Each of us has a different ‘reality’ to our peers, because of our different life experiences, and so we bring own unique paradigm to any meeting.
This was emphasised to me during a team build event. Having failed miserably at a task, the whole team learnt the importance of clearly understanding the task objectives. How did we fail (not get the outcome we wanted)? We gave up, when we still had time to complete the task. This was because we had misinterpreted the instructions for the task.
The instructions included the term ‘par time’, meaning the average time previous teams had taken to complete the task. As soon as we reach that time, we stopped. We had all read the instructions and everyone said they understood. However, when some of the team gave up the rest of the team followed. If we had taken some time to discuss the instructions properly, before we started, we may have realised that our success would be measured on completing the task, not the time it took us.
When attending a meeting each person will have an idea of what they want to achieve (even if it is just to get through the meeting without being given any more work). Unexpressed agendas can lead to confusion and conflict or, at the very least, a meeting that goes on longer than necessary.
How do you get a clear idea of everyone’s objectives? Ask each person the following:
1. What do you want? – Exactly what do they expect from the meeting.
2. What stops (or might stop) you from getting it?
3. How will you know when you get it? – What evidence will they need, to know that they have reached their objective for the meeting? An agreement, a document, a clear objective?
This may seem like overkill, but this simple round the table check can save time in the end.
Have you any examples when a difference in understanding had a negative impact on a team’s performance?