We spend large chunks of our time attending or running meetings. During this webinar video which I gave to 260 American College of Physician Executives members, I highlight six steps to accomplish absolutely nothing during a meeting.
You may choose to do the opposite in order to effectively run your organization. The full transcript and other resources are also included.
Here are some excellent posts from other authors about running meetings:
- Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule – from Paul Graham the founder of Y Combinator. It discusses the difficulties of managers scheduling meetings with programmers (makers). There are many similarities between physicians and programmers.
- How To Run Your Meetings Like Apple and Google – from 99u talks about the innovative methods that successful companies are using to run meetings.
- How To Run A Meeting – from Forbes discusses setting codes of conduct for meetings with nice pointers on how to deal with “hijackers.”
- Running Effective Meetings – from MindTools discusses why running a meeting effectively is good for you and your career.
- Running a Meeting: Ten Rookie Mistakes and How to Avoid Them – from Management Consulting News points out that if you run a lousy meeting, you will be judged accordingly.
The Full Transcript for the webinar:
Introduction from Susan Quinn from ACPE:
Physician leaders have a hard time leading or attending meetings. It is critical to master this management competency. During this webinar, Dr. Winters will go inside the minds of key physician leaders who accomplish nothing during their meetings and then through this example will teach us alternative techniques that capable physicians can use to have meaningful and effective meetings.
Here is the talk:
I am Richard Winters and I want to thank you for joining us here at the American College of Physician Executives webinar. I have a little bit of housekeeping that I would like to get out of the way.
I would like to announce that we are going to be using the standard webinar dress code. Actually, our opening slide demonstrates this. So, that is that shirts and tops are required. However, pants are still optional. If you need a moment to step out to determine if you are in the proper address compliance, now is the time to do it. I assure you that I will not stand up.
Another housekeeping topic, at the end of the webinar I am going to give you a link to a webpage that has a whole bunch of information about today’s topic. It will be a sample agenda, a cheat sheet and how to use Robert’s rules, and a whole bunch of articles by people that are smarter than me about how to run a meeting.
Additionally, I am going to get this webinar transcribed. We will have a typed transcript of today’s presentation and questions. So, with that out of the way I think that we can get on the topic.
Big Formal Meetings or Even Task Forces
Today, we will be talking about how to run the big, formal meeting. Fortunately, you will be able to use these steps not only in your bigger and more formal meetings, but also in your small meetings and committees. You may even be able to use these steps in those potent instigators of organizational change: task forces.
We’ve Elected You Chair
We have, as far as I have heard, 260 people signed up and registered for today. If I am correct, this fills just under the size of Wembley Arena. So I think that we are doing pretty good.
You should note that we met, all of us, before today’s webinar and we elected you to be the Chair of the big formal meeting.
We are not sure whether this is a medical executive meeting or whether it is a Board of Trustees, or whether it is a departmental meeting. But we are sure that you are the Chair. It is going to be a two-hour meeting and you are going to meet once a month and you are going to be Chair for two years. So, congratulations to you, our new Chair.
Loosening Up With Numbers
To get loosened up and talk about meetings, we are going to first talk some numbers. That is a great way to relax and loosen up.
The number 72. What is the significance of this to you for your meeting? Feel free to chat your response.
I think of a meeting as being divided up into two basic sections:
- There is the time spent during the meeting. So, in your case this meeting will last for two hours.
- And there is all the prep time.
The prep time is not only for you but also for people who are going to be coming to the meeting. Prep time includes getting to and going from the meeting. Some of the physicians that are on your committee are going to be coming from across town.They have to get into their car and leave their work to attend your meeting.
Also, in the prep time is the time that is spent reading the packets or putting the agenda together.
So, the actual time at the meeting may be two hours, the total time including prep time may come out to three or maybe more hours. When you put that together, you multiply three hours by once a month by two years it equals 72 hours.
You’re going to have 72 hours of your time, almost 3 days of your time, you are going to spend in this meeting. Congratulations!
Your Cost for the Meeting
Another important number is 14,400. That is dollars. I figured out that this is going to be about the cost of your time to Chair this meeting. So, $14,400.
I estimated $14,400 based upon you are making somewhere around $200 per hour. If $14,400 seems too high, you can just round down a little bit. And if $200 is too low of an estimate, Charisse from ACPE has a real estate proposition that she wants to talk to you about and if you chat her she can hook you up with information after the meeting.
All Cost for the Meeting
The last number is 288,000. This, again, is dollars.
I assumed that there will be around 20 people at your meeting. This is the cost of the collective’s time over two years. This does not include the cost of any missed cases, the missed procedures and the missed rounding.
On the other hand, perhaps this $288,000 is a savings. If you were not going to be at your meeting, maybe you would be out on the streets drinking Red Bulls and driving fast cars. Maybe, you’d be hanging out and doing riffraff. But, I think for most individuals this meeting is going to be, from what they see, is cost.
The goal, of course, when you’re running a meeting is not to create costs, but to create some efficiency, rather, and improve the revenue of your organization.
You are the Ring Leader
You know the metaphor that leading physicians is something like herding cats?
Here comes a bunch of your colleagues and they are all assembling for this meeting that you will Chair. They are a bunch of VIP physicians and administrators. Now, you are the big cat.
You realize that all you need to do is pull from your extensive medical and business training. All you need to do is preside over this gathering your very esteemed colleagues. Then, you realize, “Oh crap, I have no knowledge of how to run a meeting. I was never taught how to do this.”
As you figure out how to run your meeting, you realize that you can either accomplish something, or you can accomplish nothing.
I know what you are saying. You’re saying, “Richard, this is a talk about how to run a meeting and accomplish nothing”. Yes, it is.
Go Inside the Brain
But, we need to go inside the brains of those physicians who accomplish things, those occasional CEOs, COOs and the Presidents of the Medical Staff, we need to go inside their brain, so that we can understand how they accomplish things, and then we can avoid that trap of accomplishment.
As we go inside the brain of these physicians, I wanted to create this slide. For those physicians here who are not neurologists, this is a picture of the brain. Now, I am an emergency physician, I am not a neurologist and I don’t want to overextend. But I seem to remember that the brain is made up of two and only two components. It is what the neurologists call the top part and the bottom part.
This is as technical as I am going to get so that others in the webinar can follow along. I’m showing you this picture of the brain so that you understand that this talk is based upon science. We now have proof that this is an evidence-based and scientifically sound webinar.
How to run a meeting (and accomplish nothing) in six steps.
Step 1: Go On A Journey
Step number 1. To accomplish nothing during your meeting is to go on a journey. In fact, if you say the word journey, hear someone talking about the word journey, or perhaps even humming “Loving, Touching, and Squeezing” by Journey, chances are that you are in a meeting that is accomplishing nothing.
How do you go on a journey? You call the meeting to order and then you just talk. You follow random aimless patterns of discussion and you allow anyone to get whatever they want off of their chest. They can say whatever comes to mind, follow tangents, walk down blind paths.
Is there a goal to this meeting? Who knows.
What are we voting on right now? I don’t know, just vote.
Time is going to run out. They will look at their phones or even, better, they will leave and you will have accomplished nothing. Now, you can adjourn the meeting. Or even better, you can table this meeting until the next meeting.
Now, getting inside the brain of those individuals who accomplish, this meeting is not a journey. It is a quest. There are clear things that need to be accomplished during this quest. There is a clear path to that Holy Grail of accomplishment and meaningful action during the meeting.
They use the agenda as a map. And this map follows what needs to be covered and what they’re going to talk about in the meeting. The map defines the quest.
There is the beginning, which is a call to order; there is a middle, with its reports and discussions and actions; and then there is a clear end with a motion to adjourn. This is going to occur on time, or even sooner.
Rocket the Agenda
Again, this webinar is about how to accomplish nothing. I want you to know that you can use the agenda as a valuable ally. You can just rocket through the agenda. You can go line by line as fast as possible. Just read through it, avoid any discussion, and just ‘get ‘er done’, and leave.
Amount of Time vs. Amount of Information
Now, the accomplisher. How do they use their agenda?
They map out the meeting ahead of time. They are specific about what they will allow, and what they are going to not going to allow to be a part of the meeting. They then balance the amount of time that they have for the meeting with the amount of information that they need to talk about.
So imagine it. You balance the amount of time that is available with the amount of information that you can talk about during that time.
Now, they divide the meeting into two main sections. There are the reports and there is the consent agenda.
The first part of the meeting is the reports.
The Chair calls the meeting to order and after they approve the minutes of the prior meeting, they have reports.
Each report is focused, constructed with a focus on specifically what the committee needs to talk about and be informed about in specific actions. It is very focused, and considerate of time.
This is when the CEO is going to talk. This is when the President is going to talk. This is when the COO or the CMO talks. After each report, the floor is open to the committee to discuss about what they want to talk about. They can ask specific questions related to those specific reports. Again, specific questions.
If you want to avoid accomplishment, reports are a good place to have some unstructured time and misdirection, because people are going to come to you before the meeting and they are going to ask if they can give reports.
There are plenty of projects going on throughout your organization. There are plenty of people who can fill time with presentations.
There will be someone wants to give a report for 30 minutes on the use of blood products. The individual in quality who wants to put PowerPoints up on wall of the core measures spreadsheet in different colors. They’ll stand in front of the committee, and to talk about ulcers and to talk about catheter infections and talk about falls – now we have gone from 98.6 to 97.5, from 98.2 to 98.6…… Bueller, Bueller, Bueller.
This is where you want to be very careful because your decision about what to include and what not to include in your meeting will have a huge effect on whether you accomplish something or whether you accomplish nothing.
Now, the black belt move to accomplish nothing here is to allow anybody and everybody to give a report during the meeting. The best way of doing this is to post a sign-up sheet of the agenda on the door and you allow anyone who wants to fill out a space to give a report in the meeting. You may have 20 people who sign up for reports, then this is great.
In fact, you don’t even have to look at that agenda until you get to the meeting. All you have to do is to just sit down, the agenda will be presented to you, and you just start reading it. You just turn off the lights, sit back, and you allow those reports be read. This is a great way to turn your to our meeting into perhaps a three-hour meeting, or a 3 1/2 hour meeting. And you have done a great job and accomplishing nothing.
Or perhaps, you can move some of these things to be consent agenda.
The Consent Agenda
For the consent agenda, this is the silver bullet of saving time and accomplishing things during your meeting.
There may be brief presentations, but they are presentations that you specifically allow. You will be very deliberate, with clear understanding of what the goals are and what needs to be accomplished at the amount of time that you have allotted.
When somebody wants to give a report that you do not want put in front of the whole committee, you can ask them to put together a brief one to two page handout. This handout highlights the pertinent things that they want to talk about. These are specific things that they want to committee members to read. You can hand that out with the agenda prior to the meeting.
The handout can contain such things as the report of the treasurer, the credentials, the financials, core measures, scorecards, the minutes of each division, each departmental meeting. You add this stuff to the consent agenda, you give it as a handout prior to the meeting, with the agenda, and the members can read through it.
The members of the committee can then decide what they specifically want to talk about during the committee. This is instead of listening to twenty reports.
How the Consent Agenda Works
So, you are in the meeting, how does the consent agenda work?
You ask the members to choose what it is from the consent agenda that they want to talk about. Then you can say, “Are there any reports on the consent agenda that any members wish to extract for discussion?”
Dr. Jones raises her hand and she says, “I would like to discuss the revision of the quality committee charter.”
Then, you can say, ”Cool. We will extract the revision of the quality committee charter for discussion. Are there any other reports that anyone else want to extract for discussion?”
Then, Dr. Smith raises his hand and says, “I would like to discuss the Department of Pathology’s reported lab draws in the hospital.” This is actually how the department head at the Department of Pathology sounds at our hospital in California.
You say, “Yes. We will extract that pathology report from the consent agenda for further discussion.”
Then, no one else raises their hands.
You have now taken a potential 20 reports and you have pared it down to two reports. The committee can now, en block, vote for approval of the consent agenda. They can approve those other 18 reports and then discuss the two extracted reports that the committee actually wants to discuss.
What you have done is turn a two-hour meeting into perhaps a 1 1/2 hour meeting.
Summary of Step One: Go on a Journey
The point here is to avoid accomplishing anything.
In order to avoid accomplishing anything, you want to:
- avoid any use of a clear map for discussion,
- avoid any agenda that specifies what is going to be reported,
- avoid any preplanning preparation.
- Just put a sign-up sheet at the door.
- not use the consent agenda.
So, that is step number one on accomplishing nothing.
From 6 Steps to 3 Steps
Before we discuss Step 2 of How to Run a Meeting (and accomplish nothing), I found out that I have 25 minutes approximately to give the webinar presentation. Then 15 minutes for questions and answers.
So in preparing for it I thought, can we go over six steps? No, we cannot. We’re going to talk about three steps to accomplishing nothing.
Step 2: Play that Jazz.
Step number 2 of how to run a meeting and accomplish nothing is to remember to play that jazz.
In jazz music, there are jazz trumpeters. They use a technique that is known as circular breathing. They are able to play long strings of notes and even entire songs without taking any apparent breaths. They are using the circular breathing technique.
Now, I have some colleagues and they seem to use the same skills during meetings. They are able to employ circular breathing. They are able to talk continuously about topics. They are able to talk tangentially. They are able to say what they have said, they are able to say what other people have said, they are able to then go on a tangent again, and then go back and keep talking, all of this without taking any apparent breaths. They use the circular breathing technique.
We all love these physicians, but as the Chair, you need to nudge them so that the meeting can progress. You need to stop that jazz.
Like I said, we have elected you Chair and so the question is, how are you going to stop them?
You interrupt them. They’ve been talking for four, five, six minutes, seven, eight minutes, and they keep repeating themselves and you need to interrupt them. You may be able to do this while they take a breath or you may have to interrupt them mid-sentence.
You say, “Dr. Winters, I am sorry to interrupt you but let me ask you to hold that thought.”
You do this with a smile and you do this with a calm voice. You are actually happy that they are discussing things at your meeting, but you want to stop them so that you can get to other topics.
This is one of the perks of being Chair. This is one of your duties. If you do not interrupt them, people are going to fall asleep. People will leave. They will start to get mad. They may get mad at the individual who was talking. They may get mad at you as the Chair for not interrupting and moving things along.
So, now you have interrupted them the next part of how to stop that jazz is to summarize.
You’re going to repeat back what they have said. After you interrupt them, repeat back what they have said.
As you summarize what they have said, you are going to use their own words. You’re going to do that so that they know you have been listening. And when you summarize, you say it as a statement. This is not a question. You’re not inviting them to correct you or take the floor back.
You want them to know that you appreciate what they have said, but you need to move on.
Now, the summary you can use throughout your meeting, not just interrupting circular breathers. You can use it after anyone talks. You can use the summary to alert the rest of the committee what has been discussed to keep things on track and keep things moving, so that the meeting has less repetitive talk.
As you summarize this individual that you have interrupted, you begin the summary by looking at them. Then, just right before you end the summary, you look away. This closes the door on their further response.
So, you have interrupted them and you have summarized and now it is time to employ the final step of stopping the jazz. That is simply that you move on.
This is the time to particularly look for an alternative point of view. You want to hear the full spectrum of the discussion, pros and cons, of things.
A good way to do this is to say, “Does anybody else have any alternative point of view that they would like to share with the committee?”
This is a really good time to pick out individuals who have not been talking. You have quiet people on your committee. Some people need some time to think before they say things and some people who are just quiet when they disagree and then they leave the meeting and disagreement. You, as the Chair, can pick them, not pick them, you can request that they share what they are thinking.
If there is nothing else that needs to be set on the topic you just move along.
There is an art to stopping the jazz. You do it calmly. You do this with a smiling temperament.
You do not want to be a bully. You do not want to be stopping people from conveying ideas that the committee needs to hear, which may even be alternative to what you would like to be done. As a Chair, you want real robust discussion.
Let the Jazz Play.
Again, our job is to avoid accomplishing anything. In order to do that, you just let that jazz play. You do not interrupt. You let a few individuals hijack or dominate the meeting. You let the quiet ones leave in stealth disagreement.
We have gone through step one, which is: go on a journey. We’ve gone through step two, which is: play that jazz. Now, we are ready for the final step, step number three.
Step 3: Get Ready to Rumble!
Step 3 is get ready to rumble! This is the final step to accomplish nothing when running a meeting. This meeting is going to be like the best episode of Jerry Springer, Pro wrestling, and the Housewives of Beverly Hills ever.
To make sure that nothing gets accomplished, the Chair is going to allow and perhaps even encourage the Four Deadly Sins of Meetings.
First Deadly Sin of Meetings: Blame
The first deadly sin of a meeting is blame. You allow blame to just flourish.
“Why is this happening? I’ll tell you why this is happening. Because ______ did ______. Or because _____ never _____ and _____ always _____.”
And _____ is the government, the hospital, that specialty, that patient, my partners….
It is so simple. I told them what to do and they don’t. They never and we always.
Second Deadly Sin of Meetings: Spend
Deadly sin number two is to spend. This is even best if you pair this with deadly sin number one, which is to blame. Follow up the blame with spend.
“They never do this. They just need to buy it, this piece of equipment.”
“All they need to do is build a new wing. They just need to pay us more.”
As the Chair to allow nothing to occur, you forget about any discussions about risks of capital. You forget about any need for a business plan. What this topic needs is just a good hemorrhaging of cash to make it right.
Third Deadly Sin of Meetings: Talk of an Illicit Lover
Deadly sin number three is to talk of an illicit lover. The grass is always greener someplace else.
“Healthcare is competitive and there is a shortage of physicians. There is a shortage of physician leaders.”
“We have many, many opportunities. There are many other places that we can work at.”
The Chair who wishes to accomplish nothing is going to allow the members of the committee to just exploit that. They’re going to allow groups to play off of groups, individuals to play off individuals, and hospitals to play off of hospitals.
They will make statements like, “Well, at the other place they do not make us follow CMS regulations. They don’t make us listen to the Joint Commission.” “At the other place, they always pay more for this. It always works better at the other place.”
That is deadly sin number three, to talk about an illicit lover.
Fourth Deadly Sin of Meetings: Talk Like an Illicit Lover
Finally, deadly sin number four is to talk like an illicit lover.
You want heated arguments. You’re going to throw some chairs. You have some emotional baggage and now is the time to spread it.
The old crusty physician is going to stand up and to say, ”Oh no you didn’t! You didn’t just say that. You are not my mama!”
As a Chair, you are going to allow this. This is a time when you want politics to shine brightly. “The Man” has gotten you down and you have a right to be angry.
As the Chair, you can stoke the fire. It is especially good if the anger amplifies your own opinion. If you can spread your own opinion through this deadly sin, you want to let the bullies run.
Not Meet Webinar Dress Code
As an aside, I want to apologize. I just noticed that this guy up there on the left-hand side of the slide, he is not up to proper webinar dress code. A shirt is required and he is not wearing one for this talk. I would like to apologize there.
Preventing The Rumble
The Chair who accomplishes things during meetings are aware of these deadly sins. They can see them as they occur. They head them off.
The meeting isn’t a chance to rumble. It is a place to get together to join forces and to conquer problems.
If someone blames. The Chair teases out the generalizations of “the shoulds” and “the nevers.” They look for specifics that can help the committee.
When someone wants to spend money, the Chair is looking for some discussion about the risks of capital. They’re looking for some discussion about the business plan.
When someone talks about an illicit lover the Chair says, “Hey, eyes over here. We’re talking about this organization. Be here and be present.”
When someone starts to talk like an illicit lover, the Chair reinforces the rules of the committee. They allow people to discuss topics where they feel safe and they feel like they are not facing a personal attack.
The Opposite of the Three Steps
They avoid the three steps. They avoid the journey. They see the meeting as a quest. They stop jazz, they stopped the circular breathers. They avoid any rumbles. They prevent the use of the deadly sins.
We all want meetings that are fair, that are considerate, that are accountable, that are compassionate, effective, fun, affirming.
We can set out as Chairs to run meetings and accomplish nothing and do a good job at that, or we can perhaps choose to run a meeting to accomplish great things.
We, each of us, and we have a long list of people here, we each care for millions of people, each of us, millions of lives. A meeting is one of those places where we can make a difference with a good agenda, a purposeful meeting, with focus. We can sit down together and come up with some ideas and actions that can improve the lives of others.
It is a privilege for us to be physician leaders and I am very thankful to be able to speak with you here. I am very appreciative of ACPE of providing the resources, support, education for us to be here. I am very very appreciative of each of you and your ability to decrease suffering and improve the health and approve the wellness of our world. I want to thank you.
You can go to RichardWinters,com/acpe.
I have put a whole bunch of stuff on there, a sample meeting agenda, I put up a short list of how to use Robert’s Rules, (how to make a motion, how to have a meeting to order, how to adjourn in a meeting). There is a quick list of how to use those things. I also will be adding a transcript of today’s webinar. Charisse….
Questions and Answers
Charisse: Excellent. Thank you so much, Richard. Thank you. We have quite a lot of time to address questions and I know there is going to be a lot of questions about how to run an effective meeting based on what not to do.
I am going to get started addressing these. If you have any questions, put them into the chat box so that you can send them privately to me. If you choose next to the “send to” area, if you choose ACPE-ACPE, that sends the private question to me or you can send the question out to the whole group by posting it to everyone.
Richard, I am going to start these questions and comments.
“How do you solicit input from a quiet group? I try not to call them out by name but will resort to it if I have to.”
Richard: I think that is the whole purpose of having a meeting. It is not for you as the Chair to stand up and talk to others. It is not uncommon when you are leading a meeting as a Chair that you have some more information that others do not have, so sometimes you’re not only running the meeting but you are also teaching. You are also informing them.
You are teaching and you are informing. But you ask open-ended questions to elicit response: “So, what do you think about this?”
Most physicians will talk when asked about what they would do. Especially if they feel safe to talk. Especially if you not are not allowing those deadly sins to happen. You may even need to specifically call on one or two people.
Charisse: “How do you apply this when you’re dealing with an audio conference or were you have some members that are audio conferenced into a meeting and others are not?”
Richard: The people who are present have precedence. You go through the individuals are in the room and before you are closing off any discussion about any of your topics, you ask if there is any other input. That is a good time for the people who are on audio conference to tell you that they are virtually raising their hand and would like to give input. If you establish that pattern, people will feel safe that they are going to be addressed and their concerns are going to be addressed. Then, things will go smoothly.
Charisse: “How do you approach a leader of a committee meeting who is not you that is following all the rules of getting nothing done, just like you have discussed, for example your boss?”
Richard: This is a talk that I first gave to the medical executive committee. Talks like this can be a good way of using humor to bring up problems of how people run meetings. A talk may be one way of showing how to run a meeting.
The second thing, of course is maybe just ask if you could have a point on the agenda item to discuss how we can make the meeting even more better. Most people, even Chairs of meetings, are going to want to do that. This will allow some discussion on ways to make the meeting better for everyone. You can truthfully and openly discuss how the meeting can become better.
Charisse: “What is an effective way to stop someone who has an abusive verbal tone towards a colleague in a meeting?”
Richard: Sometimes you know that you’re going into a contentious meeting, you know that the emotions are going to run high. That is one of the things that right at the outset that you can set the rules.”I’m going to call out one by one in the meeting and we are going to request that only one person talks at a time. I want to keep this moving. I may have to interrupt you to keep us on time. If we hear any personal attacks we are going to have to stop that.”
Often times, doing that ahead of time will help that out. It can be difficult and you do not want to get into a situation where you are wrestling against another individual without everyone else in the committee agreeing with the rules. It is good to say the rules and then you will have more freedom to enforce it. In fact, in the committee other members may help enforce the rules.
Charisse: “I’m finding the language of meetings very important. I am always looking for key phrases like your quote, “Let me ask you to hold that thought”. Do you have any other pearls like that because this particular person comes off as aggressive with them for those techniques.”
Richard: The common thing with physicians is that we are each kind of our own CEOs in practice. We each make decisions and we like to get things done and we like to see how things get done.
We’ve heard the metaphor that getting a whole bunch of physicians together is like herding cats. We have a whole bunch of physicians who want to speak their minds. As the Chair, a lot of this comes from how you are running the meeting and the headspace that you are coming in with.
You can come in with the headspace that you are going to control it: “these are my ideas,” or you can speak in a way where you are inviting others, helping others to make decisions.
As a Chair, I generally do not vote. It is my job as the Chair not to sway the committee, but to help the committee make good decisions. It really is up to the Chair to make sure that happens.
The Chair is employed by the power of the committee, the Chair works for the committee, as opposed to the other way. And the language they use reflects this frame of power.
Charisse: “Bullies inside of the meeting are very crafty. What sort of strategies do you use then when you interrupt and summarize and the individual then escalates their tone and becomes more accusatory”.
Richard: Anyone can become emotionally hooked. They start becoming inflamed and they start saying things. Then, they talk using very emotional language. This is where, when you use the summary, you strip the emotion out of it and you speak very objectively.
They talk about how everything is unfair about what they are doing or what they are making for five minutes and then you can say, “So, regarding compensation that the emergency physicians are making, is anyone else have any thoughts on this?” You do not repeat back negative stuff. You don’t repeat back negative emotion. It is like you do not see it. I think that can be very helpful.
But, then again, if they keep escalating and keep escalating, the meeting needs to be orderly and the committee as a whole needs to decide that they’re going to protect themselves in the Chair needs to enforce that. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and you have to ask someone to leave.
Charisse: “What do you think about temperature control in the meeting room?”
Richard: if you are wearing the webinar dress code, all you need are tops and everything else is optional. That is easy. That is a good question. I am not sure I have the answer to that. In our emergency department, we have dual temperature control where someone turns all the way up and someone turns all the way down. I don’t say that I have an opinion about that. All I know is that it should be the temperature where I am comfortable.
Charisse: as the Chair you get to set the temperature.
Richard: That’s right
Charisse: “How do you limit sidebar discussions. Often there are several discussions occurring at the same time in the meeting.”
Richard: You don’t want to be a dictator. You do not want someone who is saying, “Hey, you. Quiet.” This is something that is meant to be pleasant.
You have a group of physicians who are getting together and they have not seen each other. This is a time for them to talk. So there are already brief little sidebars of discussion.
Once it starts to get loud, however, and once it starts to hurt the flow of the meeting with multiple sidebars going on, you can either ask if you need to pause for discussion or is this something that we can discuss openly with the group?
If someone is being loud and interrupting, which is another deadly sin, the Chair cannot allow that to go on. Again, in the more formal meetings, the more important this becomes. You have a large group of people who are trying to get something done. The smaller the meeting, it is little easier and it tends to be a little bit more conversational.
Charisse: “As a Chair, do you recommend designating a parliamentarian or a timekeeper?”
Richard: That depends on the Chair. The nice thing is that we all have selected you as Chair. Now you can sit up in front of these 20 physicians give the rules.
It can be very helpful to have the past Chair or someone else know was the rules and can help enforce and support the new Chair until the Chair feels comfortable doing that.
On the other hand, the Chair can feel very comfortable having the presence and the calmness and the happiness and the humor to be able to support the meeting in a way that helps the meeting move forward.
Charisse: “How do you deal with self-righteous people who dominate the meeting?”
Richard: This is all deadly sin stuff. First of all, you want to make sure that it is not you that is self-righteous.
There are some meeting Chairs who feel that anything that anyone says that is different than them, anything that anyone says that is speaking from an organizational perspective, or from another point of view, is being self-righteous. Look inward first.
Then, if there is an individual who is trying to hijack the meeting and is using circular breathing. If they are “self-righteous,” everyone else can hear it.
You can make sure that they are speaking within the allotted time. They are allowed to voice their opinion. You not want to censor them. Allow them to say it and move on.
This is a time times when I will not use a summary. I will just say thanks. Are there any other opinions? Then move on. The use of silence can be very helpful.
Charisse: “Tell us a little bit more on how you use voting in the flow of the meeting.”
Richard: There are a couple of things to this.
One, that your agenda is specific. That it has specific actions. People know that you are talking about something that is going to require a vote. So setting up a structure for that is key. People tend to do pretty well with that.
The difficult thing is that what happens after the vote.
You have 20 physicians at this meeting. There is a joke: “What do you call a 19 yes to 1 no vote in a Democratic physicians committee?”
You call it a tie. Because once everybody hears that one person has voted against the motion, and all of a sudden the meeting has stopped. Everybody wants to know why that one person voted against it.
You can get back into the vicious circle of talking about the same subject over and over again. Actually, telling that joke in a meeting can help. Because people see the truth in that joke. They will remember it and help you redirect the agenda towards the other things that need to be discussed.
Charisse: “There were a couple of comments about attendance and getting people to attend your meetings in the first place. Is there anything you can tell us about that?”
Richard: if you have a meeting where a lot of people are getting endless reports, your attendance is going to go down. I am not going to meeting where I am just going to be sitting there watching a PowerPoint slide.
I think the question is, do you even need to have a meeting? Your meeting needs to be pertinent, people need to feel like their input is needed, and you have to be respectful of their time. If you do not need to have a meeting, don’t have a meeting. You don’t waste people’s time.
Charisse: “Is acceptable for you as a person to step in if the leader has lost control of a situation during a meeting or do you let the leader do their best to regain control and stay out of the way?”
Richard: It is up to the individual. It definitely can occur. There are department Chairs that you will encounter who have been voted to be department Chairs who may not know how to run a meeting. They may allow all of the deadly sins.
You can talk to them about it and/or you can sit in as an elder statesman and help things along. I think it’s okay for other individuals to speak up. However, you want to do it in a way that is very deferential to the Chair. You’re not wanting to take over. You are helping them out. This is their committee.
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