You’ve reached an impasse in the meeting. Emotions are high.
It’s another stalemate, and this is becoming habit on your team.
Why does this happen? And how do you break through this and reach consensus?
Meeting shutdowns happen for a variety of reasons. And all the tips in the world to facilitate meetings will not work unless you move past the five most common hidden roadblocks that impel people to leave the conversation.
When a meeting stalemates, it is often because team members leave the “window of tolerance,” a term coined by Dan Siegel in his book Mindsight. The window of tolerance is the zone in which people operate optimally, functioning, managing, and thriving. It is the space in which we can do our best critical thinking, exchanging, and considering ideas because when we are in this zone, we are able to use our executive brain – the part of the brain where functions such as creativity, reasoning, critical thinking, and more are centered.
When people leave the window of tolerance, they move to one of two states.
Here, a person will want to fight or flee. They may feel anxious or angry. Emotions run high, and any thinking is based on survival and safety.
Here, a person will shut down, and feel spacey or numb. The body might want to freeze or shut down, and it is difficult to think at all.
How does this work in meetings?
Team members may become heated and even irrational in their attempt to drive home opinions or resist those presented by others. Other team members can shut down and leave the conversation entirely.
When this happens, meeting effectiveness comes to a halt. Most often, the group will decide they need to meet at a later time to revisit the topic. Important decisions are placed on hold. Executives and areas of responsibility are held back. The organization is in limbo.
How do you handle this?
Here are five of the most common inhibitors and some ideas to help the team break through to move forward.
A lack of clarity about the idea or concept presented.
Is the idea or concept being stated clear to others? Has the presenter explained this in a way that everyone understands? If you have a person who cannot state ideas succinctly, this is enough to cause others to discount their message. If you have someone on the team who takes too much space in explaining concepts, here is a “cheat sheet” to help them frame their message in a way that is more concise and convincing.
A lack of understanding as to the business impact or benefits to the organization.
Do people understand how the topic at hand impacts the business? When exploring ideas to support decisions, it is important to connect the dots. How will the idea being presented benefit and impact the organization? What negative realities will need to be dealt with if the overall concept is of value? Asking these questions can help your team think beyond the immediate.
Bias around the message bearer.
It is important for team members to check in on this. We all carry bias. The question is, how do we choose to handle it? Notice if you discount messages coming from any particular team member due to your personal bias about them. How can you give space and compassion to that person and consider the idea they are presenting? This is perhaps the toughest of the five roadblocks, and yet, the most beneficial when we begin to adopt a stance reflecting more empathy and compassion.
Conflict with a personal agenda or conviction.
If a concept is presented that moves counter to the way your own area of responsibility operates, it is enough to cause internal conflict and an aversion to remain open to possibility. Most of us are inclined to respond with statements such as, “Well, that will never work because…” or “We just don’t do things that way…”
Consider replacing these kinds of statements with those such as, “How would that work? What might the benefits be?” This helps you and others stay in the conversation and play with possibilities that could be game changers for your business and the impact it has on the world.
A lack of willingness to embrace change
Change is really tough, and it is not fun. Why? We are creatures of habit and love our comfort zones. Yet, change is when exciting things can happen, and we can take advantage of the opportunity to grow. Check yourself when you feel resistance to change. Recognize where you are in the change cycle on the particular issue being addressed. Then ask yourself what possible benefit you and the organization might enjoy if the change takes place. Awareness around your own resistance and how to manage it if you see benefit are empowering.
Only after these roadblocks have been addressed can you actually move forward to play well as a team and make good decisions together. I challenge you to discuss these factors with your team to begin a new way of approaching and implementing your decision-making together.
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.