The Semco Style 5 Principles to transform the way we work
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Bell A Pause

Input from Outsiders

In my former job, we had a lot of meetings that were only about meetings. Now we just have time to solve the problems. Jos De Blok


In a Nutshell

Picture this: It’s 3 PM and everyone in the room has been in the meeting since 1 PM. The agenda’s packed and the issues are sensitive. Everybody’s emotional, accusations are starting to fly and the pace of the conversation intensifies. Voices get louder, fingers point and everyone’s starting to feel uncomfortable from the pressure.

Typically, this is the point when someone needs to take the initiative to break up the aggressive mood and calm the room down before continuing the meeting. If someone is well-respected or has the moral authority to step in, it becomes easier to move on. But relying on an individual to manage this is not a long term solution.

Instead, how about taking a time-out? While it feels counter-intuitive, time-outs are a surprisingly good way to keep the meeting on track. Intentionally taking a break helps take away everybody’s attention from the tensions in the room and focus once again on a constructive discussion.

The secret lies in manufacturing a distraction, preferably using a soothing sound, that draws everybody’s attention away from the charged discussion. It’s also a useful hack when you sense the disengagement of participants. Once you’ve captured everyone’s attention, it’s a good idea to take a quick break and then resume the meeting.

While it is tempting to assign one person to enforce this break, give everyone the ability to halt the meeting with this method. By doing this, anyone has the power to shift the meeting’s energy so that everyone has a moment to take a step back and focus.

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