Every company has numerous meetings that you are required to attend. How often do you walk into those meetings thinking things like... “I have more important things I could be doing”, “this has nothing to do with my department” and “the same three people will do all the talking...again”?
Since meetings are unavoidable, here are some ideas to keep them on task, strategic and effective.
1. Set guidelines for the urgency of meetings.
You have typical topics to discuss in your standardly scheduled weekly or monthly meeting, but what do you do when an urgent matter arises that requires immediate attention? Your executive team should establish a procedure for handling these situations. Create guidelines to determine what urgent matters constitute a special meeting and which matters can wait for the weekly/monthly meeting.
2. Make sure the right people are in the meeting.
Sometimes issues are best addressed with only those team members that are directly related to the topic at hand. Other times, it is beneficial to have input of someone not associated with the issue. From a distant vantage point they may offer different ideas that will help create a solution and desired outcome that might have otherwise been missed.
Appoint someone to facilitate the meeting. This individual will be responsible to ensure all members are actively participating and that the meeting stays on topic. The facilitator should also “mine for conflict” and bring up the topics that need to be “hashed out”. The facilitator should learn when to let constructive conflict play out to a resolution and when it has turned to “chest-thumping” and should be redirected.
4. Set a time limit.
Establish the length of this meeting based on the topic at hand. Your facilitator should watch to ensure that all ideas have been heard and that a solution is arrived at within the allotted amount of time.
5. Bring the problem statement.
When a situation does arise that constitutes a special meeting or if you are conducting a weekly/monthly meeting, the topic to be discussed – the problem statement - should be clearly developed and stated. Once the problem statement is established, it should be displayed in the room (i.e. written on the whiteboard). This will help to keep the focus on that specific issue.
6. Encourage participation.
What’s not getting said? Just because someone is not talking does not mean that they agree or do not have other ideas. Be sure to engage those that do not engage themselves. Ask questions like; what do you think? Getting everyone involved will help to ensure that all possible solutions have been explored.
7. Go back to the beginning.
Trace back steps to where the problem began. Was a process or procedure not followed? Does the process still apply or does it require revision? The outcome of the meeting should be focused on discovering the underlying issue and ultimately finding a solution.
8. Stay on topic.
We all have coworkers who like to talk and may over communicate the point. Try using a key word to politely interrupt and verify if the conversation is still focused or to bring it back to the subject if it is moving off point. Example: Johnny is moving onto a tangent. Sally says “checkpoint”. Then the direction of conversation is re-evaluated and realigned if necessary. Just as you should set a time limit on the meeting, parameters on how long someone gets the floor will also be helpful to ensure that Johnny on a tangent does not rule the entire meeting.
9. Do not get personal.
Take issue with the problem or process, not the person. For example: If our current process was that I communicate with Ted only through email, but Ted missed an email that caused a client to fire us then: The Problem statement is that the Client is gone. The Process was connect through email only. Don’t get personal means do not get mad at or attack Ted for missing the email, rather evaluate the process and consider revising it if necessary.
10. Own the resolution.
By actively participating in finding the best solution for the team and organization, you have ensured that your ideas and thoughts have been heard. When the team has come to a solution, although it may not have been your idea, you need to fully support it.
11. Publish the results.
Lastly, the outcome of the meeting should be emailed to those involved in arriving at the solution. Establish with each topic how far the content needs to “waterfall” throughout the organization. Share the information with the appropriate leaders to prevent a “process disconnect” and ensure it is carried out through Accountability Systems.
If your team struggles to hold effective meetings, there may be more underlying issues than you think. Call The Rainmaker Group for more information on improving team dynamics.