In 1974, Ray Dalio founded the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, and it’s now the world’s largest, managing roughly $160 billion. Besides its financial success, Bridgewater has become known for creating a unique culture of radical truth and radical transparency. Here is Dalio’s advice for how to run meetings that don’t go off the rails.
1. Make it clear who is directing the meeting and who it is meant to serve.Every meeting should be aimed at achieving someone’s goals; that person is the one responsible for the meeting and decides what they want to get out of it and how they will do so. Meetings without someone clearly responsible run a high risk of being directionless and unproductive.
2. Make clear what type of communication you are going to have in light of the objectives and priorities. If your goal is to have people with different opinions work through their differences to try to get closer to what is true and what to do about it (i.e., open-minded debate), you’ll run your meeting differently than if its goal is to educate. Debating takes times, and that time increases exponentially depending on the number of people participating in the discussion, so you have to carefully choose the right people in the right numbers to suit the decision that needs to be made. In any discussion, try to limit the participation to those whom you value most in your objectives. The worst way to pick people is based on whether their conclusions align with yours. Group-think (people not asserting independent views) and solo-think (people being unreceptive to the thoughts of others) are both dangerous.
3. Lead the discussion by being assertive and open-minded. Reconciling different points of view can be difficult and time-consuming. It is up to the meeting leader to balance conflicting perspectives, push through impasses and decide how to spend time wisely. A common question I get is: What happens when someone inexperienced offers an opinion? If you’re running the conversation, you should be weighing the potential cost in the time that it takes to explore their opinion versus the potential gain in being able to assess their thinking and gain a better understanding of what they’re like. Exploring the views of people who are still building their track record can give you valuable insights into how they might handle new responsibilities. Time permitting, you should work through their reasoning with them so they can understand how they might be wrong. It’s also your obligation to open-mindedly consider whether they’re right.
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