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Meeting Approaches

Two general approaches to meetings are leader-controlled and group-centered. Leader-controlled approaches are used at information-giving meetings and large group meetings when the flow of open information is difficult. The leader opens the meeting, either makes announcements or calls on others to do so, and calls for questions and comments. In other words, the leader is the show. This approach is easy on the leader since there are few surprises, and large amounts of information can be covered in short periods of time. The disadvantages of this approach are that the free flow of information is stymied somewhat by having to go through the leader to get "air time," so spontaneity is affected. Another disadvantage is that sensitive or emotional issues usually don't emerge, and all the participants don't have a chance to be heard.

In group-centered approaches, the leader runs the show, but is not a dominant figure. Participants interact more freely and address questions to each other, while the leader keeps the meeting moving on, redirecting the focus of comments that stray from the meeting purpose, ensuring that all persons participate, and summarizing the apparent position of the group from time to time. This approach is more difficult for the leader, especially dealing with the increased interaction and the emotions sometimes generated. Advantages of this type of meeting are that people understand others' viewpoints better, more information generally leads to a better decision, and when people express themselves, they feel better. Disadvantages include the increased amount of time needed and the fact that having interpersonal discussions in large groups is difficult when meaningful exchange is important.

Which approach you use in meetings depends on you and your meeting objective—why you're holding the meeting.

Now, a word about you. Meetings should be quite important to you personally. No one sees you at your desk or in your office working on reports or telephoning or working at your computer. They see the results of these activities, which are necessary, but conducting meetings benefits your image in the company in different ways. Others see you in action in meetings and form opinions about your competence based on what they see and hear. If you can cut through chaos to find the issues that matter, get groups to deliberate these issues and lead decision making on these issues, you can become known as a competent leader in your organization. Preparing for and conducting meetings is essential to being a good leader.

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