The hidden value of meetings

4 min read

As a developer, as a PM, or in any other role in the IT world, we can find ourselves trapped in meetings where ideas are shared and decisions need to be taken.

Those, apart from having a clear agenda and a shortlist of topics to address, it is important to have different types of participants in order to have a successful outcome from it.

There is no worse feeling than having meetings that end with a phrase like "This could have been an email".

Getting back to the actors/participants of a meeting, there are the ones who promote the ideas, the ones who take the notes, the one who leads the session, the ones who encourage introverts to share their thoughts, and many others we can think of.

Even though some of them might sound familiar, today I will focus on three different aspects that I do appreciate when people do it during meetings.

Devil's Advocate

This is a quite old position that is becoming more and more common during meetings.

Having a brainstorming meeting without people sharing ideas can feel a bit less unproductive.

But what will happen if there's only one idea and we all commit to that idea without making any sort of challenge?

This is when the devil's advocate comes into the picture and can help us to find and predict problems in an early stage.

The devil's advocate reflects someone challenging an idea just for the sake of opening a debate and challenging the person who shared it, looking for weak points, or encouraging the presenter to convince the rest of the audience.

It is important to mention that this sort of challenge is being done in a way that the person is not necessarily against the matter.

You might consider asking about edge cases, grey areas of the proposal, and how this new idea can fix different scenarios, among others.

The elephant in the room

It is a metaphorical idiom for those questions that need to be addressed that can take courage to ask. In other words, those that make you feel uncomfortable to ask because they are controversial or sensitive to the audience. Usually, a topic that most people know about but no one dares to put on the table.

Well, those types of questions are also known as tackling the elephant in the room.

This can help speed up things as a person is asking or referring to the root cause of the problem, the topic that everybody in the room knows but is afraid to talk about and keep running around it.

These types of comments or questions are well appreciated by managers or stakeholders because they bring transparency and honesty to the room. And I must say that in modern times I have never heard of someone being fired for asking questions, even less now when companies tend to be more flat and horizontal rather than hierarchical (generally speaking).

Although I’m not a big fan of stereotypes, I must say that in the time I have lived in the Netherlands, I have improved a lot in this aspect, as in Latin America, we tend to send hidden messages to avoid the main subject forcing people to get the message by reading between the lines.

The introverts

Last but not least, as I mentioned earlier, we can not forget the role that cultural implications and personalities play in this game. As someone who used to be an introvert, having people who make sure your opinion is heard and shared with others during meetings can be helpful, and teach us to feel more outspoken without feeling forced to do it.

From another perspective, we can also consider cultural differences as something to consider while having meetings as expectations and how the meeting is structured could differ and cause different feelings and interpretations.

Regarding this last aspect, I truly recommend taking a read to the book Cultural Map by Erin Meyer, in which she explains these topics in real-life scenarios.

Last words

As well it is important to have profiles with that initiative to help resolve things faster, it is crucial to create the environment for those things to happen. If we don't encourage or promote these sorts of activities they will never happen.

Outside working hours, when doing interviews these can be also aspects to take into consideration, going directly to the point, addressing directly sensitive topics like salary range, or even challenging the interviewer with questions about the company/product can be very much appreciated from the interviews.

Honesty can be a great weapon only when used carefully and in good manners. Despite being tough sometimes, in the long run, people tend to appreciate more, or at least I do.

Thanks for reading ❤️

Written by Manu

I am a product-driven JavaScript developer, passionate about sharing experiences in the IT world, from a human-centric perspective.

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