9 Guidelines for Conducting Effective Problem Solving Meetings

In reviewing my notes for the Dales Carnegie Course, I came across these tips for leading effective problem solving meetings, one of the items that we taught in the program back before the new millennium.

It has since been moved over into the Leadership Training for Managers program to make room for other things in the Dale Carnegie Course. In the original form, these guidelines are geared for face to face meetings.

However, with an open mind and a creative attitude, you can easily apply these guidelines to online meetings and webinars, turning you into a mastermind thought leader that knows how to make things happen.

Here are your 9 guidelines for leading effective problem solving meetings:

  1. Open the meeting with a brief statement of the problem. Then verify that the group understands the problem.

    Every meeting that you conduct won’t be to solve an obvious problem. However, remember that there is always a reason behind getting a group of people together. Perhaps you are a sales rep meeting with a group of decision makers. Your immediate objective may to to convince them to buy, but they have brought you in to solve a problem and help them achieve an outcome. Or perhaps you are a public speaker standing in front of a group of 200 attendees. What immediate comes to mind is that you are there to inform. However, every one of your attendees is there for an individual reason that pertains to some challenge that they currently have. It’s your responsibility to bring everyone under the same general mindset to use the information that you are about to deliver to resolve a common challenge. Whatever the reason that your group is together, get everyone on the same page and agreeing on the desired outcomes.

  2. Ask for causes of the problems.

    This will work well if you brought the group together to brainstorm on finding a solution to a particular problem. Asking for causes of the problem gets the group not just to acknowledge the problem but to take ownership of it. If you are a sales rep meeting with a client, then you’ve already asked your prospect to identify the problem and looked at possible causes of the problem when you conducted your diagnosis.

  3. Ask for possible solutions to the problem and evidence to support each solution.

    Use the 7 forms of evidence outlined in the DEFEATS formula.

  4. Make frequent summaries, and when sufficient solutions have been discussed, select the best possible solution.

    Then call for a vote. Sometimes the best possible solution may be a collection or combination of several recommendations. Also, sometimes a vote is not required when you use the process for effective brainstorming, but are looking to make a final decision or action plan after gathering additional information and ideas outside of your own experiences.

  5. If desirable, appoint an individual, team or a committee to see that the decision is converted into action.

    Also appoint a recorder, someone who can take notes and record action items from the meeting and insure that nothing gets lost.

  6. Express your own personal ideas only after all others have expressed theirs.

    You will find that some of the people at your meeting are extremely sensitive to the thoughts and needs of the boss or the most senior person at the table because they have been conditioned that way. These people have spent time in groups where staff members made creative investment in coming up with solutions only to find that the ultimate solution always came from the boss. As a result, their mental investment will extend only as far as their manager’s opinion. Therefore, your major task is to direct, encourage, and lead, not to participate extensively or influence the direction of the discussion.

  7. Encourage an open environment by minimizing parliamentary procedure.

    The essence of parliamentary procedure is that the group abides by majority rule, but the minority has to be heard. It’s structured so that everyone in the group has a voice. However, the rules that are in place to make this happen will also slow down a small group of 10 people looking to resolve a marketing of engineering challenge. In a business environment, your better off minimizing or removing parliamentary procedure and encouraging green light thinking and red light thinking. However, if there are a dozen or more participants in the meeting, ask that anyone who wishes to speak obtain recognition from the leader so that you can maintain control.

  8. Keep the meeting moving forward and on track.

    Maintain the meeting speed by encouraging brief contributions. And for those individuals that tend to get “lost”, off topic, or are purposely trying to monopolize the meeting, politely get them back on topic by using any combination of the leadership principles.

  9. Encourage participation from everyone.

    But avoid going around the table to ask each person’s views directly. That method is to direct and confrontational for some individuals. Instead, ask questions, make the environment inviting and open, and make them happy about contributing will help draw out individuals who initially seem reluctant to participate.

Larry Prevost
Dale Carnegie Instructor, Social Media Evangelist
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