Silence is Not a Yes – Facilitating Agreements in Your Meetings

| October 23, 2012 | 1 Comment

Don’t take silence as a yes, don’t take it as agreement, and really don’t take it as commitment. At least 99% of organizational meeting should result in commitment to action and commitment to action requires agreement between the parties. Those agreements should translate into the execution of steps, which lead to the fulfillment of commitments made.

Here are a few suggestions that I have found to be successful in facilitating agreements:

1. People need to be heard. Even if the team doesn’t agree with your idea or assessment, you want to know that you have been heard. My old adage of Slowing Down to Speed Up really comes into play here. Take the time to make sure that you have given everyone the opportunity to weigh into the discussion. Think back for a moment to those times that you thought everyone was in agreement, only to find out that there was no real commitment to the decision. Not having firm agreement on next steps is an incredible time waster. It also perpetuates bad politics in the hallway and undermines critical forward movement of initiatives.

2. Allow for healthy debate and brainstorming. Allow time to consider all possibilities, potential ripple effects, existing trends and patterns and impact to your core purpose. Agreements should represent your best thinking; not just an answer, but the best answer. One that everyone can truly commit to, even if it was counter to their original perspective.

3. And finally, take the time to clarify agreements at the end of the meeting. This can be the most valuable 5 minutes you’ll spend. Succinctly write down on the white board or flip chart what has been agreed to, who will take on what responsibilities and what will be communicated outside of your meeting. In other words, Cascading Communications.

In my mind, cascading communications plays two major roles. First, it ensures that the decisions and agreements made are clear in everyone’s mind. Conducting this exercise at the end of the meeting underlines the importance of the agreements and leaves little room for ambiguity. I am always surprised that within the space of 15 minutes the assumed clarity of agreements becomes fuzzy. Write it down. Does this take time? Yes it does, but think of the time wasted by inaction, confusion and lack of forward movement. The second role of Cascading Communications is providing information to the rest of your organization. It may be to particular departments or to the entire company. What is important is that the messages be consistent from everyone who attended the meeting.

There are certainly additional ways to gain true agreement in your meetings. I would welcome your contributions to the discussion.

Have a great week,



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Category: Blog, Decision Making, Leadership


About the Author ()

Julia Hill-Nichols, SPHR, is the founder of LeadersCove, LLC. With over 30 years experience in operations and human capital management, Julia is gifted in the art and science of bridging strategic imperatives and a company’s human capabilities—executing for success, meeting bottom-line objectives and enlivening the people who are the organization’s lifeblood.

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  1. Gail says:

    Enjoyed this article as well as The Bad Penny – easy to change the emphasis from corporate world to not-for-profit and church issues! Have shared them with some key folks that “avoid” at all costs.

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