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Make Meetings Meaningful

Most of us spend a lot of time in meetings, some would describe it as an inordinate amount of time. I have been in places where we had meetings, lots of meetings. I have both led as well as having attended a lot of  meetings. I have some observations and ways that I believe can assist us with conducting meaningful meetings.

One observation right at the start is that many meetings that were called staff meetings were not in fact staff meeting but rather status reports. We sat around a table and as our turn arrived we would take a few minutes and describe what we were doing for the next week. If we needed the help of the group we would invite their participation, if we had nothing that week we would merely pass and the next person would speak. At times these meetings would go on for a couple of hours. Much of what we heard could have been adequately covered in an email simply entitled “status report.” Not everything necessitates a meeting.

  1. Several group meetings might be more effective if the leader met one-on-one rather than dealing with generalities in a group setting.
  2. Every meeting must have a named person who is going to follow up and be responsible for decisions made in the meeting. Nothing is more frustrating than to have good ideas and plans shared in a staff meeting and then have these ideas die because no one was responsible to see that the ideas became action. Never leave the meeting without identifying and knowing who is the “owner” of our meeting decisions.
  3. Calendars seem to drive meetings. Granted the calendar needs to be a part of the meeting agenda. Remember to distinguish between important dates and what is just stuff on someone’s calendar. Some people are not as productive as they seem, they are merely professional meeting attenders. Make sure that the date is real and important. Busy work makes it on to peoples calendars, and it is not necessary to be on everyone’s calendars.
  4. Keep meeting attendees to as small a number as possible. I have read a lot of material on meetings, one theme is that the more people attending the meeting the less productive it will be. Invite the people who need to be there and hear from them and listen to them and leave the meeting with a plan of action with someone assigned the responsibility to keep all on track. You are not more important because you can get 25 people to attend a meeting you call. The meeting is important solely for the fact that the things are getting done and we are tracking the progress.
  5. Do not be so focused on what you are going to say that you do not listen to your colleagues.
  6. Remember everyone in the room is as busy as you are, treat their time and calendars with respect.
  7. If there is a disagreement, don’t take hours discussing and arguing, find the person who can mediate and make the decision and move on.
  8. When the meeting is over, end it! Many meetings seem to linger on. When it is over stop!

Meetings must happen. We must do all that we can to not let them take on a life of their own. Meetings are to help us accomplish our work, but meetings are not our work.

colorful meeting

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