Yes, I said it. Meetings, the anathema of business people worldwide, might actually be useful; even crucial in a complex world. "How so?", you ask with prodigious skepticism.
A meeting, if done well, should simply be a conversation. Conversation builds empathy. Empathy opens up our ability to be curious and seek multiple perspectives. Being curious and taking multiple perspectives is fundamental to grappling successfully with complexity - situations where cause and effect are not clear and where there are no right answers. And much of the work we do as leaders today is complex.
It can be really enticing to leverage all of the technology at our disposal - email, text, instant messaging to name a few - in order to communicate in a business setting. Those tools and more all have a place but to assume they can replace conversation is a wrongheaded assumption. While there are more mediums than just the meeting as a means to engage in rich dialogue, the meeting has tremendous potential for learning from multiple perspectives.
So what gets in the way? Well, we all know those barriers too well: meetings that have no agenda, include the wrong folks, are more about sharing information than learning from one another. If instead we committed to making meetings a place where dialogue burgeoned, we might start to view meetings as the most rewarding times of our day. Try a small experiment at the next meeting you facilitate. Aim to ask curious questions, to seek out the diverse perspectives around the table, and most importantly think about what you might learn about the topic at hand, your team, and yourself.
For more helpful leadership resources, check out this video discussion kit featuring John Pepper, retired CEO of P&G, as he shares about advice he gave to a young leader to help develop her.
Written by Jeremiah A. Palmer
Guest Contributor for Soderquist Blog
Jeremiah is a leadership coach, adjunct professor, and brand manager, and is committed to helping others grow and develop into the best leaders they can be. Check out Jeremiah's Blog here.