Friday 20 January 2017

Should we change Meeting's name?

Did you hear about Pavlov? He was researching salivation in dogs (as you do), and realised that, when he entered the room to feed them, and then later when he just rang a bell, the dogs salivated. That is they had an unconditioned response that meant seeing him (or hearing the ring of the bell) meant they automatically salivated without food being anywhere in sight (stimulus - response).

We do this all the time - it's what any phobia is based upon - there may be no logical reason to fear most household spiders in the UK but the person with a spider phobia over team has learnt an unconditioned response to feel fear when they see a spider, or perhaps the stimulus has to be the spider moving in order to illicit the response of fear.

Many of our bad habits continue as a result of such unconscious stimulus/responses:
  • We feel a particular emotion, and automatically, and every time we feel it, we start eating chocolates
  • We sit down to eat our tea, and automatically, and every time, turn the TV on
  • We go to the cinema, and automatically, and every time order an extra large bag of popcorn too 
  • We go to the gym, and automatically, and every time, go the pub straight after
It's the automatic, unconscious aspect to the response that points to it being unconditioned behaviour.

We also have unconditioned responses to people and places - we only have to hear their name or see their picture and will respond either positively or negatively. We didn't have to replay an event or think about the person consciously. Our stimulus response meant that unconsciously our body reacted to the image in a particular way - as it would every time it saw a picture of them.

In NLP terminology this process of stimulus/response is called anchoring, because we've anchored a particular response to a particular stimulus.

I wonder is that what we're now doing when we hear the word 'Meeting'.  
Over time what response have we built up unconsciously and automatically to the word 'meeting'. or perhaps it's the response we have to the sight of meeting room, or the response we have to certain people's meetings?

As with anything, if you're happy with your or others response to the meetings you hold, then there's no need to change anything.

The challenge comes when you know your meetings are not meeting expectations.

I read a post from Bernard Marr entitled Stop going to Bad meetings which provided some tips on how to improve the meetings you do attend. Subsequent comments have provided other suggestions - including my own to have a walking meeting.

I wonder however, what happens if we consider Pavlovian conditioning and apply it to meetings. What could we be doing that means we're generating an unconscious and automatic negative response from our attendees?
  • Calling it a 'meeting' may be enough to generate a negative response - the association over time between the word and death by powerpoint and boredom etc. In which case could you call it something else?
  • Similarly using the word 'agenda' may be enough to generate negative response in others.
  • Starting on the hour, and lasting an hour links it to other meetings people have attended - it's not highlighting it as a meeting with a difference, it's telling everyone's unconscious what to expect - a meeting that's just like every other meeting you've attended. Which, depending on the culture and success of meetings at your organisation, is either a good thing or not!
  • Starting the meeting with the most boring, lengthy and least interactive topic. "It can only get better" isn't a great thought you want your attendees thinking at the start of a meeting.
The aim for those leading meetings is not to allow the anchor to previous useless / time wasting meetings to fire up for attendees, and for it to then generate a response of expectant boredom. We must take responsibility for flagging that this meeting is different, purposeful, will be full of energy and run efficiently and effectively. I for example often invite people to consider what quality they are bringing to the meeting/training - but if I did that every time it would soon melt into the background noise of pointlessness.
What can you do to ensure your next meeting meets and even exceeds expectations, and starts to build a positive anchor for when you invite people to a meeting?

Words have power, that's why I love exploring the negative and positive impact the language we're using might be having on us achieving our goals. However odd it might seem using 'problem', 'solutions' or 'answers' could just be the difference between success and failure!

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change - inside and out

More on the procurement consultancy, training and coaching services I'm offering in 2017 here - a clue - it includes soft skills, unconventional tools, creativity, language and inspiring change in procurement!

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