Thursday 28 June 2012

Follow up!

The follow up is arguably the most important part of a meeting. It is when meeting leaders and managers confirm that action items are being worked on. It keeps the energy created during the meeting focused on those action items developed and accomplishing the goals stated.

The minutes should be distributed to everyone within a couple days after the meeting. This works as a reminder so that there can be no excuses for forgotten responsibilities. “People will most effectively contribute to results if they get started on action items right away…A delay in the distribution of minutes will hurt your results since most people wait for the minutes to arrive before they begin to tackle their commitments” (Heathfield, n.d.).

The meeting leader can improve the results of the meeting by speaking with or calling those who were responsible for certain action items before the next meeting.  Their goal is to ensure that progress is being made and that tasks are underway. They may also offer their assistance if possible or necessary.

End as you began

Just as important as starting the meeting on time is to end it on time! Demonstrate courtesy by taking into consideration the other commitments the attendees may have by adhering to the schedule.

Ensure that all participants understand the information shared and decisions made, whether by allowing questions or having everyone, if it’s a small group, give a brief summary of what they perceived.

At this point, the meeting leader should summarize what has been decided and who is going to do what and by when. “It may be necessary to ask people to volunteer to take responsibility for completing action items agreed to in the meeting” (Guffey, Rhodes, & Rogin, 2011, p. 55).

This is when for the leader should get the group to decide the time of the next meeting. He should also let everyone know that they will receive a report shortly and to thank them all for their attendance.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Be prepared for conflict

Almost every time a decision needs to be made amongst a group of people, some conflict can be expected. By definition alone the term conflict is a scary thought and in a business meeting we fear “that if it is not contained, it could lead to bruised egos, perceived loss of authority and perhaps strained relationships” (Bradley, 2012).

However conflict may “contain the seeds of contrarian ideas that might help the business” (Bradley, 2012). So it is important to turn it into a positive experience and a productive exercise by managing it effectively.

The two most common reasons conflict arise are when people feel misunderstood or unheard.

To handle conflict productively follow these steps:
  1. Allow each person to express their complete case while the group gives their full attention
  2. Each person questions the other
  3. The leader summarizes what each person said
  4. The group offers comments
At this point “the group may modify a recommendation or suggest alternatives before reaching consensus on a direction to follow” (Guffey, Rhodes, & Rogin, 2011, p. 55).

The key is to attend to the conflict immediately and to remain calm as you try to identify the cause and work towards a resolution.


Productive Participant Participation

It's quite a tongue twister! Let me put it in another way: Having a productive meeting entails all participants to actively be involved in a productive manner. And as I mentioned in my first blog post, doing so also allows employees to demonstrate their skills and boost their career.

Most of the techniques listed here are common sense and should be practiced as common courtesy, however most of them are taken for granted and overlooked more often than not.
  • Arrive EarlyShows respect and you look well organized
  • Come preparedBring the agenda and related materials. Have your questions, comments and good ideas ready
  • Bring a positive attitudeUse positive body language and speak energetically
  • Contribute respectfullyWait your turn to speak and raise your hand to be recognized
  • Wait for others to finishShows respect and good manners
  • Use a calm and pleasant yet energetic voiceAvoid anger that will focus attention on your behavior rather than on your ideas
  • Give credit to othersYou will gain allies and credibility by recognizing others in public
  • Put the cell phone and laptop awayGive your full attention to the meeting
  • Help summarizeHelp the meeting leader by reviewing points you have noted
  • Express your views IN the meetingBuild trust by not expressing criticism and judgements after the meeting
  • Follow upCompleting assigned actions shows efficiency and care
    (Guffey, Rhodes, & Rogin, 2011, p. 55)

Click here for an interesting read on ten dysfunctional characters you may meet at a business meeting. While you’re reading it, be honest with yourself…would you classify yourself as any of the 10 listed?

Keep on track

Once the meeting has started, there are two key factors to emphasis at this point:
  1. Ensure all attendees have a chance to speak
  2. Do not digress from the objectives of the meeting
Remember that each attendee is there for a purpose. They all have valuable input to bring to the table that should be acknowledged and recognized. No one person should be allowed to monopolize the meeting. Also, before moving on, ensure that each participant agrees with the topic at hand.

In my next blog I will discuss how participants can productively contribute to the meeting. However, there are a number of ways that a group leader can ensure that each person gets a chance to speak. A combination of a few of the top ten tried, tested and true methods should be implemented at each meeting.

Avoiding digressions during the meeting is obviously important as wasted time is wasted money. There are objectives to be met and that’s where the focus needs to be. However digressions do happen, so it’s important to get the meeting back on track as quickly as possible. One method is through efficient group facilitating from the group leader, who will redirect, with his words, back to the topic being discussed. Another method is to make a “Parking Lot” list. “This is a list of important but divergent issues that should be discussed at a later time” (Guffey, Rhodes, & Rogin, 2011, p. 54).

Get started on the right note!

Always start on time! There’s nothing quite as frustrating as feeling that your time is not valued. Participants are taking time away from their work schedule to attend the meeting, so don’t waste their time. Likewise, don’t reward tardiness by waiting for latecomers or by backtracking, when they do arrive, to update them on what they have missed. They can check the minutes after the meeting is over.

Selected participants have all been notified of their importance at the meeting and have all been given an agenda in advance. So there really is no reason for them not to be on time. In an informal environment, setting a consequence for the last participant to arrive may deter lateness. “One company had a rule that the last to arrive was responsible…to clean up the meeting room when all was said and done” (Craig, 2011).

Starting at the scheduled time sets the pace for the remainder of the meeting.

At the start of the meeting have a three- to five- minute introduction that includes the following:
  • Goal and length of the meeting
  • Background of topics or problems
  • Possible solutions and constraints
  • Tentative agenda
  • Ground rules to be followed:
    • Arriving on time
    • Communicating openly
    • Being supportive
    • Listening carefully
    • Participating fully
    • Confronting conflict frankly
    • Following the agenda
      (Guffey, Rhodes, & Rogin, 2011, p. 54)

Also vital at this point, is to assign one participant to take minutes, recording the proceedings of the meeting, and one to act as a recorder, listing main ideas being discussed and agreements reached on a whiteboard or flip-chart.

Have you ever been responsible for taking minutes or being the recorder at a meeting? What were some of the advantages or disadvantages that you encountered?

Tuesday 26 June 2012

What's on the Agenda?

An agenda “is perhaps the most important tool in ensuring a successful productive meeting” (Achen, 2010). Preparing and distributing an agenda a couple days ahead of the meeting ensures that each attendee knows what to expect and how to be prepared, eliminating any excuses.

A good agenda always includes the following information:
  • Date and place of meeting
  • Start time and end time
  • Brief description of each topic listed in prioritized order
  • Names of people responsible for any action
  • Proposed allotment of time for each topic
  • Any premeeting preparation expected of participants
    (Guffey, Rhodes, & Rogin, 2011, p. 53)
The fewer amounts of agenda items listed, the more productive the meeting will be because “the narrower the focus, the greater the chances for success” (Guffey, Rhodes, & Rogin, 2011, p. 53).

Information included, in addition to the agenda, may be:
  • Reports or materials that participants should read in advance
  • Copy of the minutes of previous related meetings

Visit the MyCommittee website to view and/or generate a free sample agenda.