How to Have Fiery Meetings and Not Blow Up
The alternative to fiery meetings is assembling teams that see everything from the same perspective.
Uncontested unanimity is feel-good mediocrity.
7 requirements for fiery meetings:
Invite dynamic tensions on teams as long as…
- Trust runs deep.
- Respect for talent, skills, experience, and perspective is pervasive and obvious.
- Shared vision and mission provide coherence.
- Issues, not personalities, stay front and center.
- Minds change. You aren’t worthy of being on a team if you never change your mind.
- Taking another’s perspective is practiced. What do they really want?
- Decisions that demand action and impact behaviors are made. Nothing is done until someone does something.
Bonus: Positive experiences and interactions outweigh negative by 5x.
Here’s a peek into a recent meeting I had with the three power-people on my team.
Mr. Vision said, “My real concern is that we lose ground. I hate the thought that we might fall back.”
Mr. Vision winced when Mr. Doer said, “We may have to do less so we can get the essentials done.”
Mr. Compassion tried to make everyone see that we share the same concerns, even if we are coming at them from different perspectives.
The three power-people on my team are useful because they have divergent perspectives on nearly everything.
I had a short verbal jousting match with Mr. Doer during the meeting.
Mr. Vision sat back and grinned. At one point, he chuckled and said, “I love this.” Mr. Compassion, on the other hand, doesn’t relish combat.
Mr. Compassion’s fire often speaks to defend and protect. Mr. Vision’s fire often focuses on taking new ground.
Successful leaders create forward movement that reflects the essential concerns of Mr. Doer, Mr. Vision, and Mr. Compassion.
Why do leaders fear fiery meetings?
How can fiery meetings be encouraged, managed, and productive?
Excellent. Like all things, this is about balance.
Another simple approach is to designate one person as “Challenger” or ask them to put their “Challenger Hat on…” during a meeting to generate alternative positions. In our research on teams, which I hope to blog about soon, we found that those people with Challenger approaches commonly shifted AWAY from that position when working in a team.
A similar approach is to do with they do in a few organizastions like nuclear power plants and appoint one person to serve as Devil’s Advocate for a month. Their expected (and sometimes appreciated) role it to look at all things from other perspectives.
Any of these or similar kinds of approaches can generate perspective.
Key, thought, is your though on trust. Having trust in the teammates is an important factor in moving forward over the long term. That is based on meeting expectations and promises.
Thanks Dr. Scott. I am a huge fan of systematizing dissent. That way it doesn’t become personal. Glad you added these ideas.
I’m so thankful for trusting relationships. Cheers
Excellent response Dr. Scott. I work in the nuclear remediation industry and the concept of the “Challenger” is a necessary component to ensure safety and compliance is in place. I look forward to your blog.
We just finished our annual strategy sessions at a SMALL, closely held company. I needed this post at the beginning of the week to help us focus on how to have the most successful outcome. We have several very dynamic personalities and a shared vision but the perspectives can be quite different and hard to manage. My key takeaway is that we have to make sure that the respect is OBVIOUS. Easy to say, harder to effectively put into practice. Thanks, Dan
Thanks Jon. You seem to feel what I feel. I LOVE having strong people on the team. But they are difficult to manage.
One thing I do is have “what’s working” conversations in team meetings. We can also be very active in affirm the strengths of each teammate. Behind their divergent perspectives are divergent strengths.
The challenge of managing these teams is huge but worthwhile. Best wishes.
Excellent as usual Dan. Number 2 ‘respect’ is the most important point I think – without it fiery meetings descend into one-up-manship, defensiveness and even harrassment.
Thanks Stuart. You made me think about honoring others as I read your comment. What a difference! We can differ but we can’t be adversarial if we honor the people at the table. Cheers
Absolutely, the difficulty comes when we work with people we don’t respect. That’s a whole other challenge. 🙂
Agreed – if folks are afraid of conflict, if leaders insist on yes-men, if folks are sanctioned for being honest, then it’s not excellence.
Thanks Karen. Leaders who run from fiery meetings, wake up one day and wonder why things are going poorly. 🙂
Excellent! I call them ‘Crucial dialogues within meetings’. Those Meetings should be based on the Creative Interchange Process (on wich my book is based).
If you want to read more please see my page at Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/johanroels33/linked-indiscussion2014-crucialdialoguemodel
Thanks Johan. Glad you extended the conversation.
Thanks Dan. You can find more of my thoughts about leadership on http://www.creativeinterchange.be in the series “The Fourth Paradigm in Leadership”. Anxious to find out your point of view. Perhaps we can start a ‘Crucial dialogue’ 🙂
Good morning Dan;
May I add (Organizational Mission) to the ‘List of 7 Requirements for Fiery Meetings’. Personal agenda’s and issue’s that deflect effort and attention from mission are frequently entertained yet totally unproductive.
I ‘m always baffled when I see a leader surround themselves with ‘Bobble-Head Followers’. Leaders absolutley must rely on objective truth and honesty to achieve goals, benchmarks, and commitments.
Surrounding yourself with like minded people can be just as disasterous. Problem solving strategies are limimted and outside the box thinking is almost always non-exsistant.
The successful leader surrounds himself with personel of varied backgrounds and ethnic divercity. Then they get to know their people while allowing their people to get to know you them. Familarize yourself with the different skills and talents your team posses’s. Asign task’s and responsabilities that match strenght’s.
Trust, Honesty, Loyalty, Cohesiveness, and ‘Espre-de-Corps’ is what sets outstanding teams apart from all the others. It takes concerted effort from everyone to build consistantly successful teams. “But the effort produces results, and bottom line satisfaction no other approach can achieve”. But (without) truth and honesty, how can a teams true potential ever be reached???
Hava great weekend my friend!
Good morning SGT; I can feel the sting when I read “personal agenda’s.” They are so detrimental to the process. I think leaders with personal agenda’s show disrespect for the team and the organization. Glad you dropped in.
Leaders fear fiery meetings because they are scared of losing face. Afraid to face the reality that maybe their point of view may be flawed. There is rarely one perspective on something, however, when the leader is too myopic to take or explore a different point of view, then that leader will have a hard time gaining credibility and trust. (from above)
Thanks Michael. You’ve added an important observation. We are always navigating issues of how others view us. Fear of losing face closes minds and limits opportunities. Cheers.
One of the best ways to manage “planned” conflict in meetings is to pre-publish not only the meeting agenda, but pre-read materials that frame the questions, set the context, and offer initial options. This does two things. First, it allows participants to get past the bulk of their initial emotional responses. It also allows them to bring more thoughtful counterpoint to the meeting.
Brilliant! I don’t think I could get an agenda out an month early. But, setting the context saves so much time. Things like, Why are we talking about this? What caused this opportunity or challenge? What decisions need to be made? Cheers
If you don’t have an occassional meeting where fervent passion comes to light and people can honestly speak their mind (and rank doesn’t matter except for final decision), then you are in an organization that is full of people afraid to speak up, you have the wrong people in place, or you are too afraid of conflict. The danger with these problems is that you likely have passionate people around you, but if they don’t feel they can show their passion and be honest about the status quo, their passion will either become unbridled and they will seem to lose interest or become rebellious, or their passion will be doused as water to a fire, and they will become depressed and uncaring. If you are responsible for unbridling or destroying a person’s passion, then just know you may have ruined a great possibility. Passionate people are the most loyal and determined people.
Thanks John. I feel passion and compassion in your comment. I just got off Skype with a client I coach. He reminded me that Hard words are ok, harsh words aren’t.
“Minds change. You aren’t worthy of being on a team if you never change your mind.” — That’s a great quote. Thanks Dan.
Thanks M. Cheers
Great post Dan.
There are many reasons people may fear fiery meetings and that is unique to each individual.
In our culture, it seems to also depend on 2 different mindsets. Are the people on the team have more of a competitive or collaborative mindset?
The competitive mindsets will tend to personalize any opposition as losing ground. It’s a personal attack. ‘If I am wrong….this will make me look bad…therefore, I might no longer be seen as king or queen of the hill.’ (or loosing ground if trying to REACH king/queen of hill status)
The collaborative mindsets will not personalize things so much. It’s about whether or not the vision/mission/plan is working…are the tasks aligned WITH those things…. is there a better way. Does someone else see a better way? etc.
Now throw a monkey wrench into the system by putting a competitive and a collaborative mindset together in the same room.
One will always be jockeying for position or trying to hold on to position and perceive the collaborative as a ‘threat’. Someone who is competing AGAINST them. It’s personal.
The collaborative doesn’t even have the other person or position in MIND in that context at all. It’s focused on the ‘agenda’. And is generally shocked when picking up the competitive energy from the other. It’s not a competition for them. It’s about the MISSION. It’s about sharing IDEAS. Problem solving. It’s sleuthing things out and working on a puzzle together. ‘Who has the piece with the straight edge, these colors and this particular shape?’
Make note of ‘mindsets’ at the table….
Thanks Samantha. I get a sense of tension between working “with” or working alone, as I read your comment.
I think I need counselling because I see both competitor and collaborator in myself. In the heat of a fiery meeting it can be easy for the competitive me to climb up on the table and start shouting. My competitor is a “my way or the highway” thinker. Cheers
Well I don’t know if you need counseling or not! haha
However, I can say you are certainly NOT alone in feeling like you may have both in different contexts. I feel similar at times!
I’m more dominant in the beginning as a collaborator. HOWEVER, if I’m ‘triggered’ by the more competitive type…or if they’ve gone for my ‘jugular’ in the figurative sense, it tends to stir up the competitive ‘survival’ nature part of me. Mainly as ‘self defense’. That’s where my ‘competitive’ nature lives. Otherwise, I easily revert back to collaborator until another ‘attack’ comes along.
As long as no one challenges me, I’m totally collaborative. 🙂
Great post Dan. I absolutely believe leaders set the tone in creating fiery conversations. This should be part of the norm and as you said the culture needs to support it. A lot of people will be surprised by the sheer innovation and creativity this brings when you have clashes of arguments with a laser-like focus on it’s mission. Thanks again!
Paul// Leadership Blogger, http://www.paulsohn.org
Thanks Paul. It’s nearly impossible to have successful fiery meetings if top leadership isn’t in favor of the idea. Love the idea that fiery is part of the norm. Best
People who are expressive, like me (and admittedly too much so at times), are often accused of creating conflict. What conflict avoiders don’t always understand is they also create conflict – but their approaches tend to drive it even more underground. Addressing conflict requires healthy approaches – overt aggression and passive retreat are equally destructive.
Thanks Dan – as always, some helpful tools for me to better create healthy challenges and healthy exchanges that can lead to breakthrough moments.
Thanks Alf. We share a disposition to be, shall we say, expressive. What I see is too much passion creates unnecessary push back. Or, some just go underground, as you indicate.
Thanks for the good word. Cheers
it all starts with being able to admit there’s a better idea to move the company forward. if it’s not yours, then that has to be OK too, and the author needs to get credit at upper levels as well.
delicate subject for sure! my coworkers get crazy in meetings!