How To Succeed At Meetings

I never thought I’d be intellectually engaged by a so called “business guru” but I’ve recently begun reading Ray Dalio’s Principles through LinkedIn and have found them tremendously uplifting and useful. In an effort to bring principled thinking to my own work, I’ve tried to come up with a framework to become useful to others. To me, this means being efficient and valuable. Much of the time I spend at work is in meetings and I thought I’d begin to reflect on what it means to be efficient and valuable during meetings. In my own personal context, this means coming to meetings prepared. I’ve therefore attempted to develop this framework with that end in mind and I hope it’s useful to me and to those who are kind enough to read my blog. This post is intended not so much as an exposition of an idea but as a checklist. I hope you’ll give me feedback in the comments and help me improve the ideas I’ve set out here.

(As a side note, I highly recommend reading Aristotle’s Rhetoric, upon which I drew inspiration for this post).

Meetings happen in ways that fit into three buckets, broadly speaking: those where one or more people wish to galvanize others to pursue action in one direction or another; when a group decision must be made and when information is to be shared. Meetings don’t necessarily happen in one of these buckets exclusively but can move from one to the other at different times.  I’ll call them persuasive, deliberative and informative.

Persuasive meetings: during these meetings, the goal of a speaker is to present an argument for or against an action. If I participate in such a meeting, I’ll try to keep the following in mind:

  • A good argument has three key parts: terms, premises and conclusions. The key questions to ask are:
    • Are the terms clearly defined? Do I understand the key definitions of what is being talked about? Do I think there is overlap in terms?
    • Are the premises true or false?
    • Are the arguments valid or invalid?
  • Do I agree or disagree with the argument? Why?
  • Do I understand what would make my point of view invalid?

Deliberative meetings: in these meetings, the goal is to reach a team consensus or deeper understanding of an issue at hand. For these meetings, I’ll try to have these questions answered by the time the meeting is finished:

  • What is the task or project that we need to define?
  • How many different parts does it have?
  • How long is the task going to take? How long are each of the parts going to take?
  • Who should do what?
  • What are the criteria for progress?
  • When do we want to regroup to evaluate progress?
  • Do we need to pivot or change our focus?
  • Are there questions? Can we solve them together or do we need someone else to solve them for us?

Informative meetings: these meetings are always about the state of affairs of some action or project within an organization. During these meetings, we’ll hear about:

  • Project elements:
    • Resources: are we using more or less than was anticipated?
    • time frame: is it on time, early or delayed?
    • person responsible for carrying it out: changes in leadership, additions to the team, etc.
  • If the goal or purpose cannot be fully defined, then a deliberative meeting has to be held to determine it.

This sums up much of what I encounter during meetings but I’m sure this checklist will continue to evolve as I gain experience and participate in other kinds of projects. I’m also aware that I’ve excluded certain key ideas about participating in meetings: knowing my role during a conversation, when to address uncomfortable ideas or conversations, how to help the meeting reach its purpose when its been derailed, etc. But I think that for many of these questions there already are excellent frameworks. In another post, I’ll include some resources you can use to learn about these questions. As always, I appreciate your feedback and hope to continue to grow.

Qué es la izquierda III

Qué es la izquierda III

Originalmente publicado en https://feylibertad.org/2020/07/que-es-la-izquierda-iii/

¿Qué pasaría si nuestros gobiernos nos dieran cada vez menos información sobre sus planes y la gestión pública? ¿O si se nos prometiera una carretera como parte de un proyecto de obra pública pero recibiéramos otra cosa? En las democracias, esto sería absurdo y, cuando sucede, causa grandes polémicas y se enjuician a los culpables o se arman investigaciones para corregir la malversación de los recursos públicos. Pero en la antigua URSS, era común que el gobierno mintiera[1]. Además, los gobiernos socialistas son reconocidos por utilizar la fuerza para obligar a sus ciudadanos a obedecer las reglas. Y es que, como dice Scruton: “it takes infinite force to make people do what is impossible.” (Scruton 2015, 6)[2]. Para Scruton, la idea de que existe una lucha de clases y de que “la dictadura del proletariado” debe tomar control para que luego el gobierno desaparezca es una locura utópica, de esas que Marx tanto criticaba.

Hay una idea de Marx que lleva a ese tipo de conductas absurdas. Y digo absurdas porque Marx prometía la felicidad tras la caída inevitable del capitalismo. Es la idea de que el marxismo es una ciencia. Esta idea es, tal vez, la que más peligro supone para las sociedades libres, pues el marxismo separa a los seres humanos en dos clases: los culpables y los inocentes. Aquellos son quienes han usurpado los bienes que le corresponden a toda la humanidad y los últimos son quienes han sido robados de su derecho a los bienes de producción, que deben ser tenidos en común. Marx separaba la ideología de la ciencia. La ideología consiste en las ideas de los burgueses. Estas ideas son falsas, son máscaras que esconden tras de sí su verdadera intención: ser las estructuras de dominio y poder que siguen oprimiendo a las masas de los trabajadores. Nos dice Scruton: “Marx’s alleged science undermined the beliefs of his opponents. The theories of the rule of law, the separation of powers, the right of property, and so on, as these had been expounded by ‘bourgeois’ thinkers like Montesquieu and Hegel, were shown, by the Marxian class analysis, to be not truth-seeking but power-seeking devices: ways of hanging on to the privileges conferred by the bourgeois order. By exposing this ideology as a self-serving pretence the class-theory vindicated its own claims to scientific objectivity.” (Scruton 2015, 13-14). Toda idea, pues, que defienda de alguna manera las ideas de la burguesía es automáticamente falsa ante la ciencia del marxismo. Para Marx, defender la idea de la propiedad privada, el derecho a la libre expresión, etc, es equivalente a defender la existencia de las sirenas o decir que la luna es de queso.

Podemos observar esta actitud de rechazo al diálogo con ideas contrarias a las marxistas en ámbitos donde la pseudo ciencia del marxismo ha sido aceptada. No es raro encontrar ataques ad hominem o de cualquier otra índole del bando de Marx a sus oponentes. La idea de que el socialismo es la causa de los oprimidos lleva a aceptar que cualquier medio puede ser utilizado para arrebatar los bienes a los usurpadores. Pero desde hace ya siglos la razón está destronada y se ha apoderado del ámbito público el pecado del Satanás de Milton: la soberbia.


[1] Es interesante este video para ver cómo fue la reacción del gobierno soviético ante el desastre de Chernóbil.

[2] Scruton, Roger. 2015. Fools Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left. London: Bloomsbury Continuum.