How to Turn a Difficult Meeting into a Positive Meeting

Have you ever heard someone offer a positive idea in a meeting and nearly everyone around the table shoots it down immediately? There seems to be more reasons why it can’t or shouldn’t happen than in ways to make it happen. Many times these meetings become downer meetings, spiraling downward toward failure, and everyone leaves in frustration.

Does it seem that your meetings never accomplish anything?

Stop fighting the negative and use the negatives to drive toward the positive.

Dr. Bluma Zeigarnic, a Russian psychopathologist, said that we come into a greatest height of consciousness and alertness through negative events. Negative events actually turn us on more, get our adrenal glands going, our bodies get ready for the fight or flight mode. Our minds are turned on more during battle. We’ve become very alert and excited. It’s actually called the Zeigarnic effect.

So, let’s use this excitement to build toward the positive.

When you see people reacting negatively during your next meeting, don’t fear it, use it to your best advantage.

Get out your flip chart or white board. At the top write the original idea down and tell everyone we want to look at all aspects of this.

Then ask what are the reasons we should do this, looking for a measurable benefit (this is the reason we SHOULD move forward).

Then ask everyone to list the consequences of not moving forward (this is what will happen if you stand still.) The typical first response for a consequence is someone pointing out that you won’t have the benefits. Don’t fight it, list the loss of benefits as a consequence, but point out that we want to determine if there is really a cost to standing still besides loss of benefits. Frequently there is an additional cost). The benefits and consequences, especially when you’ve put a measurable dollar figure on them, will help keep you on task toward resolving the problem.

Then ask everyone in the room to list all of the obstacles to making this idea happen. This is where we’ll put the Zeigarnic effect to our use. Start your list down the left side of the board. Get everyone involved. They can get quite excited. Make sure that everyone is heard as to what they think the biggest obstacles will be.

Then announce that we want to see what we’ve got to do to resolve the obstacles. Let’s change the ideas from everyone's perception that there are walls that we can't get beyond into the perception that we’ve got a tree down across our path (our obstacle) and we want to see what happens when we move the tree.

After everyone has been heard, and all possible obstacles have been listed start a list of 4-5 solutions for each of the obstacles. These are ways to remove the obstacle. Don’t quit with the first one, that’s too easy. Force more ways to do it, that will open up their minds. The deeper you look the more likely you will find the underlying issues.

What I’ve seen in large groups is that once we’ve removed the obstacle the room comes alive with new ideas. Up until this point, as soon as someone looked at an idea they had said, “tried that, didn’t work last time, not going to go there again.” Most of the time we think it is more expedient to avoid repeating bad mistakes, so we don’t even consider those options. Our minds shut down rather than looking for creative ways to move forward. I want to change that to one of realizing that we had an obstacle that can be removed, and once past that obstacle there is an infinite number of new ways, and new thoughts that will open up.

Change all “cant’s into how’s.” How will we move forward rather than can’t move forward.

I’ve seen the room become wildly excited once past the obstacles. New thoughts start coming from the room. You can almost see the light bulbs turning on above the heads in the room.

So, build a list of the solutions to remove the obstacle, then a list of all of the things that you can do once the obstacle has been removed.

Do that for each of the obstacles.

Now, make your final decision whether to move forward or not. Weigh the

  • Benefits of moving forward
  • Consequences of not moving forward
  • Obstacles and the ease of removing the obstacles as the tools for the final decision.

If you decide to move forward, immediately move to creating a list of actions for each of the solutions, assigning a responsible person to make it happen, whether it will be delegated and to who, and a delivery date.

  • You’ve just turned a negative room into actions to move forward.
  • You’ve turned a “can’t” into “how.” As a matter of fact, I’m always telling my clients that whenever you hear “can’t” stop what you are doing, and ask “how could I do it.” That opens up new thinking that was never there before.
  • Everyone in the room has felt like they've been listened to, and have actively moved forward rather than stagnated.
  • Frustrating meetings have turned into positive action plans.

Alan Boyer, President/CEO of The Leader’s Perspective, LLC is considered one of the world’s leading breakthrough specialists. He has worked with some of the worlds largest companies, on projects in the multi-billion dollar area, and with single proprietor companies. He has worked on many hundreds of projects with companies that have resulted in multi-$100 million savings or gains. With over 35 years of business, quality, and process experience, he has catapulted businesses lightyears ahead in weeks. Some have doubled and some have jumped 10 times. He claims the key to that is:

  • Helping the business owners/employees develop the business skills
  • Helping them overcome the limitations and attitudes that they built between their ears (the self imposed limitations, I can’t, this won’t work for me, I’m different)
  • By helping them find the breakthroughs in their business and thinking
The Leader's Perspective

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