Last week on The Apprentice, the two teams were asked to develop a product to take to market. While Team Phoenix chose a product, made a decision and zipped off to make it, Team Sterling spent most of the morning umming and erring over a tap cosy. Hopefully you don’t have meeting deadlocks over tap cosies but the silent meeting room is a familiar one. The reasons are plenty: shy team members, dominating voices, a lack of inspiration. We asked Karren Brady, Lord Sugar’s assistant, vice chairman of West Ham United and author of Strong Woman: Ambition, Grit And A Great Pair of Heels (Collins, £18.99), how to avoid those tricky meeting moments.
DON’T AVOID A DEADLOCK
We can often preempt the meetings that will turn into a cross-table showdown but don’t avoid it – meetings are essential to ensure a uniform approach. “If you look at companies that are successful the whole team pulls together, they communicate,” says Karren. “It’s important everyone knows what their overall contribution is but just because you work in finance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an opinion on retail...”
“If you feel someone has over-stepped the mark pull them aside after the meeting to say it was unprofessional. But after that don’t hold a grudge”
THE RIGHT WAY TO SAY THEY’RE WRONG
On that note, when you think the retail division is approaching their goals in the wrong way, how do you convey that? “Effectively disagreeing with a team member comes down to communication,” says Karren. “Be inclusive, for example: “I know you have your ideas about X, but Mary and I were talking in the pub the other night and we had another great idea…” Karren also advises you to check your body language (that means uncrossed arms, make eye contact and keep an even tone).
SUPPORT THE QUIET TYPES
Silent team members can be frustrating: their opinions are needed but demanding input will make you look aggressive. “Address this before the meeting,” suggests Karren. “Take the person to one side and ask them if they would like help presenting their ideas to the team. Make a note of them and refer back to their ideas, and give them credit in the meeting.”
HEATED IS FINE, BOILING OVER ISN’T
Remember when Gabrielle screamed at Bilyana in the boardroom in the first episode of this season’s The Apprentice? Sometimes that happens. If it does, you need to step back. “Take the emotion out of your voice – don’t say how it will affect you, say how it affects the company,” says Karren. “If you feel someone has overstepped the mark, or you have, pull them aside after the meeting to say it was unprofessional. But after that, move on and don’t hold a grudge.”