While waiting in the dentist’s office, I started thinking about meetings.

Is there a connection between good meetings and bad dentistry? I say yes!

It’s about control.  Whether you’re leading a meeting or pulling teeth (sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference), control is key.

Mistake #1:  Too much control.  You drive the meeting, but no one’s engaged.

One day, I offered my dentist a suggestion.  “You should have a spittoon, so your patients can sit up once in a while, spit, and take a break.”

“I hate ’em,” he muttered, almost to himself, “every single one of them.”  Was he talking about spittoons or patients?  I wasn’t sure. 

Before I could offer any more advice, he put a suction hose in my mouth.  Clearly, this man had a schedule, and there was no time for spitting.

Fine.  But you certainly don’t want dead silence at your meeting.  Notice who’s talking, and who isn’t.  If you’re dominating, that’s less like a meeting, more like a dental experience.

Why are you talking so much, anyway?  Probably because you’ve got too much info, too little time.  Well, can you send some info out in advance? 

That way, you can use more of the meeting to discuss, debate, and decide, rather than dump data. 

Mistake #2:  Too little control.  Everyone is engaged, but nothing is accomplished.

I once had a dentist—or else it was someone pretending to be a dentist—ask, “What are your goals for your teeth?” 

I didn’t really have any, other than to keep them.  And I expected the dentist—or this person impersonating one—to provide a modicum of direction.

Same for the meeting leader.  Without you steering, everyone may participate, but your meeting goes nowhere.  And people will sense something’s missing, like a purpose, or an agenda, or a leader.

To maintain control, you don’t need to dominate, but you do need to drive the structure.

For example, deputize a timekeeper to alert the group if the conversation goes off the rails.

And set some ground rules early, to prevent trouble later.  Consider:  no cell phones, no side conversations. And no spitting . . .

Tip:  A good meeting is both efficient (uses time well) and engaging (uses people well).

To achieve both, flex control.


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