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Am I the only one frustrated by the "Tentatively Accept" (or "Pencil In") meeting response?

I totally get it if you were only optional for the meeting. For my meetings, I do take the time to distinguish between "Required" and "Optional".

if you are required for the meeting, now I have to chase you down to see if you are actually going to come. This is very frustrating!

Perhaps people do this because they have bad experiences with meetings as some others may not differentiate between "Required" and "Optional". This seems to happen specifically when I invite managers to a meeting show their support for their team and the topic. The manager is not the actual doer of the tasks but it means the world to their team to see them show up and support them.

I don't know if there's a magic bullet out there but I was curious if others had some advice on how to avoid "The chase" to ensure your meetings are effective.

TomW's picture

Have you checked their calendars first to see what else they have going on that day? Have you tried asking people before you schedule the meeting whether they can make it? Doing your homework first can go a long way.

cim44's picture

I might be wrong on this but I think in notes you can set it to not allow the tentatively accept.

GlennR's picture

We use Lotus Notes here, but I can't imagine that Outlook doesn't have the same capability. I am able to create a group calendar of al invitees in about a minute or two. This calendar allows me to see a bar graph showing "free" and "busy" times by day. Once I find open dates, I then send out a http://doodle.com/ poll giving them a choice of at least three times since I know that not everyone updates their calendars.

I have learned the hard way not to make assumptions about whether or not people are attending meetings. For those people who will have a key role to play, I always reach out to them one on one and discuss the meeting's importance with them. This has the advantage of increasing their commitment to attend. This can be done is a quick hallway conversation, sometimes via IM, and sometimes it's necessary to get them on the phone or meet with them in person. Remember the US Marine Corp's saying, "Proper Prior Planning Prevent P___ Poor Performance."

Of course the downside to group calendars is that, for us it only works for our staff, not external customers or vendors. For that I rely more on Doodle.
 

 

dmb41carter36's picture

Tom,

We have outlook so I do pick out the times on the calender when they are free.

As to the pre-wire, I have done that with specific people who agree in person but the shirk away at the last moment. That doesn't mean I can't increase my pre-wire frequency and effectiveness.

Glen,

That's a great idea, however I would worry that if you have 3 key people and they all pick different choices your back to square one? I would also worry that that gives people the opportunity to ignore you.

dmb41carter36's picture

Tom,

We have outlook so I do pick out the times on the calender when they are free.

As to the pre-wire, I have done that with specific people who agree in person but the shirk away at the last moment. That doesn't mean I can't increase my pre-wire frequency and effectiveness.

Glen,

That's a great idea, however I would worry that if you have 3 key people and they all pick different choices your back to square one? I would also worry that that gives people the opportunity to ignore you.

svibanez's picture

of attending and I know there is a higher priority issue that is likely to rear its head at about the same time.  I also give the reason for the "tentative" response in the meeting acceptance message (although it's not always read...).  I also make it a point to check the group calendar and propose an alternate time when everyone is free - if there is one and if I'm a central player in the meeting.

That said, I also simply decline any meeting that I don't see producing useful information for my group.  Following the M-T guidance on taking control of my calendar has helped me recover at least a couple of hours every week.

Steve

DiSC 7114

GlennR's picture

@dmb41Carter36,

If they pick different choices, then pick up the phone and negotiate a better time. Don't worry, take action. Really, that rarely happens to me. The more common problem is watching others trying to schedule a meeting earlier than 3 weeks out when most people are completely booked.Looking three weeks out, I just performed this task scheduling a meeting for 15 senior execs. It was no problem.

Now, if you're dealing with Luddites who don't use an electronic schedule, or who don't allow access to their calendars, then this doesn't work. Earlier this week I had that crop up where three people in two separate meetings didn't allow access to their calendars. I sent them a screenshot of the proper setting and they all changed it. I lost a day in getting this implemented, but still got the meetings scheduled.

jhack's picture

"Tentative" means "No, but I'm too wishy-washy to say that outright."  This is based on observation over the years.

So just assume it means No.  And proceed from there. 

John Hack

uninet22's picture

Be patient with these people, they might be victims of a culture of bad meetings.  They may have been subjected to years of meeting after meeting that they didn't need to attend, that started and/or ended late, that rambled on without any agenda, or at the very least, was not pre-wired properly (Hopefully you haven't been in charge of any of those meetings!)  These kinds of meetings have been the rule in my organization, and it has killed my desire to attend any meetings.  I try to watch for the signs of a well planned meeting, so as to not hold the innocent accountable for the mistakes of others, but my overall outlook on meetings here is pretty negative. 

When I need to conduct a meeting, I do things as much according to MT principles as possible, especially the pre-wire and agenda.  I take special care with those who have been jaded like myself, to determine whether they need to attend, and if so, make sure they know exactly why they're important and what I'm hoping to get from them.  If there are still those who don't attend, or don't participate as I need them to, I just try to hold forgiveness in my heart for them, because I know it's not that they don't like me, or want my purpose to fail.  They just hate all meetings.  If it feels safe, I might give them some careful feedback.  But more than anything I just try to communicate to them how much I understand their attitude towards meetings and that I have a personal commitment to do it right and only hold meetings that are necessary, properly prepared and properly conducted.  Hopefully I can establish a relationship with them that will help my meetings be productive. 

Good luck!

AppleJack's picture

I respond with "tentative" when someone schedules an important meeting at the only time I've told them I am not available, and I know that my responding "no" will not result in their rescheduling the meeting so that I can attend. I usually then try to juggle all of my other appointments around to see if I can make the "tentative" meeting since it is important, but that generally takes several days longer than the organizer will want to wait for a response.

I also respond as "tentative" when someone schedules a half hour meeting in the middle of the day and it will take me 45 minutes each way to get to that location. Again, if I can juggle my schedule so that I have other meetings before or after to make the trip worthwhile then I attend, but this too takes time.

If I am organizing a meeting, I usually ask (rather than check calendars) everyone to let me know when they are NOT available, as well as their preferred times to meet. This way I can better gauge if the majority will be able to attend, before I send the appointment .

 

dmb41carter36's picture

Thanks so much for the feedback everyone!