Setting the tone

man in suit on jetty with mountain.jpg

Recently while conducting one of our short course training programs, we were debriefing a role play scenario when I was reminded again just how critical it is to ‘set the tone’ for early meetings of potential partners.

In this case the participant had done an excellent job as an initiator of the meeting to set people at ease, to set the context and to genuinely engage with the other partners. However, I am sure we can all recall situations where this has not been the case, where discussions went straight to issues and solutions without spending sufficient time in developing a shared understanding of what the proposed partnering is about and building initial relationships.

If this happens there is a high risk that there will be insufficient trust and confidence to share information and ideas and you may not get the level of engagement you need in those early stages of partnering.

Often when potential partners come to the first meeting it has usually been initiated by one person or organisation and there can be a lot of uncertainty amongst the others about what is being proposed and where they fit in. So setting the right tone for these early discussions and putting other people at ease will provide the right environment to explore and establish a partnering process.

Setting the right tone is not easy but some techniques we have found useful include:

  • Appropriate acknowledgment of those in the room

  • Clarifying the context for the discussions

  • Spending time sharing information about each other to gain a greater understanding of each others interests and expectations

  • Focussing on building relationships rather than diving too deep into content too early

  • Listening to concerns or uncertainties expressed and being empathetic to those concerns

  • Aiming to create a safe space for discussions by respecting confidentiality

  • Allowing people time to see their value proposition for being involved in the partnering

Above all the person initiating the meeting should not dictate what should happen or how it should happen.

As one colleague once said to me - ‘One purpose of the first meeting should be to get people to come back to a second meeting’

Ian DixonComment