Leadership

Billionaire Ray Dalio: 12 steps you can follow to run better meetings

Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates Founder, President and CIO, in an interview at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 20, 2016.
David A.Grogan | Getty Images
Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates Founder, President and CIO, in an interview at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 20, 2016.

American investor and self-made billionaire Ray Dalio has advice to help you run more practical and effective meetings to avoid misunderstandings and wasting time at work.

Dalio is the founder and co-Chief Investment Officer of the world's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates. Though he once went broke running the investment firm, it now manages about $160 billion and has supporters like Tony Robbins, who calls Dalio a "total genius."

Dalio is also the leader behind the company's renowned culture of radical transparency and recently shared the secrets to running Bridgewater Associates in his recently released book "Principles: Life and Work."

"Remember that for an organization to be effective, the people who make it up must be aligned on many levels — first from what their shared mission is, to how they will treat each other, to a more practical picture of who will do what when to achieve their goals," Dalio writes.

"There are many reasons why meetings go poorly, but frequently it is because of a lack of clarity about the topic or the level at which things are being discussed," Dalio notes.

Here are 12 tips Dalio provides to help you run your next meeting more effectively.

1. Emphasize the meeting's purpose

For the sake of clarity, Dalio recommends making it clear ahead of time that you are leading the upcoming meeting and detail the purpose for it.

"Meetings without someone clearly responsible run a high risk of being directionless and unproductive," he writes.

Before your meeting, figure out what you want others to get out of the meeting and provide directions that will help others achieve their goals, he writes.

2. Be as precise as possible

"It is often best to repeat a specific question to be sure both the questioner and responder are crystal clear on what is being asked and answered," Dalio writes.

He also notes that being precise will help you avoid confusion.

3.  Establish the type of meeting you're holding

Dalio recommends that you make clear what type of communication or meeting format you are going to have, which depends on your objectives and priorities.

"If your goal is to have people with different opinions work through their differences to try to get closer to what is true and what to do about it," Dalio writes, " you will run your meeting differently than if its goal is to educate."

For example, if your plan is to have many people weigh in on a discussion with their individual thoughts, the meeting will likely going take more time. Therefore, he says to warn people accordingly.

4. Be assertive and open-minded

"Reconciling different points of view can be difficult and time-consuming," Dalio writes.

As the facilitator of the discussion, he suggests you step in to remind your coworkers of the meeting's objective.

"It is up to the meeting leader to balance conflicting perspectives, push through impasses and decide how to spend time wisely."

5. Keep track of the progress you make

Dalio notes that there will be two levels of discussion in your meetings: the conversation taking place right in that moment and the overall progress of your team meeting its goals.

"You need to clearly navigate between these levels in order to handle the case well, test the effectiveness of your principles and improve the machine so similar cases will be handled better in the future," Dalio writes.

6. Try to avoid 'topic slip'

If you've ever been in a meeting in which the conversation gets derailed or side-tracked by commentary from coworkers, you've experienced a form of "topic slip."

"Topic slip is random drifting from topic to topic without achieving completion of any of them," Dalio writes.

His solution: Visualize your conversation.

"One way to avoid it is by tracking the conversation on a whiteboard so that everyone can see where you are," he writes.

7. Remain calm and analytical at all times

Instead of resorting to emotions, especially if people are getting riled up in disagreement, Dalio recommends enforcing "the logic of conversations."

"It's more difficult to shut down a logical exchange than an emotional one," he writes, also noting that "emotions can shade how people see reality."

If your meeting spins into an emotional conversation or if someone goes into a sentence by saying, "I feel like (something is true)," Dalio suggests grounding the conversation back in reality by asking "Is it true?"

8. Be clear in assigning responsibilities

"Too often, groups will make a decision to do something without assigning personal responsibility, so it is not clear who is supposed to follow up by doing what," Dalio writes.

The quickest solution is to be clear in making sure everyone knows who is in charge of doing certain tasks.

9. Utilize the 'two-minute rule' to avoid interruptions

To make sure that everyone is able to vocalize their ideas, Dalio recommends using the "two-minute rule," which he describes as giving "someone an uninterrupted two minutes to explain their thinking before jumping in with your own."

Dalio also notes this allows others in your meeting to speak freely for a moment "without worrying they will be misunderstood or drowned out by a louder voice."

10. Watch out for 'fast talkers'

Dalio defines "fast talkers" as people who "articulately and assertively say things faster than they can be assessed as a way of pushing their agenda past other people's examination or objections."

As the person in charge of your meeting, Dalio says it is your responsibility to make sense of things and make sure to not move on until that fast talker's point is made clear.

You may feel some pressure to just move on, but until you get to ask all your questions, Dalio suggests you say something along the lines of, "Sorry for being stupid, but I'm going to need you to slow down so I can make sense of what you're saying."

11. Reach a conclusion

"The main purpose of discussion is to achieve completion and get in sync, which leads to decisions and/or actions," Dalio writes. "Conversations that fail to reach completion are a waste of time."

Whether your meeting ended on a positive note or in disagreement, Dalio says you have to acknowledge what needs to happen next.

"Where further action has been decided, get those tasks on a to-do list, assign people to do them and specify due dates," he writes.

Having a designated note taker during your meeting can be helpful for this, according to Dalio.

12. Figure out if the meeting was effective

Dalio says you should leverage your communication because "while open communication is very important, the challenge is to do it in a time-efficient way."

Perhaps other means of communication like an email or sharing notes or audio from a meeting held with fewer people could have been more effective and less time-consuming.

"It may be tempting to convene a larger group, but having too many people collaborate is counterproductive," Dalio writes.

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