Have you ever been in a conversation where it goes in circles or a meeting where participants never reach a conclusion, solve the issue or agree on next steps? We’ve observed wasted hours of discussion when participants lack the proper frame to sort out the issue. There are three key framing components to avoid going in circles:
- Context – provide the necessary facts (not all the facts; just what is relevant) the context must be sufficient to support the discussion. Participants may have different perspectives, but they must begin with the same sets of facts.
- Clarity – make sure everyone knows what needs to be accomplished. Do you want input? Are you sharing information? Is there a decision to be made? You must be clear on the outcome and on how you want people to participate.
- Conclusion – once the context is provided, the participants are clear on the outcome and clear on the rules of conversation it’s time to talk. When the outcome is reached and there are more minutes allotted to the meeting do not continue the conversation for the sake of filling space. Conclude the conversation when it is finished.
If you find yourself going in circles in a conversation, start by asking for context and clarity. Once that is established you can reach a conclusion. We have experienced times when it took an entire meeting to align all participants on context so it may take more than one conversation to achieve a conclusion!