What’s Your Agenda?

01 February 2010, by A. Cedilla

When I think of the word “agenda” the image that comes to mind is of two groups of people looking at each other over a long table in the board room.

Think Wallstreet, with Gordon Gekko, or that scene in American Psycho where Patrick Bateman and his colleagues try to one-up each other with, of all things, the fonts on their business cards.

When we think of agenda what pops up is the idea of a meeting or a discussion — sometimes a heated negotiation or a nefarious plan (“I don’t trust that guy, he’s got an agenda….”).

While the latter covers some of the more emotional connotations of the word agenda, what it boils down to is: an agenda is a list of things to talk about. So, you discuss the items on the agenda in a meeting. I hope that’s clear.

An agenda is not a To-Do list. Those are personal and task oriented. An agenda can be seen as a program of sorts, listing topics and issues presented for of discussion.

(Quick insert: An agenda is also not a credenza, even though they sound somewhat the same. I once made the mistake of confusing the two, in writing. It wasn’t pretty.

And a credenza is not a place of discussion, although you can have a quick chat beside one. Remember, you can put the notes for your agenda on the credenza, but not the other way around.)

On a personal level, what can be prepared for the agenda is the desired goal-outcome of a particular negotiation (and this is where we usually get, “I don’t trust that guy, he’s got an agenda….” feelings).

When you come into a meeting, you have to know what it is you want to get out of it: clarification on a particular issue, support for a new project, the go-ahead on a particular course of action, etc.

To recap -an agenda is a list of the items to be discussed. Armed with this information, you can determine what you can do next.

What else is needed ?
In terms of information, you need to suss out the other members’ agendas. You can’t have a meeting or a discussion alone, and the agenda is a list of peoples’ concerns — a collection of things the members of the group want discussed.

Whether it’s to clear the air or to get feed-back or consensus, you need to know how things stand and what they want and need.

Gathering information is vital. As with a presentation (also a basic part of any discussion — you present your idea and follow-up with supporting information) you prepare your main idea and back it up with relevant data.

Relevant data includes the agendas of the other people involved, because these are all sources of possible conflict, as well as alignment (and support). Knowing what the other people want helps in negotiating the give-and-take of concessions, and finally hammering out agreements.

In terms of action, the results of the discussion should give you clear signs of the direction to move in.

What’s the use of knowing agendas?

  • Knowing your agenda is a carry-over. When you know what you want, you can show your intent in your actions. You make a clear declaration to the universe and to other people that this is the direction you’ll be taking, and this can get support from people who have similar visions.
  • You can establish a clear distinction of what’s important to you. From that you’ll know what you’ll be willing to concede, what you don’t find acceptable, and what you willing to give.
  • You can put time where it matters to you, instead of straying off-course or being led by other peoples’ desires.

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