Photo by tiarescott
I have been thinking about writing this post for a long time now, ever since I read this post by Karlyn Morissette a few weeks ago. One thing I hoped to learn more about in my MBA is about how to run meetings. As it is something I have been struggling for a long time now and even once tried to help somebody prepare a lecture about.
These are five of my top ideas (rules?) for running effective meetings.:
1. Everybody must come prepared. And when I say prepared I mean totally and utterly prepared. When you get to the meeting you already: read everything; made the preparations; calculated the numbers; came up with your own ideas. I spent so many meetings where people come unprepared and as a consequence half of the meeting is spent on just understanding the issue or on doing things that should have been done earlier without wasting everybody’s time. Too many people believe that they perform the best under pressure and rationalize their way into procrastination. This trend extends itself into the meetings and people say to themselves – “hey, I learn the subject while the meeting takes place”. I even got constructive feedback about the fact that I turn up to meetings too prepared. My main challenge with this rule is that it is hard to enforce and hard to create an atmosphere where preparation is the norm and not the exception.
2. Have an agenda. I think this is where Karlyn’s post makes the point better than I can:
How many meetings do you attend actually have an agenda? Better yet, a stated purpose? I learned this technique from a lady much smarter than I, Dr. Pamela Skyrme. Pamela is a brilliant organizational coach. She also happens to be the Director of Professional Development in my office at Dartmouth, where I’ve had the privilege of being coached by her for the last several months. The tactic goes like this: At the beginning of each meeting make sure the group as a whole knows what they are seeking to accomplish in that meeting (if you don’t have something you’re seeking to accomplish, then you probably shouldn’t be meeting in the first place). At the end of the meeting, assess whether or not you accomplished your initial stated goals. Do this consistently and it will keep people on track and focused, since there will be some level of accountability (however minor) for not accomplishing a stated goal.
The only thing I would add is that if possible send the agenda before the meeting. The main issue I find challenging here is what happens if the group does not agree on the agenda. You can spend more time discussing the agenda then the issue.
3. Everybody speaks. If someone is at the meeting and does not talk then it is a waste of his time to have him there. Everybody has an opinion and every opinion matters. Don’t let the meeting become a shouting contest where the one who has the loudest voice or the most confidence win. There is an added bonus to this. The more people are a part of the process, the more inclined they will be to follow the decision of the group. Any challenges with this one?
4. Respect people’s time. People have short attention span. They also have busy schedule. It is important not only to start and finish a meeting on time but also to be aware of the limitations of people. If need be, take a break. If it you realize it will have to go over time, stop, acknowledge the fact out loud and discuss how you are going to approach the fact that the meeting is going to go over time and allow people to make the needed arrangements.
5. Have a clear, actionable summary. Whatever happens, you need to spend the last few minutes of the meeting assessing the conclusions, decisions and action items that are the result of the meeting. If somebody is responsible for an action item, have him write it down (it has a psychological effect). In any case, have somebody send the details to all of the relevant parties and ask them to acknowledge it was received.
Any other ideas (rules)? Any important lessons from past meetings? Thoughts about the ideas (rules) I offered? About the challenges associated with them? Waiting to hear your thoughts…