Go In With the Outcome in Mind

Chess pieces on chessboardThe best results in life require some planning. Everything from maintaining relationships to facilitating meetings could benefit from some simple advance attention.

If you want to get the most out of a one-on-one meeting, be prepared with a private outline or agenda that keeps you focused. Here are some ground rules for getting the most out of an information-seeking conversation:

  1. Confirm how much time the other person has.
  2. Understand their flexibility; learn if they have a meeting before or after yours.
  3. Tell the person up front what information you need.
  4. Come prepared with specific questions.
  5. Chat for only a few minutes at the beginning to get acquainted on a more personal level.
  6. Discuss important items first, and leave any spare time at the end of your meeting to talk about other personal items.

I learned the hard way about the value of preparation and the importance of directing the conversation a number of years ago. I had invited a colleague to meet for morning coffee to get caught up since we hadn’t seen each other for a while. We spent the first 45 minutes of our conversation talking about our personal lives, news, issues, etc. She looked at her watch with a surprised look and said that she had just ten minutes left before she had to leave and be back at her office for a conference call with a client. Now I was in the awkward position of cramming all of my questions about the topic of my interest into the last ten minutes. That experience taught me an important lesson. When you have a specific topic that you want to discuss, let your intention be known, and discuss it first rather than wasting time on idle chit-chat.

When you meet with someone to discuss a specific topic, remind yourself that you have a limited amount of time to spend. Set up your meeting with clear objectives in mind. Let the other person know in advance what you would like to discuss. If you don’t, the other person may misinterpret your intent. When you meet, remind the other person what you would like to talk about. Casual get-togethers with no agenda are fine too if it’s clear up front that’s how you intend to use the time. You will get more out of meetings and conversations when you prepare yourself – and others – about how you plan to use the time.

Repeat this phrase to yourself as you enter any meeting or one-on-one conversation: Go in with the outcome in mind.