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The Thunder Of Your Actions

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What you are …  thunders so that I cannot hear what you say.Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet

Today we see myriad distractions in meetings and working sessions. People on their phones; side conversations; surfing the web; updating Facebook, scanning Slack.

Despite my post on Meeting Fun, if a meeting is important, then people should be engaged. Here are a few tips to keep your meeting on track.

Back in the days when lecture was still considered a good training method, one of my colleagues used to start his lectured by saying, “I’m here to talk; you’re here to listen. If you get done before I do, please leave.” The line always got a laugh but I always thought it conveyed a bad attitude to the group.

A friend noticed an executive playing Candy Crush during an action planning session. At a break, he said to the exec, “Is my meeting boring you?” And the senior leader was incensed. He wasn’t embarrassed to be caught playing a game; he was annoyed to be called out on it.

Playing a phone game in a meeting is a terrible example for the team. The thunder of your actions…

One technique I use a lot is silence (which is not really my forte).

When someone is engaged in a side conversation or is otherwise distracted, I’ll just be silent. Before too long, everyone in the meeting is looking at the rude person and the silence is deafening. This method may be a better approach than a direct comment—particularly if that person is your manager.

Another easy technique for getting people’s attention is to simply raise your hand and say quietly, “Raise your hand when you’re ready to begin.” Just keep your hand up in the air until you have everyone’s attention. It’s a much better technique than trying to shout over the din.

In the ideal world, meetings and workshops are informative and even fun. In fact, meetings may be why we have offices in the first place. For more on the importance of meetings, read Death By Meeting by Patrick Lencioni. 

Use these techniques as a last resort but you should insist on respect for everyone in the room. You (and all leaders) should consider the thunder of your actions.

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