Harvard Business Review: How to save a meeting that’s gotten tense.


I have a love-hate relationship with the Harvard Business Review. First, I think many of their articles are well-written, thoroughly researched, or illustrated well with specific business cases. I often learn a great deal about my own work through this mirror.

On the other hand, it is like drinking from a fire-hose. Subscribing to HBR gets overwhelming, and I start getting months and issues behind, unless I block out a couple of hours to read the mag cover to cover.

On the other hand, HBR has seen fit to create and publish online summaries of many of their articles for free. They also interview their authors for an online podcast. Both are effective and get their brand name out there. I also find these easier to consume.

This is one of those online articles. Meeting are a big part of my day. If you ask me, too big. But, over the years I’ve developed a number of meeting skills that have served me well, and this is a great summary of one of them.

FIRST LISTEN. Do not interject, do not object, do not state your position UNTIL YOU HAVE RESPECTFULLY LISTENED and also briefly summarized your understanding of the other participants in the meeting. This is also covered by Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. “SEEK TO UNDERSTAND before being understood.” Crucial Conversations, is a book that also covers this: “Control your own stories. Make it safe for all. Enlarge the pool of meaning, before stating your own path.”

Once everyone has felt “heard” then and only then can a productive discussion begin. Unfortunately many meetings skip this important step and become contentious and “tense.”

CMIO’s take? Meeting SKILZ! Learn them. Lots of books on the subject. Pick a good one (like those above), devour the content, and be humble enough to know that every one of us can be better. Meetings are how large organizations make progress. Being a meeting master disproportionately influences the value of an organization.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

One thought on “Harvard Business Review: How to save a meeting that’s gotten tense.”

  1. hate meetings. Still can’t get over the feeling that it is just people enjoy who enjoy listening to themselves speak. Not sure if anything really changes.

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