Setting the Table and Clearing the Dishes

Thoughts on the role of leaders in meetings



The best meetings I’ve ever been in have resembled raucous Thanksgiving family dinners where everyone loves (or at least mildly likes) one another and aren’t afraid to speak their minds. As leaders, our job is to set the table for meetings – define the purpose and desired outcome of the meeting – and then sit back and take in the banter. The leader should endeavor to talk last and the least. If the leader gives his/her views at the outset, it will almost assuredly inhibit the team from speaking their mind for fear of disagreeing with the boss. It’s ok for the leader to push and prod on ideas but always with the goal of getting more input from the team.


At the end of the meeting, the leader must "clear the dishes." To clear the dishes the leader should either provide their decision and “the why” behind it or outline next steps. And clear the dishes of anger, frustration and hurt feelings by letting everyone know that whether their idea was adopted or not, their input and the full-throated nature of the debate allowed you to make a better decision. Let them know that’s what you need from them every day.




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