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  • Writer's pictureSusan & Renée

Setting the Table for Communication

There is nothing like a satiating meal in a nice restaurant. And satiating doesn’t mean just the taste of the food. It is the feeling of the whole experience. Much of the meal’s satisfaction comes from the attention to detail before you take your first bite. It is the way you are greeted, how the room is laid out and the setting of the table. All of these things impact your experience of the meal.

The world of work can take a page from the culinary world. Leaders can set the table for effective communication by creating an environment that enhances positive communication and minimizes the chance for miscommunication that leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Taking proactive steps before people walk into a meeting room goes a long way in developing a communication feast for your employees. It can enhance the quality of communication and avoid the type of conflict that derails teams. The menu below offers a variety of ways that you can enhance communication effectiveness. Just like we want a dependable experience at the restaurants we love, consistent implementation is essential to the effectiveness of these steps.

Clearly identify the purpose of meetings. Sending out an agenda before the meeting articulating the goals lets everyone start on the same page. If you think there may be some varying perspectives, check in with people to reinforce meeting objectives.

Establish meeting culture. Taking some time to establish expectations may seem like an extra step, but the time taken reaps many benefits. When everyone knows what is expected of them, meetings become more efficient and productive. Building meeting culture can begin with setting simple guidelines, such as:

  • Come prepared.

  • Actively listen and participate.

  • Respect the opinions of others.

  • Ask clarifying questions in a supportive way.

Develop processes to keep track of ideas not aligned with the agenda. Set the expectation prior to the meeting that ideas offered that are off topic will be put in a meeting “parking lot” and addressed at another time. This allows people to be heard, generates new ideas and keeps the current meeting on track. It is essential that you address the parking lot items at a later date so team members feel valued.

Take the emotional temperature of participants. Pay attention to the atmosphere and dynamics of the people involved to assess if conflict is likely to arise. If there is known tension, remind people of the goals of the meeting to underscore a shared understanding. Take time to check in with people before, during and after the meeting.

Understand your strengths and challenges. We all bring different communication skills to the table. Understanding what we do with ease as well as what pushes our buttons allows us to identify new skills that we may need to hone.

The attention to detail is what creates an amazing experience be it in the culinary or business worlds. Incorporating these steps will help everyone come away from the meeting table feeling deliciously satisfied and looking forward to more.

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