Monday, March 26, 2018

Setting the Tone

I think that I have attend over a thousand meetings in my life!  I have meetings at work.  I have meetings at the synagogue.  I have meetings at home.  That’s right – in the home so that we can coordinate calendars.  We have had meetings related to our parents, kids and dogs.  And there is one thing that generally holds true – the person that is running the meeting (yes, could be swapped out for controlling the meeting) has the ability to set the tone, or attitude, of the meeting. 

I can see your expression from here, “What the heck is Wayne talking about now?”

If you walked into a doctor’s office, and the doctor is the cartoon character Droopy Dog (or in the human world, Ben Stein), and he says, “We need to talk” in the dragging sad tone, the instant response would be something along the lines of “Oh, no.”  OK, it would be stronger language usually avoided in front of our children; words that have the ability to make virgin puritan’s ears bleed.  The diagnosis could be a simple in-grown hair, but the personality, the demeanor and the method of communicating governs the tone of the meeting.  If you have ever been in a meeting run by someone that could be played by Tommy Chong (pick any Cheech and Chong movie), you would expect the meeting to be slightly unstructured, extremely laid back and not a lot of accomplishments.

Attitude matters!  For the person that sits at the head of the table (both figuratively and physically) dictates the atmosphere.  I remember, while interviewing for a job at a consulting firm many years ago, I had to meet with one of the practice areas managers.  He was an extreme introvert whose presence sucked the life out of the room – nice guy, but he was difficult to talk with (as per his nature).  The tone of the room reflected his personality.  Similarly, I once saw Andy Andrews speak; he got on stage and did not stand still – the audience could feel his energy and his positive attitude was infectious.  One of his secrets – always look at who you are talking to and smile while talking.

The truth is, we have “meetings” all of time.  By being upbeat and opting for a positive attitude can help the dynamics of the meeting; cheer on the successes and help to identify the challenges.  As leaders, it is up to us to head towards success, provide the support and inspiration, and remember to thank the people involved.  As a participant, it is up to us to have an open mind, a positive perspective and provide the best output possible.  OK, I know not all meetings revolve around success – so use the times of falling short to discuss lessons learned and taking the steps to provide better outcomes in the future.  In the end, the tone of the meeting is set by the leader; keep it friendly, keep it productive and keep it upbeat.

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