Effective Meetings: Are You Unleashing Conversational Capacity?

Running efficient and effective meetings has always been a challenge. Meetings may be needed for group decision-making, but much of the time spent in the meetings is wasted. How do we prevent that?

Craig Weber has been studying the process for years. He notes that poor workplace communication has costly consequences such as:

  • Lower engagement and trust from staff
  • Frustrated employees and friction among team members
  • Reduced profitability and slower growth
  • Low job satisfaction and high turnover.

He then developed a model, called Conversational Capacity, which is “the ability to engage in constructive learning-focused dialogue about difficult subjects, in challenging circumstances, and across tough boundaries.”  

Imagine a meeting in which the leader has made it clear to others in the meeting that she/he is not open to hearing certain things that attack the company and/or the leader.  This stifles candor; it also limits an openness to explore options. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon for many organizations. What’s worse, is that this may not always be conscious: senior executives stay away from certain topics when the leader is present, yet will address them when the leader isn’t present.

Conversational capacity takes place between two extremes: curiosity and candor. You want people to be curious and pose questions in an open atmosphere to explore topics. On the other hand, you want to deliver “radical” candor – which may offend some of the players. The job of the meeting leader is to facilitate the conversation so you get both exploration and candor. 

Sometimes the way to do that is to observe the different culture of meetings when the leader (or another meeting member) is not present. This can be done by rating the meetings with and without key members and uncovering the extent to which conversational capacity was used in some versus others. 

How are you fostering good workplace communication?  Are you monitoring the extent to which everyone at the meeting is sharing their full talents versus holding some back?  Find a way to do so; the most effective meetings have access to the openness to share candor and curiosity.

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