Magazine article Communication World

Mind Your Meeting: How to Become the Catalyst for Culture Charge

Magazine article Communication World

Mind Your Meeting: How to Become the Catalyst for Culture Charge

Article excerpt

Meetings can be a drain on company resources, not to mention staff time and creativity, if they're too long, unproductive or static.

Ask yourself:

* How often do meetings in your organization open up communication and feedback, build trust, and greatly improve team alignment and passion?

* How often is a high level of individual and group commitment to decisions achieved?

* And how often do resulting actions and implementation exceed, or even meet, expectations?

Research and experience tell us: Not nearly enough. Tragic, when you consider that we spend more time in meetings than on any other activity. If you define a meeting as any time two or more people get together to think, learn and communicate, then you begin to see the importance of this single function. Yet business leaders around the world complain that most meetings are painful, time-consuming and not nearly as productive as they need to be.


Most meeting formats are based on behaviors--the way people do things. But given the intellectual and cultural diversity around the table, there can be strongly differing ideas about the best way to do things. So a discussion focused on how things should be done often raises emotions to a point where ideas are stifled, the process is hijacked and decision making is slowed down. Frequently, action items from the meeting are ill-defined or they're met with resistance.

A more effective meeting focuses on the fundamental thinking, feelings, values and beliefs--why people do what they do--that help bring about behaviors to produce the desired change. This approach provides meeting participants with clear action items to direct them, but also clear motivations to inspire them. Knowing not only what they're doing, but also why they're doing it, increases results in both individual and team performance.


Marco Polo Hotel Group. Looking to enhance guest relations and increase brand value, Hong Kong-based Marco Polo Hotel Group used the latter approach to implement project "Service Excellence" for its seven luxury hotels in Asia-Pacific. In just two hours, 50 senior managers, representing all hotel functions, shared ideas, related customer service to their work, and created five messages defining excellent service and the desired behaviors that support it.

The next day, five cross-functional project teams were formed to communicate these messages at hotel sites, and graphic icons were developed for each message. Project teams then joined forces with functional managers in each hotel, who applied interactive presentation techniques in one-hour feedback sessions with their own teams. These focused sessions enabled each hotel function to define its own "service excellence" behaviors. During the ensuing six-week period, the desired behaviors were reinforced at all internal meetings, and message icons were displayed in staff areas.

The four-month project culminated at the hotel group's annual associate party followed by a series of highly interactive half-day creative events for more than 1,000 staff, showcasing the project's final results. In a format appealing to all learning styles (audio, visual, kinesthetic), project teams staged humorous role-plays demonstrating how to deliver service excellence.

"This project was strongly supported and modeled by senior management, [and] every staff member was involved and contributed," says John Girard, general manager and area director of the Marco Polo Hotel Group. "All new meeting tools and techniques have now become part of our working culture."

PCA Life Japan. Part of U.K.-based financial services group Prudential plc., PCA Life Japan had similar results after changing the format of its three-day conference, which was held in August 2002. The change involved using a facilitator and bilingual interpreters to assist multilingual discussions among 33 senior Japanese managers and eight expatriate managers from the U. …

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