Let’s Get This Meeting Started…Th Right Way!

I know an editorial assistant at ELLE magazine who reports how his boss, the Editor in Chief no less, handles meetings with grace and ease. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: ELLE magazine, high fashion publication, snooty employees and an even snootier boss…it’s The Devil Wears Prada! However, let me reassure you, this is hardly the case. It’s not an ice-cold office environment with high heels and even higher upturned noses. In fact, my friend assures me it’s actually quite pleasant, and everyone, including Mrs. EIC, is a joy to work with.

Like I said, he cites weekly editorial meetings as an example as to why ELLE is a great working environment. You think these meetings are those types you see in movies: all the employees gathered round a table chatting and as soon as the boss walks in—stern faced as ever—everyone straightens up and shuts up like a class of first graders at the entrance of the teacher. But, as my friend explained to me about his first meeting at the magazine, it turned out that everyone was gabbing away before the meeting started, and when the boss walked in she actually joined in on all the chatter! In fact, not only that, but the first thing she said to her employees when she sat down was not something like “How are we doing on that Dolce & Gabbana spread?” but “Okay, WHO saw The Sopranos last night?!” What followed was an in-depth five-minute round-table discussion about the previous night’s episode, which eventually sort of effortlessly melded into the editorial meeting.

So what’s the point here, specifically for you manager types out there? People, especially co-workers, respond much more effectively to a comfortable meeting environment. If the Editor in Chief had walked in, sat down and immediately started drilling everyone about the progress of the magazine it very well could have ended up an unproductive and, dare I say, boring meeting. Instead, by kicking things off with some light-hearted conversation everyone sort of had their nerves calmed, making them ready to have a more casual but every bit as successful meeting. Once the tone was set, ideas were free to come forth and people weren’t shy to bring them up because their jaws were loosened by the pre-meeting gab-fest.

How can you as a boss or manager emulate this type of interaction? Well, first off, don’t be afraid to do exactly what the exemplary boss did: have an opening conversation. Ask how everyone’s doing, how their weekend was. Try and reference stories you’ve heard around the office. Was it someone’s birthday? Did they have a party? Ask how it went. Just try and get people talking. Solicit jokes, or, hey, tell your own. Just make sure that before you get to the nitty-grity business stuff your team is warmed up and ready to talk about it. If employees know their superior is comfortable enough to openly talk with them about, say, an HBO mob-family drama, they will, in turn, be comfortable enough to submit the idea that could be the next big company hit rather than hunker down in their chair and keep their intimidated ideas to themselves.

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Brad Montgomery
Motivational Keynote Speaker, Humorist, Fan of Elle Magazine

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