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The Role of a Timekeeper in Critical Conversations

Everyone plays a role in critical conversations, even the guy who keeps time. The timekeeper tracks time’s passing, and how long a critical conversation is taking. The watch-checker is the evil and a bit outdated twin of the phone-checking guy or texting gal. The timekeeper is the individual who not only checks his watch but also lets you know exactly what the watch says.

Following a two-point strategy can help put the time keeper and you at ease:

  • Appreciate and recognize the timekeeper’s value. Although some corporate cultures are notorious for always starting five minutes late, do your best to start conversations on time and to end on time. This may mean building in a few extra minutes for discussions and late arrivals.

  • Thank the timekeeper for keeping the meeting on time, and offer to schedule a conclusion to a meeting when needed. As a facilitator or initiator of the discussion, use the last ten minutes (more if you have a bigger group) to review the agreements that were made during the meeting, and go over the next step after the conversation.

    Yes, this may mean breaking up a critical conversation, but that’s a better option than rushing through agreements, opinions, and decisions that come apart soon after the meeting anyway.

However, if the timekeeper is preventing the meeting from moving forward, it may be best to deal directly with this as a challenging behavior.

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