Action Comes in Second to Talk During Manager’s Meetings

Posted by Kristin Arnold on May 22, 2009

The average manager spends between 50 to 70 percent of their time in meetings.  Most of it is just talk and not a whole lot of action.  Listen to the conversations.  Are they conversations for action, commentary, or sideline?

Rayona Sharpnack of the Institute for Women’s Leadership frames these different conversations in the context of a football game:

In the huddle the quarterback says something like, “Okay, drop back, pass protection, sprint out right, pass on two.”  He’s asking that the front line form a V-shape protective shield around him so that the other team doesn’t crush him.  He’s requesting that the two folks on the end go down the field, cut across it, and wait for him to throw them the ball.  In return, he’s promising that he’s going to drop back, kind of veer off to the right, and throw a pass to one of those two people. That is a conversation for action, a set of instructions, an agreement on how to proceed.

There are other conversations going on at the same time.  There are commentators in the press box saying “Well, there’s Jeff George, arguing with the coach again.  The last time he was in this situation….”  Nothing they say has any effect on the game at all.  But because of their position and stature within the football community, they are allowed to comment and people actually listen to them!

Then there are the bystanders, the people in the stands who are saying, “Gee, I really don’t like the quarterback.  He’s calling the wrong play.”  These folks don’t have a bit of influence on the game, but they certainly have an opinion.

The same thing happens in organizations.  People are having conversations for action.  They are attempting to move the organization into the future.  Others are commenting or kibitzing from the sidelines talking about what could, should, or would have happened.

Question:  How much time do you spend in meetings?  Are you having conversations for action?

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