Who Invited You to the Meeting?
The meeting did not go well. “Why did I say that?” “What did he mean by that?” “How am I going to do that?” Your mind is racing through some rapid-fire responses to a conversation that went off the rails in your last meeting.
Meanwhile, you’re scrolling through emails looking for a link to your next virtual meeting. You feel your adrenaline rise. Not only are you scolding yourself for losing the link, you’re doing a quick scan of your inbox to see another dozen emails that have come in. You see a commanding note from your boss: “Call me!”
The clock is ticking. It’s 10:59, and you know it takes 1 to 2 minutes to log in (worse if it’s a new technology). You’re relieved to see it’s a video conferencing tool you already have (Zoom), so you’re just a click away. You click on the link, then scramble to send a quick text to your boss. “In a mtg, call you in 45,” and the camera is on!
Is it any wonder that engagement is our toughest challenge when leading from home? Despite less time traveling, no more commuting, and working in our stretchy pants, we are busier than ever.
The economic reality of layoffs and furloughs has created broader job descriptions and fewer people to get things done. We have the ever-present cloud of increasing COVID cases and an uncertain end date.
In difficult times, we crave connection, collaboration, and continuity. The leading solution seems to be to throw a meeting at it. In theory, bringing bright minds together is not wrong. The challenge is that the meetings pile up and run into one another. There is no time between meetings to process the outcomes. Therefore, like an unwanted guest, the thoughts we are still processing join us at our next meeting.
In her latest research, Leanne Williams, Ph.D. at Stanford Medical explains there are 8 emotional states of our brain:
· Context insensitivity
· Cognitive fog
· Emotional numbness
· Threat response
· Negative bias
· Anxious avoidance
Here are three examples of these states at play:
· Rumination is the story we tell ourselves that it is always our fault when things go terribly wrong, such as jumping to the conclusion that we lost the sale when the buyer canceled our next meeting. (“It must be something I said.”)
· Negative bias is the unshakable negative thought we have about a person or particular meeting. For example, “If he’s in the meeting, I’m going to be on pins and needles.” Or, “If it’s a finance meeting, it’s going to be boring.” We put a negative spin on it before we’ve even given it a chance.
· Cognitive fog happens when meetings run back to back and we’re still processing the last meeting as we head into the next one. We can’t apply rational thinking to the conversation and struggle to make sense of what’s really going on. This is a big one for senior leaders whose calendars are sold out everyday!
The key to engagement is to arrive in a calm, steady, and open state of mind. Here are three tips to help you get into the zone and leave those uninvited emotions behind.
First, prepare for each meeting and show up sharp by using a simple three-point checklist:
1. Why does this meeting matter? What is the purpose of this meeting, and how does it connect to your goals?
2. How can I contribute? Bring your ideas, research, results, or anything that might add value to the meeting.
3. What’s my ask? Arrive with the intention of asking for the help you need to support your goals.
Bonus: Doing this checklist the night before allows you to use the time between the meetings to recharge and refresh.
Second, in order to get into the flow state, reduce the amount of time allocated for each meeting. Virtual meetings do not need to run as long as in-person meetings. The increased cognitive drain of virtual meetings makes longer meetings less productive. Plus, the practical benefit of reducing every meeting from 1 hour to 30 minutes gives you half your day back!
Last, and most importantly, make getting into the zone a habit. Commit 15 minutes prior to each meeting to mental preparation. Breathe, drink water, gaze at something beautiful, pet the dog, and move your body.
Clear your desk of distractions and notes from the last meeting. Refer to your prepared notes for this meeting. Arrive early. Find what works for you to put your mind at ease and get into the zone.
Do you need help moving from In-Person to Impact?
Reach out for a strategy call:
Book a meeting: https://calendly.com/geraldineree/catch-up-call
PS I’m offering a FREE One Tip Transformation 30 Minute Workshop for Better Meetings