Why do so many of us hate meetings? There's no shortage of reasons, from wasting time in entirely unnecessary get togethers, to overlong scheduling, and meandering conversations. But somewhere towards the top of nearly everyone's meeting pet peeve list is oafish meeting behavior.
I'm sure you've experienced the type of thing I'm talking about - the spotlight hogging, endless interrupting, and under informed bloviating that can make getting together with colleagues about as much fun as watching paint dry.
So how do you ensure everyone gets a turn to speak, but that the loudest of the group don't monopolize the meeting and drown out other good ideas? Ray Dalio, founder of $160 billion hedge fund Bridgewater Associates and self-made billionaire, has a simple rule that can ensure everyone gets their time in the spotlight.
Bring your stopwatch.
On the TED Ideas blog recently Dalio shared nine rules for meetings from his new book Principles: Life and Work. The entire post is definitely worth a read if your organization struggles to keep meetings under control, but one idea stands out as both exceptionally useful and dead simple. Dalio calls it "the two-minute rule":
The two-minute rule specifies that you have to give someone that uninterrupted period to explain their thinking before jumping in with your own. This ensures everyone has time to fully crystallize and communicate their thoughts without worrying they will be misunderstood or drowned out by a louder voice.
This, of course, isn't exactly a revolutionary principle. We've all known since kindergarten that it's impolite to interrupt someone in the middle of a thought. Yet most of us are still, despite this knowledge, sometimes both offenders and victims when it comes to cutting in. Dalio's rule takes things out of the vague domain of etiquette and into the harsh light of numbers - two minutes is all you get, but you have a right to that time without a pushy colleague jumping in.
Will you need a stopwatch in front of you to enforce this rule? Probably, but as the rest of Dalio's advice makes clear, he's certainly not adverse to firm meeting leadership. (Nor is he the only business icon that strictly times meetings.) But as long as your team knows this rule going in, chances are good everyone will appreciate any refereeing that ensures their precious time isn't wasted by endless interruptions.