logo image

Techniques: Participants in teleconferencing

by David Blakey

Should all your staff take part in teleconferencing? Who can you happily leave out?

[Monday 23 March 2020]

I wrote in the previous entry about the people reporting to you and whether they could report by telephone instead of through teleconferencing. I said: There are some who will be happy reporting regularly by telephone, and you will be happy with telephone calls as well.. I also used the word trust.

It would be useful to look closer at this.

Can you think of the traits that make you trust people and rely upon their reporting to you? These will also probably be the people that you depend on for their opinions and ideas.

Here are some of the traits that I look for.

  1. They are crisp. By this, I mean that they keep to the point. In a teleconference, they are online early, probably five minutes before the start time. They do not discuss the latest news or the weather. You might see them reading the agenda or checking their own papers or notes. On the telephone, they keep to the point. They listen to your questions, and they answer the questions that you asked.
  2. They are equipped. They have a means of reading online material, such as a tablet. They have their papers in a binder. They have a notebook, either A5 or A4. They have a scheduler, either online or a paper diary. I like people who arrive for an internal meeting with a briefcase, rather than a heap.
  3. They are engaged. They understand the agenda of the meeting and they have prepared to answer questions, to propose actions, to consider options, and to endorse decisions.
  4. They are focused. They have arrived at the meeting with the intention of supporting and promoting their own team. Their interest in other teams is solely on the impacts that those other teams can have or their team. They will not make suggestions to others unless their opinion is requested. We have all encountered people who seem more intent on bringing ideas that are outside their own responsibilities instead of ideas for their own team.
  5. They understand time. They do not waste time trying to think up answers immediately. If they don't know the answer to a question or if they cannot suggest an action for a problem, they will ask for time. You should know already that, in management consulting, there are few ideas worse than those that are dreamt up on the spot, usually by junior consultants who want to appear all-knowing, or who are overawed by their clients, or both. The people who understand time will ask for time.
  6. They make notes. Everyone should be making notes. Some people seem to make continuous notes throughout meetings. I recall Monday morning meetings for a firm's managing consultants to report their previous week and outline their plans for the coming week. One of my colleagues was writing almost continuously through these meetings. I later discovered that he was drafting what he was going to enter on his time sheet for the previous week. (The other three of us prepared our time sheets as we worked and then completed them over the weekend.) Good note-takers make notes of the tasks that they have committed to do and little else. (There is a technique which I have called political note-taking, but that's for another day.)

You might imagine that people who exhibit these traits are the best people to have in a teleconference. In my experience, they are the best people to have a telephone call with. You and they can build a standard agenda for your calls, and you can both work through it.

You might imagine instead that you should include them in a teleconference as an example to other participants who lack the traits listed above. There are many more reasons for not doing this than there are for it.

  1. It is a waste of the effective participant's time. Once they have reported, had whatever discussion is needed, and made notes of what needs to happen, you should let them leave the meeting and get on with their work.
  2. If you regard a teleconference as a means of teaching, you are diluting the energy of the teleconference.
  3. If you want to teach your people, you need to analyse what they need to need to know and do, and then you need to look at the options for delivering that knowledge and those skills. This how you should work as an instructor, and you should not choose an option by default.
  4. People can only learn from others if they are aware that they lack some knowledge or skill. Most people who lack the traits above will probably not know that they do, so they will have little incentive to watch and listen and learn.

Before I finish, I should point out a very rare exception. There are some people who do everything that you expect in meetings and teleconferences, but are unable to initiate and complete actions. It is very rare, because the listed traits are usually accompanied by the abilities to initiate and complete projects or tasks. There are, however, some people who behave well in meetings and are then able to achieve nothing back in their workplace. You will know who they are and you will want to include them in your teleconferences. (Ideally, you shouldn't have them on your payroll, but that's another action, for another day.)

[ List articles on Techniques ] [ View printable version ]

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Copyright © 2024 The Consulting Journal.