Leaders of a company often refer to people as “our greatest asset”, however, they are also the potential cause of roadblocks and delays if not managed well. Technology and processes are relatively easy to assess and optimize, people on the other hand can be sensitive and unpredictable; needing softer skills to be fully understood and appreciated.

Do you ever find yourself in that meeting where you keep going round in circles and never seem to reach a conclusion? Is that the same meeting where one person just won’t let their opinion go? And of course, it’s got to be the right opinion (at least in their eyes). Or maybe your in this meeting and no-one is buying in to your idea and you just can’t seem to get through to the attendees on matters that seem obvious where common sense dictates the way forward.

No matter which role you play in the meeting, it’s darn frustrating for you and the rest of the attendees when we get into this situation. The outcome of most of these meetings is, yes – you guessed it… arrange ANOTHER meeting! Argh!

So, how do we change this course of action, avoid the frustration and the follow-up meeting? We can, of course, follow some meeting protocols, which will assist in the consistency and expectations of the meeting: but will it resolve that situation with your peer who just wont compromise their position? Probably not.

Let’s explore other techniques we can use to overcome the roadblocks that happen when “dealing with people”. I say “dealing with people” because for many it is a headache to avoid at all cost. When you must (and you will have to eventually), it requires thought, time and compassion and still the results are going to be inconclusive. Let’s explore the 10 techniques that should be considered in the artful approach to achieving successful, effective meetings:

1. Don’t take it personally: remember that life happens for each of us. Some days we wake up tired and irritable as a result of a bad night’s sleep, other days we have received some bad news or had a disagreement with a spouse. Whatever the situation, both you and the person you are meeting with may have other things on their mind that have nothing to do with you or the meeting agenda. If they seem zoned out, irritable or over-emotional, have grace and don’t take it personally if we want to make progress.

2. Assume positive intent: hand in hand with “Don’t take it personally”. We all have different backgrounds and cultural experiences that lead to nuances in communication (words and style). Let’s be open to interpretation and assume positive intent as we listen to others.

3. Small talk, big impact: let’s remember that we are dealing with people. Fellow humans who lead their own lives and have experiences to share: everyone is interesting. Never under-estimate the small talk at the start of a meeting to ease any tension and get the conversation flowing. Who knows, you may even have something in common.

4. Patience: let the other person finish what they are conveying. Some people converse at slower speeds and are very deliberate in their word choice, which can take time to assemble a sentence. Take the time to breathe during these encounters.

5. Slow down: When you are confident and passionate about the topic at hand you may speed up your delivery to the point of slurrrrringandblendingyourwords. Again, breathe and deliver a consumable snippet of information at a time.

6. Acknowledging and acknowledgment: Have you been heard? Did you hear? This can be simple body language such as a nod, or a non-disruptive “yes” to urge the speaker to continue.

7. Paraphrase and repeat: one of the most powerful items you have in your toolbox is the ability to repeat back and paraphrase what you just heard. Doing this not only puts us on the same page by providing clarity, it also lets the speaker hear what was heard. This may lead to them to correcting the message they actually wanted to deliver.

8. Curious or confused? Either way, ask questions. This reassures the speaker that you are at least interested in the topic and you will probably find others have the same question as you. Even if you ‘get it’, if you notice that others are scratching their head, ask questions on their behalf. It’s said that there’s no such thing as a silly question… don’t believe everything you hear… there are silly questions. 

9. Healthy debate or an indignant stance? There are usually many considerations to determine the ‘best’ result or decision. What is good for you may not be the primary benefit for someone else. Be open to understanding their position for the outcome they desire. When you come to a conclusion that you are opposite in stance … consider gradual progression towards a compromise or seek an arbitrator to break the deadlock. Agree to disagree, compromise and support one approach to move forward together.

10. Avoid the weeds: Its always a good idea to assign a meeting buddy to help keep you and others on-track, talking at the right level and focused on the objectives of the meeting.

Lastly, please always show your appreciation: without doubt the people in your meeting are busy, very busy. You have taken them away from delivering on other projects or resolving other issues. Appreciate their support in attending your meeting and sharing their intellect by providing an authentic “Thank you for your time”.