How much Time should a Conference spend on listening to the Ideas of a Minority on a particular Objectve

A Conference Leader should encourage more time to learn of, and discuss, minority views.

(a) the greater the influence the minority Members would have on whether the Organisation/Section would achieve the particular objective.

 (b) the greater the importance of the objectives.

(c) the greater the amount of time available - in relation to other things to do inside and outside the meeting – at that particular time.

(d) the greater the number of hidden reasons which exist and the greater the importance of these reasons to the Organisation. These hidden reasons would not necessarily relate to the particular objective under consideration. Thus one or more of the minority may have some hidden reasons for opposing a particular objective. It will prove important to establish these reasons. They might rate as important. If Conference Leaders do not know of their existence, the Leaders cannot evaluate how much time the group should spend on these reasons. (e) the greater the ramifications of the Decision/Objective on other Objectives of the Organisation. This factor includes precedence. If one part of an Organisation adopts a particular objective and it affects what happens in other parts of the organisation probably it deserves greater consideration time.

(f) the greater the resentment the minority feel if they do not have the opportunity of putting forward their ideas. Sometimes simply giving the minority some time to put their ideas and for others to listen  to them will prove sufficient to obtain their cooperation.

2 Sometimes a minority Member opposes the majority simply because of the person with the idea.

 3 Example. Tom always tends to oppose the ideas of Dick because he does not like Dick. If a Leader and/or Group gives Tom time to talk they only waste the time because it will have no effect on Tom’s opinion or Dick’s opinion. No matter what Dick or Tom say to each other they will oppose each other. Thus in the case where the objective does not rate as important and Tom does not play a major part in achieving the objective, spending time on the objective will prove useless.

 Some Related Notes

Reactions to One Participant

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1 The numbers in brackets refer to identification numbers used at the top right-hand corner of each separate section.

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A Classified List of Conference Situations

Introduction

1 Many different situations occur in Conferences. Some repeat themselves – and wise Leaders and Participants learn what behaviour will help the Conference achieve its objectives.

2 These notes aim to speed up the learning process. They suggest specific techniques for dealing with particular situations. However Conferences have so many variations that it will prove impossible to discuss all possible situations and all the desirable activities of Conference Members.

3 Readers should not expect to learn all the following techniques from a few readings of this material. Rather, they should use the material as a reference source. They should read one or two sections before attending a Conference. After attending one (especially if it did not function well), they should look for some ideas which might have helped them.,

4 In trying to use the following ideas, some Readers will class some of them as unusual, especially if they have not thought much about conferences and/or have fairly strong ideas on certain approaches.

5 Some Readers will reject some suggestions as unwise, impractical, and unhelpful.

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A Participant opposes an Idea that most other Members support

1.  Often Groups find that one or two Members oppose an idea which all other Members support.

2.  Sometimes a question to the minority group shows that they oppose the idea because they feel they have too little information about the proposalwhich the majority support. In such a case, Leaders and Members should try to supply relevant information.

3.  Sometimes minority Members simply want the chance to have their sayand a chance to persuadeother Members. Leaders should encourage minority Members to contribute their ideas.

4. After the contribution, possibly with some additional discussion, Leaders should find out if any (majority) Members have changed their view. Often taking a vote provides a quick method. It also shows minority Members the effect of their recent persuasive attempts.

5. Where minority Members have had their chance to influence other Members and they can see they ave failed, some or all of them may say they will go along with what the majority want to do.

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A Participant asks a Question

1.  Participants often ask Leaders questions. The way Leaders should handle this situation depends on many things but should include: (a) the type of meeting involved (e.g. Training versus Business; “Assisted versus Directed”*) (b) the particular Participant who asked, (c) the content of the question, (d) the amount of knowledge the leader has on the question, and (e) the need to answer the question.

2.  Type of Meeting. In a Training Meeting, a Leader will often want to encourage participants to think about, and answer, their own questions. Throwing the question back to the Asker and/or relaying it on to another Participant will help to achieve this objective.

3.  In a Business Conference, it will also prove good practice to avoid answering a question – on someoccasions. This point will prove wise where Subordinates ask a question of their Manager and the Manager wants to encourage Subordinates to think through the problem and arrive at an answer on their own.

4.  Managers should ask Subordinates to answer their own question where the Managers want to obtain the Subordinate’s ideas beforethe Subordinates know the Managers’ views.

5.  Where the Manager asks a Subordinate a question, perhaps the Subordinate should answer it!

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A Participant puts forward a procedural Idea

1.  Leaders should realise that they alone cannot think of all the helpful procedural ideas. They should acknowledge, welcome, and note ideas put forward by Participants and consider their usefulness. A Participant may have an idea that will help a Conference get out of a difficult situation.

2 . When Leaders cannot see a useful procedure to deal with the problem that has arisen, they should actively encourage Participants to put forward ideas on procedural matters.

3.  Such situation do have some dangers. Sometimes a Participant will put forward a poor idea and the Group will adopt it.

4.  Sometimes this situation occurs when the Leaders’ experience makes them believe that it will not help the Group. In these cases, Leaders may say so. However they cannot afford to fight the Group. If the Group does not accept the warning of a Leader and the Group insists on discussing the procedure and voting for it, Leaders have not real alternative but to help the Group use that particular procedure.

5. However they should remain alert and sensitive to the Group’s feelings about the procedure. If their predictions prove correct, the Group will perceive that the procedure has not proved useful. At appropriate intervals, Leaders can ask the Group – “Do you still wish to use the procedure that we adopted?”

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A Participant calls for a Vote

1.  If Leaders want to help a Group decide what it should do, they should rarely, if ever, ignore a call for a vote by a Participant.

2.  If Leaders ignore such a call, the Group can accuse them of not assisting them.

3. However sometimes other Participants will not want to take a vote – or not until they have discussed and/or gained a better understanding of the topic on which someone wishes to take a vote.

4.  If Leaders think a vote unwise at that stage, they can aim to defer a decision by asking such questions as: Does everyone think they understand this topic sufficiently well to vote on the matter now? Who would like to ask a question before we take a vote? Does anyone want to say something before we take a vote?

 

Some Related Notes

Reactions to One Participant

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1 The numbers in brackets refer to identification numbers used at the top right-hand corner of each separate section.

Reactions to a few Participants

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A Partcipant makes an off-the-topic Contribution

Leaders should act firmly to eliminate off-the-topic contributions – although not necessarily immediately.

1.  In both business and training conferences and meetings, Leaders will sometimes need to rule some topics out of order. Leaders should handle such situations firmly. Any attempt to avoid this job will make the Leader’s task so much more difficult when such a situation occurs again.

2.  Leaders should remember that sometimes Members look for, and expect, Leaders to act firmly. Further, once Leaders give a ruling they can ask for support from the Group. If the support comes, they have no problems; if the Group opposes the ruling then Leaders should remember that they hold their position in order to serve the Group.

3.  However Leaders can always take a more participative approach. They can say: “I intend to rule that topic as out of order because – unless anyone disagrees”. This approach gives the Group the chance to disagree – or agree.

Some off-the-topic Contributions help a Discussion overall

4. Most conferences get sidetracked at some time or other. This situation does not always rate as bad. Sometimes the discussion will have some indirect connection with the objectives. However Leaders should always take care to evaluate the discussion and contributions in the light of the conference objective. Then they can decide when they should try to turn back to the “main road” again.

Decide when to try to stop Off-The-Topic Contributions

Identify the Proportion of off-the-topic Contributions to on-the-topic Contributions

5. Usually, one off-the-topic contribution within (say) ten contributions on the official topic will have little effect on the efficiency of a discussion. Leaders can afford to allow one such contribution without doing anything about it. They will hope that it will not lead to further off-the-topic contributions and/or not raise a sufficiently interesting! inviting topic for the Group to want to contribute to the new topic.

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A Participant does not listen

What Should a Leader Do When:-

L7 – A Participant does not listen.

 People do not realise they do not Listen

1 Many Participants do not concentrate sufficiently on listening to the contributions of other Members. Usually Participants do not plan to listen. Most people do not realise that they do not listen carefully enough. Sometimes they do not realise how conferences can help everyone learn by listening to, and considering, contributions from other.

Without listening, people cannot learn from others

2 Leaders can teach Participants these ideas by asking – what happens if they do not listen to the ideas of other Participants? Not listening to others destroys the very idea of a conference. Why get people together to confer if no—one wishes to consider seriously what the other Members say?

Show people they do not listen

3 One method of reducing the problem of Members not listening involves getting them to realise that they do not listen as much as they think they do.

4 The most obvious approach to achieving this objective involves asking people: “What do you think about what Harry just said?” A more direct approach uses the question: “What did Harry just say?”

5 Usually some Members will not have “heard” Harry at all. Others will have “heard” different ideas and/or given different meanings to what they heard. Such approaches fairly quickly show people that they have not heard what Harry said and they need to listen and listen more intently.

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A Partcipant keeps complaining continually and takes up meeting time without suggesting anything

1.  Members who contribute ideas and complaints at meetings but never put forward a definite idea to overcome their problems tend to achieve very little at the meetings.

     2.  Example. Tom spends a good deal of time at the regular meetings of an Association complaining about the lack of action by the Committee charged with increasing Membership. However, he never puts forward a formal motion or suggests an action related to his complaints. Sometimes he has a useful idea that deserves implementation. However, people become so annoyed by his continual moaning that no one attempts to consider any of his ideas and/or help him by suggesting a specific action the Association’s Committee could take.

3.  Both the Leader and Participants should recognise the occurrence of such a situation – especially if it occurs frequently. They should encourage (insist) the “complainers” to put forward some specific action they believe will improve the situation about which they complain.

4. Examples. The Chairperson of a formal meeting could say – “Tom, I will not allow further discussion on this matter unless I get a formal motion”.

5.  In a Conference, the Leader and/or a Participant should say – “I believe Tom should put forward a specific suggestion as to how we can overcome the problems he has raised”. If Tom cannot suggest a specific idea, any Member could say – “Can anyone else in the group suggest an idea which would overcome the problems raised?”

6. However suitable action in this situation will depend on the attitude of other Members to the complaint/problem. Where the Group supports the ideas of the Complainer, Group discussion of the point will help the Group as a whole. Where they do not support the Complainer, Group discussions will prove of little value and sometimes will annoy the Group.

7.  Sometimes a Member has a genuine problems or area of complaint but cannot think of a way to overcome the problem. In this case, Leaders should not necessarily try to close the discussion. They should find out the extent of the Group’s agreement on the complaint discussed. If a significant number agree, a Group problem-solving discussion should help find ideas for solving the problem.

 

 Some Related Notes

 

Reactions to One Participant

 

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1 The numbers in brackets refer to identification numbers used at the top right-hand corner of each separate section.

 

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A Participant opposes (apparently) the wishes of the majority of the other Participants

1. Sometimes a Participant wishes to say something and/or get other Participants to do something, but most other Participants do not wish to spend the time of the conference on that particular objective. A wise Leader will deal with these cases by using the principle – Use the Group to control the Group.

2.  Specifically – Leaders should ask the Group to indicate (usually by show of hands) whether they wish to hear the particular Participant’s ideas and! or what the Participant wants them to do.
3 However this checking of what a Participant wishes to do refers to discussion procedures. It does not refer to a Conference Member’s content contributions (as compared with procedural contributions).

     4. Example. Betty wishes to contribute on the official topic. The Leader has no right to try to stop her. However if Betty wants to change the subject or get the group to vote or continue discussing a topic which the group have just agreed should stop, the Leader should interrupt and point out that the group will have to give permission for Betty to contribute on an unauthorised topic.

Summary

5. The Principle – “Use the group to control the group” will help Leaders influence the actions of individual Participants so that they do not behave in a manner which most of the group oppose.

 

 Some Related Notes

 

Reactions to One Participant

 

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1 The numbers in brackets refer to identification numbers used at the top right-hand corner of each separate section.

 

Reactions to a few Participants

 

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