made and time is of the essence or when there are undercurrents of friction in a group, Rules of the Road are a great idea. The fastest way to establish them is to:

  • Propose and explain a succinct list
  • Answer questions and request additions
  • Ask people to signify they agree to the Rules by raising their hands

Here is a list that I’ve used with senior teams in technology, energy and financial services:

  • Talk straight. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • What is said here stays here.
  • No meetings after the meeting.
  • When the group aligns, all debate stops.
  • Be willing to put the moose on the table.
  • No bystanders.
  • Speak now or forever hold your peace.

“Moose on the table” refers to an issue that everyone knows exists but no one will bring up. People are invariably aware of these issues, and if an issue is present in the “unspoken” in a meeting and not addressed, pretense overwhelms candor and the meeting is doomed. Based on my sense of a group, I will sometimes add, “be willing to find out that you are a moose.”

“No meetings after the meeting” refers to the phenomenon wherein someone is silent during a meeting then complains afterwards to someone rather than speaking up during the meeting itself.

“Speak now or forever hold your peace” is my favorite. It forestalls “Groundhog Day,” wherein a team revisits the same decision over and over again.

The additional rules people propose provide clues about the people’s concerns. What does it tell you when someone suggests, “criticize ideas, not people,” or “modulate your participation carefully – not too much, not too little,” or “be committed that this meeting make a real difference?” How about “turn off cellphones and computers” or “be comfortable getting it roughly right?”

Invest the time to establish Rules of the Road in your meeting. You’ll run a better meeting because of it.

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