BY ANDI GRAYDilemma: We’re trying hard to meet regularly, but we get interrupted by the usual stuff, like urgent client needs, employees who need help, a team member is out sick, and so on. When we finally do get a chance to meet, we need to be more on point so that we cover everything in the time available. I’m doing my best to make things better, but we’re not there yet. Do you have any suggestions?
Thoughts of the Day: Be aware of the impressions you make, and consider an agreement to meet the same as making a promise. Budget your time to get the most from every meeting.
Setting a time and place to hold a meeting is a pact between you and your team. Promises to employees are just as—if not more—important than promises to customers and vendors: Although scheduling can be tough in a 24/7 business like transportation, regular meetings are part of a healthy company and help to keep customer service at a high level. Do everything in your power to be not only on time but also prepared for every meeting you agreed to hold or attend.
Employees really do watch what you do, as much as or more than what you say. According to meetings.org, 7 percent of communication is spoken—the rest comes from body language and tone. Walk into a meeting with your ducks in a row, ready to cover topics in the time scheduled, and knowing what you want to accomplish.
The way you approach meetings can set the tone for the entire management team. If things are rushed, interrupted, unfinished, or haphazard, it can eat away at productivity. Is that really what you want in your company? Wouldn’t you prefer an organization that is thoughtful, respectful, taking measured risks, and working together to complete tasks on time?
Consider the anticipated tone of the meeting. If it’s a serious meeting, think about how you’ll insert some humor to lighten things up, if needed or appropriate. Prepare to hand out some well-deserved compliments to let everyone know that you appreciate the efforts made to date.
A well-planned and well-executed meeting with great follow-up can accomplish a lot. Give every meeting the respect it deserves. Plan ahead. Be on time. Follow up afterward. Know what kind of meeting you’re planning to hold: Will it be dominated by updates, discoveries, conclusions, education, exchanging information, or team-building? Prepare accordingly. If it’s a status update meeting or part of a weekly staff meeting, ask all participants to come prepared with a brief summary. If it’s about a decision that needs to be made, find out in advance whether people can live with a proposed solution. Resist jumping in prematurely to put a topic up for a vote. Lobby for consensus and know when it’s the right time to put a topic on the agenda.
Encourage open debate when you want more insight on a topic. Encourage participants to voice their concerns. Know what kind of discussion you’ll be in for by gathering input ahead of time. During the meeting, cut off debate before things get out of hand. Always show respect for differences of opinion.
No matter what kind of meeting it is, your employees’ ultimate productivity benefits from planning and recap. Set aside half an hour to get prepared for every meeting. Identify what items need progress reports. Make a list of new topics to cover. If you’re not willing to plan for the meeting, consider canceling it.
Review the list of attendees and decide on what you want each person to contribute. Shoot off an email to attendees reminding them of what they need to prepare so they’ll look good and be confident when it’s their turn to present. Since people remember only about 15 percent of what they hear, ask someone to be the note taker for each meeting. Circulate notes as soon as you’ve had time to review them, and remember that you’ll need to budget time to prepare before the meeting and also time to review afterward to get the best results from it. [CD0616]
Looking for a good book? Meetings That Make SENSE: Planning & Running Effective Meetings, by Larry Wennik.
Andi Gray is the Founder of the business consulting firm Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.