When we complain that meetings are boring, time-wasting, maddening, or frustrating, it might help to check first the roles we play ourselves. There are dozens of tactics and ploys, which I've been collecting over the years. Here's the fourth installment of a little catalog of the more common ones. See "Games for Meetings: III," Point Lookout for March 19, 2003, for more.
- The Price Is Right
- See if you can guess the budget I have in my mind without going over.
- Real negotiation entails mutual disclosure. If the sponsor conceals budget information, the negotiation is biased and cannot achieve a mutually balanced outcome. As a sponsor, be prepared to state clearly what you can afford. As a provider, ask directly for any information you need.
- Price Justification
- Here's why my estimate exceeds the real cost by the amount you'll probably cut.
- Playing this game trains sponsors to play the "cost cut" game. Give honest estimates, and when they're cut, reduce the deliverables.
- What a Great Idea!
- Make a brilliant suggestion, end up responsible for implementing it.
- When a manager uses this ploy, everyone becomes a little less willing to offer suggestions. See "The 'What-a-Great-Idea!' Trap," Point Lookout for February 28, 2001, for some tips for dealing with this.
- I Did It
- I'm completely responsible for that success.
- Of one thing we can be certain in these networked, team-oriented times: one person is rarely responsible for anything, good or ill. We succeed or fail together.
- They Did It
- They're completely responsible for that failure.
- See above. This one is probably even more toxic than "I Did It." Prevalence of this pattern is a sign of a blame-oriented culture.
- Hospital Pass
- Hand someone a responsibility just before it implodes.
- The term "hospital pass" comes from rugby. This ploy is expensive to an organization, because it teaches people that accepting responsibility is dangerous. If you use it yourself, don't be surprised if people scatter when they see you coming.
- You are hereby ordered to step forward.
- As a manager, the temptation to use this technique is strong. But you can overcome it if you remind yourself that for most of the work you need done, compliance and obedience aren't enough. Creativity and dedication cannot be commanded. They must be given freely.
- I'll do it for God and company, even if it means my career-death.
- If your managers or your organization are wrong-headed enough to ask you to do something foolish, that's their problem. Don't make it yours. As a manager, if you rely on Martyrs to get things done, expect all the high-cost consequences of increased turnover.
Which of these do you do? Which can you stop doing? What can you do instead? Keep track of what you see in your meetings, and talk about their costs. More coming in future issues — send me descriptions of your more delightful discoveries. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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- Choosing is easy when you don't have much to choose from. That's one reason why groups sometimes don't
recognize all the possibilities — they're happiest when choosing is easy. When we notice this
happening, what can we do about it?
- Films Not About Project Teams: I
- Here's part one of a list of films and videos about project teams that weren't necessarily meant to
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- In high performance teams, cooperative behavior is a given. But in the experience of many, truly cooperative
behavior is so rare that they believe that something fundamental is at work — that cooperative
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- Embolalia and Stuff Like That: I
- When we address others, we sometimes use filler — so-called automatic speech or embolalia —
without thinking. Examples are "uh," "um," and "er," but there are more
complex forms, too. Embolalia are usually harmless, if mildly annoying to some. But sometimes they can
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 21: The Ultimate Attribution Error at Work
- When we attribute the behavior of members of groups to some cause, either personal or situational, we tend to make systematic errors. Those errors can be expensive and avoidable. Available here and by RSS on February 21.
- And on February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
- Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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