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Meeting Archive

Topic: January 2009
Date: Tuesday - January 20, 2009
Topic: The Politics of meetings for People Who Hate Politics
Speaker: Rick Brenner


The Politics of meetings for People Who Hate Politics

Suppose you're preparing for a team meeting in about an hour. It's your meeting, and you expect a difficult discussion, because a very polarizing issue must be decided today. As you're considering how to handle the mess, your boss phones to tell you that the VP of Marketing called her, and he wants to "sit in on this one."

Are you confident that you can lead the team through such a complex situation effectively?

Running an effective meeting involves a lot more than having the right room, the right equipment, and the right people. With meetings, the whole really is more than the sum of its parts. How the parts interact is as important as the parts themselves. And those interactions are the essence of politics for meetings. This program explores techniques for participating in and leading meetings that are based on understanding political interactions, and using that knowledge effectively.

People need to feel heard, they hate to waste time, and the chair needs to know how to handle sticky situations. This insight-filled program includes suggestions for the items like:

      What to do when powerful people "sit in"

     Where to sit in the room

     Crafting an agenda that drives the meeting

     Preventing duels and intervening when necessary

     Dealing with interruptions, condescension, sidebars and other forms of trash talk

     Planning, running and preparing for telemeetings

     Handling handouts

     Planning and running an "issues-only" meeting

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About the Speaker

Photo Rick Brenner

Rick Brenner

Rick Brenner is principal of Chaco Canyon Consulting. He works with people in dynamic problem-solving organizations that are making products so novel or complex that they need state-of-the-art teamwork and stronger relationships among their people. In his 20 years as a software developer, software development manager, entrepreneur, consultant and coach, he has developed valuable insights into the interactions between people in complex dynamic environments, and between people and the media in which they work.

As a coach, he works with managers at all levels, emphasizing development of interpersonal skills, especially in fluid, high-stress contexts, such as organizations that are moving from a strict operational orientation to one in which ongoing operations must compete for resources with special enterprise-scale projects. Such a mixed environment creates organizational stresses that leaders must under-stand, not only because of the change-related issues that arise, but also because of the challenges to managers that they create, even when equilibrium is attained.

Mr. Brenner has held positions at Symbolics, Inc., and at Draper Laboratory, both of Cambridge, Massachusetts. At Symbolics, he was responsible for development of products based on Macsyma, a computer algebra system. At Draper, he was a principal investigator in a DARPA program, the Evolutionary Design of Complex Software, where he conducted research into advanced concepts for software development environments based on dynamic object-oriented programming languages. Since 1993, he has taught Spreadsheet Models for Managers, a course he devised, at the Harvard University Extension School.

Mr. Brenner holds a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from MIT. He is a member of the National Speakers Association, The Boston Software Process Improvement Network, and the American Society for Quality, and has served in various leadership roles ranging from board member to vice president to chair (president) in each of the local chapters of these societies. He was selected Chapter Member of the Year for NSA New England in 2001 and 2007.

His current interests focus on improving personal and organizational effectiveness in abnormal situations, such as dramatic change, enterprise emergencies, and high-pressure project environments. He has written a number of essays on these subjects, available at his Web site,, and writes and publishes a weekly email newsletter, Point Lookout.

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