Have you ever walked into a meeting and felt the tension in the room? I know I sure have! There’s just a gut feeling that this is not going to go well. Meeting anxiety is such a mood killer. It puts everyone immediately on edge.
This weekend I listened to an episode of the Finding Mastery podcast where Amy Hood, Microsoft’s CFO, was the guest. The entire podcast was great, but near the end there were a few especially good thoughts about leading high stakes meetings that I thought should be shared far and wide. I’ve also added a few of my own.
To break the tension and quell the attendees’ meeting anxiety, do the following before kicking off the meeting.
Make eye contact and say:
- I can tell we’re all anxious about today’s meeting.
- Let’s all:
- Take a couple of deep breaths. (Then, stop to do it.)
- Remind ourselves what we’re trying to get done.
- Acknowledge we don’t all agree.
- Acknowledge we’re all really good at our jobs and care about what we are here to do.
This approach gives everyone a moment to relax a bit and lets them know it is okay to disagree, but that ultimately there is a job to be done. Additionally, it lets them know that as the leader you realize there is difficulty to be tackled and conflicting viewpoints.
To keep this positive momentum going, don’t rush to get everyone to yes as the meeting progresses. There are reasons for their anxiety. Encourage everyone to have their say and share their concerns. The valid issues causing their anxiety will need to be addressed, both inside and outside of the meeting room. Having everyone leave with a higher level of comfort is in everyone’s best interest and will lead to better outcomes.
Also published on Medium.