How To Run An Effective Meeting
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Today's Myatt on Mondays question comes from a CEO who asks: How can I get more leverage out of our meetings? While this might seem like a strange question to be posed by a CEO, I'm afraid it is all too common that most meetings are not nearly as productive as they could be. I chose this question to answer out of more than 150 questions submitted this week primarily because non-productive meetings are a huge pet-peeve of mine. Whether meetings are held at the board, executive, management or staff levels, or whether they are small project related meetings or large company wide meetings the same basic principles apply to making meetings effective. In this blog post I'll provide you with some basic do's and don'ts that will help you get more out of your meetings.
Early in my career I worked for a company where the CEO loved to have meetings. Meetings were held ad-nauseum about virtually every topic under the sun. While these meetings were well intentioned as the CEO truly valued the input of others, regrettably these meetings rarely resulted in anything being accomplished, and in fact, because the meetings were poorly conceived and poorly facilitated it turned out that most meetings just ended-up being rehashing sessions for the subjects of prior meetings that were never resolved. Meetings that are not productive not only serve no purpose but they waste one of the most precious resources that a company has...time. One of the great cardinal sins a corporation can make is to take its top talent away from productive activities and sequester them away for a mind-numbing babble session. Bad meetings are not only a productivity drain, but they also can cause a decline in moral and a lack of confidence in leadership.
The reality is that there is no excuse to hold a non-productive meeting. I won't attend a meeting unless it is a good use of my time. You won't see my smiling face in attendance at a meeting unless I know why the meeting is being called, who's going to be in attendance, what the objectives (preferably hard deliverables) are for the meeting and unless an agenda has been circulated in advance of the meeting allowing for proper preparation. Following is a more detailed breakdown of Myatt's 10 rules for productive meetings:
1. Culture: You need to create a culture where meetings are valued as a highest and best use activity and not a nuisance. If leadership doesn't value meetings then it will be impossible for the rest of the company to do so. At my firm an employee's contribution (or lack thereof) to meetings is part of their formal performance review. People know that their contribution to meetings will not only have an impact on the company but on their paycheck as well. Meetings also need to be fun...I'm not talking about silly themes, or ice-breaking games, but rather having a relaxed, non-intimidating and professional atmosphere surrounding your meetings. If people know that they are valued, respected and won't be publicly embarrassed they will in turn be at ease and prepared to deliver.
2. Calendaring: Meetings need to have a start time and an end-time. If you can't accomplish the stated objectives within the time allotted then schedule a follow-up meeting to deal with unresolved items. Don't ask me to attend a meeting and then not start on time. In my firm there is a standing monetary fine imposed in 5 minute increments for tardiness...While this may sound harsh, I can tell you that it is extremely effective as rarely does anyone not show-up on time. Also, try not to hold meetings during prime-time...I prefer meetings early in the morning, over lunch or at the end of the day. Don't take your team out of production during the meat of the day, rather take those times of the day that are typically the least productive times and hold your meetings then.
3. Agenda: I'm not a big fan of impromptu meetings. Creativity and innovation are stimulated by structure, not stifled by it. If the subject is worth addressing it is worth planning for and preparation takes time. A detailed agenda for a meeting should be circulated in advance to all attendees so that they have time to prepare to make a valuable contribution.
4. Attendees: Don't invite people to a meeting that have nothing to contribute and don't hold a meeting unless the key contributors can be in attendance. If a key person is not able to attend the meeting, reschedule for a time when they can be in attendance. If your coming to a meeting not prepared to make a valuable contribution why are you coming?
5. Leadership: Someone must be in charge of the meeting. All meetings should have a meeting chair who's responsible for keeping the meeting on point, on schedule and achieving the meeting objectives. Bad meetings are a result of bad leadership.
6. Focus: Blackberrys', cell phones and other PDA's need to be turned-off. Nothing can be accomplished when people are not giving 100% focused attention to the issue at hand. If a meeting is important enough to attend, it should demand the participants full attention.
7. Deliverables: If the objectives of the meeting are not clearly articulated as a defined set of deliverables your meeting is not worth having. The purpose of a meeting is to accomplish something and you can't accomplish something if that something is vague, ambiguous, ethereal or has not been defined to begin with.
8. Technology: Use technology to add value to your meetings. Use web conferencing to bring in contributors from other locations and to improve collaboration. Use audio or video to record your meetings so that no valuable piece of information falls through the cracks. If you can't use audio or video, then don't limit the value of a contributor by having them take minutes call in an administrative person to fulfill that role. The proper use of technology can save time, increase efficiency and productivity and cut unnecessary travel expenses.
9. Location: Don't fall into the trap of going off-site unless it is absolutely necessary. Off-site meetings are expensive not only in terms of the hard dollars spent on facilities, but also in terms of the commute time to and from the meeting. You should have the discipline to use your facilities in an uninterrupted fashion. Make it known that meetings are not to be interrupted unless it is an emergency, and emergency needs to be defined as both urgent and important.
10. Assess and Evaluate: The meeting chair should conduct a critical post meeting analyses to determine what went well, what went wrong, were the right people in attendance, were the people prepared, were the deliverables met, etc. The bottom line is that companies that have great meetings have great meetings for a reason...they work on it.
About the Author
Mike Myatt is the Chief Strategy Officer at N2growth. N2growth is a leading venture growth consultancy providing a unique array of professional services to high growth companies on a venture based business model. The rare combination of branding and corporate identity services, capital formation assistance, market research and business intelligence, sales and product engineering, leadership development and talent management, as well as marketing, advertising and public relations services make N2growth the industry leader in strategic growth consulting. More information about the company can be found at http://www.N2growth.com or by viewing http://www.N2growth.com/blog/.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2006-09-03 16:10:43 in Employee Articles