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Managers: Make Your Meetings a Success Every Time

May 31, 2011
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Seasoned employees and managers alike know that many meetings are unproductive and take time away from more pressing duties. Attendees may elect to say little during the meeting so that the meeting ends as soon as possible which is counterproductive. What can be done to make meetings worthwhile? First, let’s look at some variables that can help to make a meeting successful:

  • Make the atmosphere congenial and open so that you encourage attendees to speak their minds. When people feel that their contributions will be given fair consideration then later, even if your final decision didn’t ‘go their way’, they are more likely to support the final decision.
  • Be sure to spend the majority of the meeting time on the most important issues, and don’t discuss side issues that don’t pertain to the majority of the attendees.
  • Be on your toes regarding the potential for some employees to bring in their own agendas, vendettas, or biases. Follow your stated agenda and pull the discussion back on topic to prevent such behaviors from derailing the meeting.
  • Whenever a decision is required and can be made at that time, make it and state it, then move on to the next agenda item.
  • Ask someone to take the minutes of the meeting and to distribute those minutes promptly after the meeting.
  • Ensure that attendees show respect for the meeting and the attendees. This means arriving promptly and duly prepared, listening to everyone’s contributions without interruption or derision, refraining from having private discussions, paying attention to the meeting and not to their laptop computer, and silencing or turning off handheld electronic devices.

     

Reasons for Holding Meetings

If your meeting doesn’t satisfy one of the reasons listed below, reconsider whether the meeting is necessary. There are a number of reasons to hold meetings:

  • to inform
  • to obtain input
  • to seek approval for something
  • to generate ideas
  • to obtain input from diverse sources simultaneously
  • to refocus team members working on a large or complex project to ensure that they understand how the project is coming together and to alert them to changes that affect their role in the project.

     

Use other forms of communication that may not only save time but will give staff more time to consider their responses. Email can be used to inform, gain approval, or seek input. Could you send a survey around by email to obtain input instead of holding a meeting to obtain input? Some people may be more comfortable offering their input via email, and they may come up with ideas more readily when not under the time constraints of a meeting. Ideas can be culled from emailed responses and then discussed in more depth in a meeting. When a meeting is necessary, clearly define the purpose of the meeting at the beginning of the meeting, stay on the agenda, and near the end of the meeting, review the outcome of the meeting to determine if the desired outcomes (decisions made, solutions provided, feedback obtained, ideas or options discussed, plans of action finalized) were achieved. If so, the meeting was a success.

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