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How Competitiveness Is Making Your Business Meetings Less Productive

Written by Ken Gaebler
Published: 2/21/2014

Competitiveness kills productivity when compared to a cooperative business meeting philosophy, says one business executive.

Business meetings have a reputation for draining productivity out of the workplace. At all levels of the organization, from entry-level workers to senior executives, business meetings are often seen as a waste of time that could be spent on more important activities.

Competitive Versus Cooperative Meetings

Running good meetings is an important business leadership skill. Although lack of a clear agenda is a common root cause for unproductive meetings, it's not the only factor, says Berny Dorhmann, founder and chairman of CEO Space International.

"The problem that often occurs is the underlying current of competition that each person brings to the table," said Dohrmann. "Competition pulls people apart; cooperation brings them together. Signs that competition is causing unproductive meetings include one or two people dominating the floor; individuals touting their achievements; people consistently failing to contribute their ideas because they fear being criticized or ridiculed."

To improve productivity, Dohrmann recommends introducing several changes designed to combat competitiveness and increase collaboration:

  • Create a culture that rewards cooperative behaviors. Business leaders need to look for opportunities to reward behaviors that emphasize cooperation and collaboration. By creating a culture in which naturally cooperative employees are recruited to be mentors and leaders, employers can increase productivity in meetings and throughout the workplace.
  • Cull competitive behaviors from meetings. Business leaders need to be quick to discourage public criticism, scorn or other competitive behaviors in meeting environments. When meeting participants begin to veer off a collaborative course by engaging in behaviors designed to gain personal competitive advantage (e.g. shameless self-promotion, laying blame, etc.), leaders need to bring the conversation back on topic ASAP.
  • Encourage universal participation. By circulating agendas prior to meetings, leaders can create an expectation that everyone will be required to participate in meetings. Consider asking each attendee to come to the meeting prepared to address at least one agenda item to prevent one or two people from dominating the discussion.

"Cooperative meetings yield far better results," said Dohrmann. "People working together toward a goal are more efficient, more productive, and even happier. The group pulling together toward the same goal will achieve that goal far more quickly than individuals each pulling in opposite directions."

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