In honor of Presidents’ Day: What I’ve learned about meetings from politics

Presidents’ Day is about more than mattress sales and a holiday from work; it’s a time to reflect on our country’s history. Today—the day traditionally observed as the birthday of George Washington, Father of our Country—we honor the lives and legacies of all our country’s presidents. Because we at PGi like to sometimes connect noble inspirations and daily achievements, we offer here a few observations drawn from politics and how they relate to the “office politics” we experience in meetings every day.

Encourage fair debate

Presidential debates are intriguing to watch. The recent rhetorical volley between the 2012 U.S. presidential candidates demonstrated the value of healthy debate as well as what can be discovered from non-productive dialogues. Political debates foster the exchange of provocative ideas and give voters a chance to discover the good along and the bad about the candidates, their values and their platforms. Debates are an opportunity for everyone to learn.

Lesson learned: While it doesn’t have to begin with a coin toss, a teleconference is an opportunity to implement rules similar to those followed in presidential debates. Treat one another with respect, listen as carefully as you speak, and allow balanced periods of time for other to respond and contribute to the discussion. Because, as we all know, democracy is a beautiful thing.

What would the forefathers have done if they’d had iMeet? Find out for yourself and enjoy a smile this Presidents’ Day.

Nurture relationships, both foreign and domestic

Collaboration and positive interactions are at the core of a meeting’s success. Working well with others—whether your teammates or members of other teams—is paramount to individual growth as well as the growth of an organization. Our strongest leaders have succeeded in building positive relationships within our bi-partisan governing bodies and with world leaders to ensure global communications and economic stability.

Lesson learned: Use meetings as opportunities to build relationships while getting the work done. As you focus on the tasks at hand, always seek ways to build and strengthen bridges with others through collaboration exercises like brainstorming and by striving to create processes that work.

Be aware of your camera presence

One of the most pivotal presidential debates in history was Nixon versus Kennedy in 1960. The first of America’s televised presidential debates, this political dialogue not only had a major impact on the election’s outcome, it signaled a new era in political campaigning that underscored the importance of well-crafted public images and well-executed media strategies. Inexperienced at live television and sweating profusely under the set lights, Nixon appeared weak and untrustworthy and was infamously crushed by Kennedy’s polish and handsome charm. As many motivational speakers, life coaches and sociologists attest, 60 – 75 percent of all communication is derived from nonverbal behavior and body language.

Lesson learned: Use video conferencing to your advantage while in meetings. Prepare wisely, position lighting to your advantage, and be aware of the camera and audio at all times—even when you aren’t speaking.

Presidents’ Day may not be the most flamboyant of our holidays, but the spirit behind it deserves our respect. Today, as we reflect on our nation’s achievements—gained through strong leadership, prudence, dedication and collaboration—we can discover that we too can accomplish notable victories in our daily interactions with coworkers and clients. Meetings are forums for working together to achieve goals, and that requires preparation, a strong platform of ideas and values, quick-thinking, artful détente and genuine contribution. As our sixth president, John Quincy Adams, put it, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

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About Lea G.

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