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Efficient, effective meetings

Don Tyler for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 September 2019

I hear over and over that meetings are a waste of time, or that they worked for a while and then it wasn’t worth the effort anymore. There are a host of reasons for this ineffectiveness.

“We just ran out of things to talk about …” or “We couldn’t find a consistent time that worked for everyone …” or “There are only a few of us …” and “We talk all the time, so we don’t need meetings.”

Effective meetings

The operations that have regular, effective meetings have fewer disputes, clearer direction, greater teamwork and make fewer mistakes than those that do not. Here are some of the best strategies that make meetings enjoyable, efficient, productive and satisfying:

1. Have a consistent agenda from one meeting to the next. Prioritize your topics and cover them in the same order each time so people know what to expect. Provide this list prior to each meeting as a reminder of what will be covered.

2. Establish a time limit for each item on the agenda. You can go over on a topic, or take less time, but when people know how much time is allocated for each topic, they are more motivated to speak up in a timely manner.

3. Both the consistent agenda and the time allocation for each item provides people with an expectation for when they can share their perspectives on a topic. If there is no consistent order and someone has a burning issue they want to be sure is discussed, they may not focus on much else until they get their chance. If they don’t know when that will be, they might interrupt another topic just to be sure they get a chance to talk about their issue. The set agenda and time allocation cures this and, if someone gets off topic, you can remind them of when that item is on the agenda.

4. A day or two ahead of the meeting, send out a quick summary of any specific topics you plan to discuss which are not normally on the agenda, are a completely new topic or something you want their input on. This gives them a chance to prepare any thoughts they may have on that topic, making the discussion more efficient because they have an opportunity to be fully prepared.

5. Occasionally ask participants to lead parts of the meeting. It can be different people each time. Choose people who have knowledge of the area to discuss. Perhaps a representative of each department or group. This gives them a chance to be the leader, see what it is like to facilitate a meeting and provide their own perspectives. Coach them on how much time they have for their topic and offer them suggestions on how to be efficient and effective.

6. It can be helpful to have some “ground rules” for meetings that help keep everyone focused. A few of the most common ones include:

  • Don’t interrupt another speaker.
  • Stay on topic.
  • Focus on the problem rather than the person.
  • Anyone can say, “I think it’s time to move on …”
  • Ask for clarification when you need it.
  • Listen closely regardless of the topic or the person speaking.
  • No walk-outs.

You should also ask the participants to add their own ground rules to the list.

7. Be sure to end each topic with any specific action steps that need to be taken, which includes what needs to be done, who will do it, when it will be completed and the consequences for failing to complete the task. It is often most effective to ask the group to determine consequences rather than the leader taking full responsibility for this level of accountability. This is especially true in family businesses.

Review progress on each action step at your next meeting. This progress review will give you some victories and accomplishments to celebrate and provide encouragement for those who completed their tasks.

Sometimes we fail to have meetings because they haven’t gone as planned, there is too much conflict or the results have been negative. Here are a few solutions:

1. Just because someone hates meetings and says they won’t participate, they don’t get to veto them for everyone else. Go ahead and have your meetings without them. They’ll realize they are missing a chance to share their opinions and preferences and eventually come around.

2. Remind participants of the need for confidentiality of the meeting discussions. They can talk about anything during the meeting, but outside of the meeting the only information shared is what was decided, not everyone’s personal opinion. Without this rule, participants will be hesitant to share their true concerns. Those who cannot abide by this rule will find they are no longer included in confidential discussions. This goes for spouses of meeting participants as well. If a participant shares confidential information with a spouse, and that spouse shares it outside the group, then the participant’s involvement in future meetings is limited.

3. Do not allow artificial harmony. This is when an attendee of the meeting has nothing to contribute during the meeting, but after the meeting is over goes to others and tells them they disagree with the others, believes these are bad ideas, has better ideas, etc. Address this quickly if it occurs.

4. The least emotionally mature person doesn’t set the agenda or make the decisions for everyone else. If one participant is consistently disruptive, disrespectful, demanding or insistent on getting their way, they need to be told to modify their behavior or they will be excluded from future meetings. They are limiting the potential of the entire business.

Your family, your business and your employees can enjoy great success and satisfaction through the use of these straightforward guidelines that provide clear expectations and reinforce personal accountability. end mark

ILLUSTRATION: Getty Images.

Don Tyler
  • Don Tyler

  • Founder
  • Tyler & Associates Management Coaching
  • Email Don Tyler

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