Meetings are hard to run. You get no training in advance, you just have to figure it out. It’s a public display of you trying to figure it out, and failing in the process. That is, of course, how we figure things out: by failing.
Yesterday, I ended my meeting spiel to about 14 people saying:
“Now, I want to talk about ground rules. All other ground rules apply to this meeting (treating each other with respect and dignity, respecting our time, et cetera), but the ground rule I want to emphasize today, that I think is most important for this meeting, is the ground rule about problems. Problems are good. If we’ve got problems, we want to know about them, right? Problem-solving in a meeting this size, however, is not good. It’s hard. So if we come across a problem, I want to capture it and put it up there on the Parking Lot as an issue, with the name of the people next to it who are responsible for following up, to resolve. I also want to clarify that we may come across a problem that really isn’t a problem, it’s just a matter of someone clarifying for the other person that it’s not a problem, it’s already been solved. That’s okay, that’s not problem-solving, it’s clarifying. What I’m talking about is if Lisa here thinks we have a problem, and Gary says, ‘it’s not a problem, it’s already been solved, da-da-da-da…,’ but Lisa disagrees with how the problem’s been solved and says, ‘well actually, I think we should do it this way,’ then, we’re getting into problem-solving, and we’re going to have to put it up there on the Parking Lot.”
I went on from there, probably too long, probably so much that they got distracted by what I was actually saying and instead, were thinking other things:
“He’s really good.”
“He’s going on too long.”
“I need to piss.”
I doubt they were really listening to what I was saying, but instead, judging how I was saying it to decide how much they were going to trust me.