In a past post we shared some ideas for assessing the quality of your organization’s team meetings. Specific things to evaluate included preparation (i.e., purpose, goals, agenda, etc.), content that goes beyond a simple list of tasks, scheduling, and relevance.
Looking beyond the effectiveness question, people often ask if team meetings are actually worthwhile. If you’re wondering about this, or if you’re trying to determine “what’s in it for you” as a member of the management team, here are a few thoughts:
- Assessment: Team meetings are key opportunities to assess the team all at once, measure the group’s attitude and identify the best opportunities for leveraging their collective effort.
- Team building: We can’t build team spirit if we don’t regularly “assemble” the team.
- Team motivation: Many people will go the extra mile for the team; but we can’t leverage team motivation if we only interact with the people on an individual basis.
- Thought leadership: Driving a high-performance culture begins with helping people focus on the right things, and publicly identifying / reaffirming core values, best practices, business philosophies, mission, vision, policies, procedures, and protocols.
- Education: Every meeting should have an educational component that is based on the status of your organization and relevant issues of the day; and let’s not forget that “the wisdom is often in the room.” Sharing value-added information and best practices in a public forum not only provides highly-credible education, but also allows successful team members an opportunity to shine in front of their peers.
And speaking of education… many have had no real training in devising and managing an effective meeting. In fact, studies show most professionals don’t recognize the enormous impact their meetings have on their organizations and their careers! Unfortunately, too many meetings are unproductive and poorly run, resulting in significant waste in terms of time and productivity, and also in the quote in the image above (source unknown…).
To consistently run the best meetings or teleconferences you must focus on four key elements: design, planning, process and follow-through.
Design is a function of purpose, and involves participant selection, location, and scheduling.
Before designing a meeting, it is important to define its purpose and goals. Only those who are crucial to goal achievement should be invited, as every meeting has an impact on the normal day-to-day responsibilities of the attendees. In addition to participant selection, designers sometimes select others to act as meeting or group leaders.
While site decisions are normally straight-forward, scheduling often is not. If, for example, the purpose of a meeting is to solve a critical problem, then the meeting is likely to take priority over other scheduled events. This type of meeting is generally attended by senior/upper managers, and lasts for “as long as it takes.”
Training meetings, on the other hand, can be scheduled around busy times of day or year. Location, participant selection, the frequency of sessions, and the time allotted to each session can all be determined based upon the nature of the training, the group size, average tenure, or job performance.
Once design decisions are made, planning is the next step. Though vital, the need for planning is often overlooked, and poor planning is the most common cause of unproductive meetings.
Ideally, planning is done by both the meeting leader and the participants. The planning process, however, begins with the leader, who must conduct appropriate research so as to be capable of effectively organizing an agenda and leading the group.
Once created, the agenda should be distributed to participants – preferably prior to the meeting – and the leader should encourage the group to not only become familiar with the agenda but also to prepare themselves for a meaningful discussion of the issues therein.
As part of the planning process, meeting leaders should also compile handout/visual-aid materials, anticipate group reaction, and plan for group interaction.
Process involves starting and ending the meeting on time, establishing a decorum, presenting content, coming to a consensus, and setting a follow-up course of action.
The best meetings are brought to order with a restatement of purpose and an explanation of the “rules,” such as structure, the scheduling of breaks, who will have the floor, how questions will be addressed, and how long the meeting will last.
It is then the leader’s responsibility to keep the discussion on-subject and focused on pre-defined group goals. Involving individual participants in the discussion might generate better ideas and can help to keep everyone interested, but can also compromise order. It is important for the leader to maintain control, to draw conclusions from the dialogue, and to identify the next step(s) in the process.
Just as lack of preparation often results in poor meetings, poor follow-through is the most common cause of failure to accomplish anything after-the-fact. It’s important to remember that a “meeting” is simply a vehicle for identifying action, and that the meeting itself isn’t the solution.
It is the leader’s responsibility to identify and/or assign follow-through steps and to monitor follow-through activities. If required, a follow-up meeting should be scheduled prior to adjournment.
To be sure that all participants are on the same page, the astute leader will allow time for questions, and will end a meeting by summarizing both the discussion and the conclusions that were drawn, along with all agreed-upon next steps.