Healthy High-Performance Conference Calls

From a practical standpoint, we can surely see the advantages of conference calls. We save time, money and energy. In a healthy, high-performance organization, conference calls have a different dimension. We envision an experience in which we are engaged, having fun, and generating ideas. Each has an appreciation for the value that every participant brings to the call. All are prepared to listen and contribute to a productive, vertical dialogue. Our state of mind is flexible, curious, open, and honest.

One key is communication—the scheduled time, length and frequency of the call, as well as a suggested agenda or topics of discussion, desired outcomes, and list of participants should be communicated well in advance to all involved. Participants expected to speak on specific topics should be designated in the communication.

"Are you willing to listen to others' point of view with the same level of interest, curiosity, and understanding you would expect?"

Perhaps an even more important consideration is the combination of thoughts and beliefs around conference calls. If you think of a scheduled conference call as just one more thing taking up your time, the resultant behavior may be multitasking, in other words not being fully present and, therefore, not getting the most value out of that time. Here are some guidelines for both call leaders and participants to approach conference calls from a perspective of health.

Leader's Role

Respect Time Commitments

Schedule calls at appropriate times.

  • Do your participants cross several time zones?
  • Do you have international participants?
  • Are people less distracted earlier in the day, earlier in the week?
  • Have you polled the participants for available time slots?

How much time do you really need to accomplish the purpose of the call?
Well-organized updates and progress reports can be accomplished in less time.

Start the call on time.

Allow appropriate call-in time. Make sure you are on the call first and use this time to build rapport and check the state of mind of the participants.

Bring the call to order with a roll call, projected length, general purpose, or brief list of topics to be discussed and desired outcomes.

Determine who is taking notes and keeping track of time.

Determine if someone needs to participate early in the call due to unexpected time demands.

Encourage and ask for a team agreement to be focused and fully present in order to get the most value of the time spent on the call.

Be sure to appreciate their attention as you reap the benefits of shorter, more effective conference calls.

End the call on time.

If items of importance were not addressed, set-up follow-up communication. Above all, hold it lightly. Look for the humor in the challenges. Have compassion for your teammates and yourself. After the call take time to reflect on what went well, how much you accomplished and how grateful you are to work with a team of such valuable contributors.

Lead the Call

If necessary, solicit specific input for discussion topics.

Be flexible. Sometimes the agenda of the moment is not what was planned.

In rapport, keep the dialogue on track.

Summarize and end the call with conclusions, assignments, follow-ups, next steps and appreciation.

Determine What Kind of Conference Call is Appropriate

Information calls—Things we need discuss or clarify for specific impact on individuals or changes to the status quo.

Sometimes information can best be communicated in an e-mail, memo, or voice mail.

Regularly scheduled calls—Weekly, monthly, or quarterly calls for status updates, new business and follow-ups. These calls should offer brief, fresh information and focus on sharing success stories, best practices, and generating ideas for creative approaches to challenging experiences.

Specific project planning calls—Cross-functional participants critical to the success of a project should communicate early and regularly over the course of the project. The leader and participants change depending on the stage of the project.

"Multitasking or focusing only on "our" part of the agenda can contribute to missed communication and re-work, impacting on our results and the bottom line."

Telecommunication calls/conference calls are often combined with regular face-to-face meetings. Written or oral presentations are faxed or e-mailed well in advance to those not physically present in these meetings.

Some conference calls are combinations of a little bit of everything. Keeping each "bit" brief is key to an effective, productive call.

Participant's Role (Remember the Leader is also a Participant)

How do you participate in creating the reality of a healthy, high-performance conference call?

Are you willing to set aside the time required to focus on the call?

If you don't have time to participate or have a conflict of priorities, are you open and honest with your co-workers?

Do you come to the call in a state of alignment, willing to see the possibilities beyond the agenda, and your contributions?

Are you willing to listen to others' point of view with the same level of interest, curiosity, and understanding you would expect?

Can you be focused and fully present, avoiding distractions for the entire call?

Can you see the innocence in yourself and others when you/they lose focus?

Thought habits developed over the years impact on our effectiveness in meetings, whether face-to-face or via means of telecommunications. Multitasking or focusing only on "our" part of the agenda can contribute to missed communication and re-work, impacting on our results and the bottom line. With clarity of purpose, aligned states of mind and an understanding of how we all contribute to the success or failure of any interaction, healthy, high-performance conference calls are just a thought away.

©2012 Tracey E. Carruthers
Note: Tracey E. Carruthers is an executive coach and founder of may "reprint" copies of Clues You Can Use Articles on-line as long as they remain complete and unaltered including this note. Please send links to your reprints below.

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