Meetings, meetings, meetings… and more bloody meetings

Many meetings are a waste of time. I’m sure we don’t need to remind you of that. If the best decisions are not made in a time frame which is reasonable it is due to one of these things: • poor meeting structure • poor leadership or • poor participation As much as they are maligned, meetings still represent the best available communication and consultative process for maximising effectiveness and improving organisation productivity. As either the leader or participant, we have responsibilities before, during and after the meeting. BEFORE THE MEETING • Inform participants in written form, of meeting details, such as time, venue and agenda. • Provide opportunities for all staff to contribute to the agenda. • Select a time of the day to hold the meeting that allows participants to give their undivided attention. • Circulate the objectives of the meeting and the input required from participants. • Limit the number of objectives to those that can be achieved within the time available. • Ensure you are prepared in the areas for which you are responsible by thinking through the issues likely to be raised and plan your contribution. • Appoint someone to record the key points and decisions reached during the meeting. • Rotate the leadership role so that other people develop the confidence and competence to conduct effective meetings. • Estimate the amount of time needed to discuss each objective. • Prepare an ‘action plan’ sheet for each person’s use. • Set a time limit on the duration of the meeting and stick to it. • Plan ways of making the meeting interesting by visual using aids, charts, transparencies, activities, etc. • Check that aids such as overhead projectors are working. • Prepare a summary of what actions or tasks were completed from the previous meeting. DURING THE MEETING • Establish and agree the ground rules. • Start the meeting on time, even if some people aren’t present. • Control the discussion by nominating who is to talk, and when. • Open the meeting by clarifying objectives, format and expectations. • Encourage participation by ensuring that every person’s contribution is heard. • Ask questions of non-contributors. • Make ‘hidden agendas’ the subject of a separate meeting. • Ensure that all discussion is relevant to the stated objectives. • Ask talkative members to clarify how their comments relate to the objectives. • Frequently ask these questions when discussion has concluded on an agenda item, “As a result of that discussion, what action is required? Who will initiate the action? Who will provide support? What is the timeframe?” • Record on the action plans who does what and by when, etc. • Separate facts from opinions and assumptions. • Encourage consensus when making decisions but make a decision if deadlocked. • Summarise the key points of a discussion to ensure clarity of issue and decision. Check the level of commitment to the decision. • End the meeting on time, regardless of whether objectives are achieved. AFTER THE MEETING • Spend time discussing ways to make meetings more productive. • Counsel disruptive participants pointing out the consequences of their actions on the meeting. • Follow up on agreed actions with staff responsible for completing that action. • Agree with staff the amount of time needed to conduct future meetings. • Prepare and distribute a summary of actions agreed to at the meeting identifying the actions, (I) the initiator, (S) the supporters and the timeframe. In next week’s column, we’ll look at examples of ground rules that you might use to govern the conduct of your meetings. These articles are from the international best-selling books, ‘You Lead, They’ll Follow. How to inspire, lead and manage people. Really.’ Volumes 1, 2 and 3 by Daniel Kehoe published by McGraw Hill. for on-line orders. Daniel Kehoe provides a range of tools for leadership, people management and business improvement to small, medium and large organisations including the You Lead, They’ll Follow Experience® and Systematic-Innovation® - one of the best ideas management systems on the planet. For further information visit: ; 08 9477 1135;

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