Alan Walker Blog

How many times have you heard something like this, at the beginning of a meeting?

“So, the objective is to look at how we can solve the problem with the client and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

At first sight it seems a good objective. It talks about problems and intimates there’ll be some form of solution. Looking at it closely it isn’t.

I’m not particularly into SMART objectives; they can cause the famous Paralysis by Analysis (“It’s no good … it’s not SMART enough.”) or even paranoia (“How can we go ahead with this? The rest of the team will kill us if it isn’t SMART.”).

Analysing it more closely the verb is “look”. That is obviously an activity, not a purpose. And the word “how” sounds seductive. That is a process, not a purpose.

So, at the risk of sounding ‘obvious’, a simple, practical, pragmatic tip: talk about ‘results’ or ‘outcomes’. I’ll always remember going to a meeting in the British Council in Madrid some years ago. The leader asked: “So, when we leave here in one hour, what outcome do we want?” This focuses the mind.

Nearly 20 years ago I was asked to do a presentation on “social skills for job interviews and orientation interviews for job seekers” for one of the Spanish Autonomous Communities. “Talk to them about communication, Alan.” That was the brief.

I distinctly remember my saying to the audience …..“What I want is for you to take away three specific techniques (I’ll present more) to use in your next job or orientation interview.” ….and watching the majority of the more than 500 people there ready their pencils.

Writers these days talk about people’s lack of focus. Help your meeting members get it back with subtle, effective changes in language.

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