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Two Simple Ways to Make Your Next Meeting More Productive

October 21st, 2015

2136AA314EAre you a Risk Manager or Opportunity Seeker?

Knowing the difference can have a significant impact on your meeting outcomes. Early in my career, I worked for a global consulting firm. I vividly remember one of the first meetings to discuss a new initiative that I had been assigned to spearhead. I laid out the opportunities, expecting an animated exchange. What transpired instead was a detailed discussion of the possible implementation challenges.

That meeting was a Eureka moment in my career. I had approached the meeting as an opportunity seeker, while most of my colleagues had approached it as risk managers.

Since that time, I’ve seen countless examples of meetings that have gone awry because of similar opportunity/risk miscalculations. Chances are you’ve experienced a few yourself. Why does it happen? Most people have a dominant mindset along the spectrum of opportunity seeker to risk manager, and will frame their meeting participation according to that mindset. What’s the difference? These two comments illustrate the distinctions:

Risk Manager: “We must make sure that the trains run on time.”

Opportunity Seeker: “Why does it have to be a train?”

A Meeting of the Mindsets

There’s nothing wrong with either point of view. Each mindset is valuable in developing an idea, project or initiative. The key is to find a balance that allows both ideas to be explored and challenges to be uncovered. How do you give risk managers permission to think in terms of possibilities, and encourage opportunity seekers to consider the downsides? Here are two simple ways.

Ideal Scenario: Begin by discussing the ideal scenario. Ask each participant to describe the ideal scenario for the idea, project, or initiative, from his or her point of view.  Remind everyone to focus comments exclusively on the ideal scenario.

Pre-Mortem: After you have documented the ideal scenario, shift gears using a technique developed by James Macanufo. Fast forward your idea, project or initiative into the in future (next year, end of next quarter, next month).  What could go wrong? Ask everyone to focus discussion on aspects of the idea, project tor initiative that might not go as planned.

Spend the remainder of your meeting identifying steps and processes for implementation that maximize the opportunity and limit the risks.

Opportunity seekers and risk managers both bring useful skills to the table. When you balance their perspectives, the result is a meeting of complimentary mindsets.