Friday, October 23, 2009

meetings, meetings, meeting

Yesterday I sat through three different meetings, all of which were valuable and enjoyable. I am one of the few people I know who actually enjoy meetings - well, at least those that accomplish something. People in a position of leadership need to meet - they need to be calling meetings and they need to be attending meetings. If you are invited to a meeting, by all means GO to that meeting - how else can you have any type of influence. It just hit me that the ones who often complain the loudest are the same ones who never attend meetings...or at least never speak up at meetings (there are exceptions - those who speak up at meetings (read "complain") and never offer solutions).
So if we are spending our time in meetings, we might as well make them the best meetings possible - whether we call the meetings or whether we are attendees. Here are a couple of suggestions for those of us who run meetings:
  1. always have an agenda - and if at all possible send it out ahead of time. Wouldn't life be wonderful if everyone who attended meetings came prepared? Pre-planned agendas allow for that to happen.
  2. always have a purpose for the meeting - of course, that purpose will shape the agenda, so maybe this should be #1. Wouldn't life be wonderful if at the end of every meeting all the participants could say "we accomplished our purpose."
  3. always start and end on time - people's time is valuable. Sometime add up the cost of a meeting you are in by figuring out the hourly salary for each person in the get the idea. Wouldn't life be wonderful if at the end of every meeting people could say "that was really worth our time and effort!"
  4. always engage everyone in the room - remember that the meetings is not yours alone - it should belong to the group of people assembled...they should own it as well as you. Of course, they can't own it without an agenda and a purpose, and they need to be prepared. Expect people to come prepared and hold them accountable. Wouldn't life be wonderful if everyone always came to meetings with something to talk about and add to the discussion.
  5. create an atmosphere of trust - nothing can be worse than sitting in a meeting on "pins and needles" wondering what bomb is going to go off next - or whether people can say what is really on their minds. As a meeting leader, sometimes you may need to pause and ask, "is there anything else that needs to be said?" and then be quiet. Wouldn't life be wonderful if everyone could speak their mind at meetings - in a way that is honest, true and respectful of those around the table?

A quick word to those who attend meetings but may not be in charge of the agenda and purpose - you still have a crucial role in making meetings productive and valuable. A quick list for meeting attendees:

  • prepare - read the agenda, do your homework, and come with questions. If there is no agenda published, assume what the agenda will be and come with the approriate materials
  • take notes - that way you will follow up with what needs to be done and you come to the next meeting with a list of things talked about and decided on by the group
  • ask questions - try to get the group to go deeper on subjects by asking questions about the topic at hand
  • stay awake and alert - if that means standing up and/or getting a cup of coffee, do so unabashedly
  • share humor - nothing creates a sense of camaraderie more quickly than laughter. Feel free to insert a joke here and there
  • offer your opinion - if attendees do not talk, then the leader will fill the void...and nothing is worse than a meeting where only one person talks
  • set the tone (1) - get there early and engage with people in the room. If people are talking with one another before the meeting begins, chances are they will keep talking during the meeting
  • set the tone (2) - if you are in a situation where it is approriate, offer to begin with a prayer or blessing. If you cannot do that, offer to share an idea you recently heard - and then ask others what they think about it. Five minutes of discussion around something other than the agenda buidls trust among the group members, allowing them to be more open during the meeting

WOW! 8 ways to influence meetings even if you are not in charge. Go ahead - try it sometime - and see what can happen as you influence meetings toward a greater good. And be sure to read Death by Meeting: A leadership fable to solve the most painful problem in business by Patrick Lencioni. It is a MUST read for those of us who lead - and attend - meetings.

1 comment:

Matt Grahn said...

The world WOULD be a wonderful place with these strategies! No doubt about that. As with my previous comments, I relate everything back to coaching.

I am reading a book written by Swen Nater (former UCLA, ABA, and NBA player) and Ronald Gallimore called You Haven't Taught Until They Have Learned. Basically they are taking Coach Wooden's on the court style and comparing it to the classroom. Why do I mention this?

Because essentially what you are stating in this blog post is exactly what effective coaches do. They have a practice plan and stick to it. They schedule thier practices early and notify everyone involved early. They seek input from their assistant coaches. They allow their players to explore and discover.

I know that academia types (and my mother is one of them) don't find much value in athletics, but this is a great example of how teachers, students, employers, employees, CEO's, etc. can use coaching strategies to build stronger programs, classrooms, and businesses.

As always, thank you for your insights!