Monday, February 14, 2011

Responding to Discord in Meetings

by Steven H. Davis, CAE, Society of Exploration Geophysicists

Recently experienced rough edges in meetings of my senior management team caused me to resurface a document long-ago evolved for the purpose of setting a positive tone for meetings through the adoption of Rules of Conduct and Behavior. This particular document, in its original utilization, proved effective enough in creating a constructive and positive meetings’ environment wherein it was ultimately bridged into utilization with the entire staff and with the elected leadership of the organization.

In this resurfacing, my intent was to use it as a jumping off point toward developing our own senior management team Rules of Conduct and Behavior. Where it will go from here remains to be seen and potentially serves as the substance of a future post.
The original Rules are 10 in number:

I. We will always treat one another with respect.

II. Harsh, demeaning or accusatory language will never enter our discussions.

III. Bad attitudes will be left at the door.

IV. When our opinions differ, we will provide our input constructively and with the
realization that none of us has all of the answers.

V. When we continue to disagree, we will agree to have different opinions and not allow the
conversation to merge into discord.

VI. We will not speak ill of one another to others in their absence.

VII. If we have issues with one another, we will discuss these one-on-one.

VIII. We will embrace the reality that our diversity is what makes us strong.

IX. We will support one another; one for all and all for one will be our guiding maxim.

X. Re decisions made, we will always speak with one voice.

The process in this instance was to put these pre-existing rules on the table for discussion, with the intent of evolving our own set of rules. In my original pursuit of this, I learned that total buy-in was essential, and that this could only be arrived at if we worked together to develop our rules. I also learned that it is a fine line between muting discord in the meeting room and stifling the passion that can help to generate critical thinking. This is something that has to be discussed and an approach agreed to. This has to be managed carefully.
In this current pursuit, initial discussions have gone very well. This next generation of Rules of Conduct and Behavior should be fully fashioned soon. If substantively different from the original, I will share these as well.

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