Ineffective meetings are frustrating, time wasters and often demoralizing. The following is ‘A Bakers Dozen’ of Strategies for using organized team or staff meetings with more dynamic and successful results
- 1- Prepare and circulate an agenda.
An agenda should include pre-planned topics and times allocated for discussion. This approach allows participants to know who has the lead on a topic and the estimated time for discussion.
2- Use “Meeting Time” for the purposes of meaningful discussion and decision making only.
“Meetings” are not the time to distribute forms or to make routine announcements, which can be communicated by emails, newsletters, memos or informal discussions. Keep focused on matters that need interaction .
3- Share the responsibility for facilitating or chairing the meeting.
While agendas may need to be agreed upon or approved by leadership, everyone grows by rotating the role of meeting facilitator. This rotation allows all participants the opportunity to learn the skill of effective meeting facilitation, while giving all the chance to see what it is involved in the organizational hierarchy a taste of the challenges in making the meeting productive.
4- Establish a time keeper and keep to the schedule.
Using the agenda time lines established in the agenda, honor the times for beginning and ending by topic. With a time keeper that can remind the group there are only five minutes left on this topic, the facilitator can focus on results and wrap up the discussion or establish it needs off line or future meeting time.
5- Stay the course
Items that could be resolved between two people should be handled off-line immediately, unless specific knowledge of others in the group is essential to the outcome of the matter. Once that special input is needed, move to the next item on the agenda and advise that this matter will be communicated to all in the appropriate manner
6- Electronic grazing is NOT part of productive meetings.
This means laptops should be closed, blackberries should left in their case and phones turned off. If there is a need for interaction with individuals outside the meetings, then plan for adequate brief breaks to allow this. Reality shows us that one cannot either actively participating or contribute to a productive meeting if they are constantly checking emails or working on something else. If that person is too busy to be at a meaningful meeting that everyone else fire-walled time for, that person should not detract from the results that can be achieved.
7- Push for concrete outcomes.
Debate and deliberation have their place, but clear direction is needed to move forward. Discussion should be driven by the facilitator towards addressing or answering key questions, documenting decisions and delegating action plans with time lines.
8- Avoid unnecessary debate.
“Thinking out loud:” or “playing the devil’s advocate” may be viewed as politically correct or inclusive, but if the only reason is to ask “what if”, then consider if the debate has merit or if it will be counterproductive and of little value.
9- Don’t deliberate what is not known.
We have all heard politicians who will offer opinions on absolutely any subject, regardless of their lack of knowledge on the topic, If an item on the agenda requires research or another party not at the meeting, then identify what is needed, delegate it as an action item and then move to the next item on the agenda
10- Consider the occasional stand-up meeting, with few or no refreshments.
It is amazing how quickly some meetings can reach the desired results if there are not too many distractions or unnecessary creature comforts.
11- Follow -up.
Delegated responsibility should be clear and give the person assigned the empowerment to make those assignments or tasks happen within an agreed upon time line.
12- Document follow up concisely.
Some of us are too wordy in our reports. Bullet points or to the point recaps will allow anyone to quickly reference the action plans, the reports due, the research required or whatever the next steps may be
13- Publish and distribute the concise meeting outcomes and minutes immediately (or no later than 24r hours after the meetings
Distribute the action plans and decisions reached from the meeting as soon as possible to promote momentum towards the next steps. This also shows the time spent was valued, appreciated and productive.
Questions of the day
These questions are offered to stimulate discussion about the way we do business. There is not necessarily only one “correct” answer – the reason for this section of the column is to promote an awareness of how we might all improve our operations. Consider using these or similar questions at staff meetings encourage your team to THINK!
Topic “A Bakers Dozen“ of Strategies for More Productive Meetings
1- How do you measure the effectiveness of your meetings? Is there a plan or do you “let it flow”?
2- Do you assign accountability for input and follow up at meetings ? When? By whom?
3- When was the last time you had a really dynamic meeting? If it was recently, what made it special? If it has been awhile, what are you going to do about it?