How Effective Are Your Meetings?

by Howard Shore, Date: Nov 12, 2009

How Effective Are Your Meetings?

Do your meetings result in everyone feeling good after they leave? Does very little get done in your meetings? If so, your meetings function like most, and they are probably worthless!

Most often leaders are concerned with there being too many meetings, or meetings being too long, or some other wrong measurement. I would like to suggest that you change your measurement systems. For example, a good leading indicator that something important is being discussed is conflict. Other indicators of good meetings are the number of decisions made and the number of people held accountable for decisions made at the prior meetings. These are real indicators that your meetings are worthwhile. If you have a really good meeting, then everyone leaves feeling uncomfortable because there is so much more to be done, and they have a stake in it!

There are 7 critical factors that when managed correctly result in great meetings and top results for organizations:

  1. Conflict

    Conflict is a necessary part of good meetings. There should be good healthy conflict in every good meeting, and people should feel pressure. When there is a lack of conflict, it is an indication you are not talking about anything that requires any real discussion, failing to emphasize the hard-to-achieve goals and key performance indicators, not holding people accountable, not talking about the “elephants in the room” or the real issues going on the in company. If you are not having this type of regular conflict, you have a problem with your “team,” and I recommend reading “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. The lack of conflict can be an indication that the foundation of a strong team, trust, is missing. .

  2. Purpose

    Every meeting should have a purpose, and you should define that purpose before you enter the room. By the end of the meeting you should answer the question “Did we achieve our purpose?” For example, if your purpose was to decide whether or not to do an acquisition, you need to determine if a decision was made. If there was no decision at the end of the meeting, you need to determine the specific action steps needed to make that decision, and what alternative decision deadline is acceptable. You need to determine how often your meetings fail to achieve their purpose and why. If this is a regular occurrence, you need to challenge your team to identify whether it is a failure in preparation or some other symptom causing the organization to be ineffective. Do not allow yourselves to get off the hook.

  3. Time

    There are two elements to time. Making sure that you schedule your meeting on a day and at a time when you will get the team’s undivided attention is very important. You want to get as many people physically in the same room as possible. You also want to make sure that you schedule plenty of time to support your agenda. For example, I know of a company that regularly schedules a monthly meeting with an insufficient amount of time to cover the their agenda. As a result, they fail to finalize decisions, think through all the issues going on in the company, and hold people accountable for past decisions. The result is definitely showing up in the income statement, cash flow, and stress level. If you have covered all that you need to, it is okay to end a meeting early. If you did not cover all that you need to, you need to extend your meeting or reschedule the remaining items for a later time so everyone does not feel stressed because you are running over.

  4. Preparation

    All participants should know what is going to be covered in the meeting and what needs to be prepared in advance. This will allow for a more productive meeting.

  5. Interruptions

    Whenever possible, it is recommended that your monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings be done off-site. This will reduce and/or eliminate interruptions as much as possible.

  6. Responsibility

    Make sure that the responsibility stays in the room, and you do not play the blame game. Your meetings need to be about solutions. Leave excuses to the rest of the world.

  7. Accountability

    It is critical to agree on who is the one person that is accountable for each item, and to make sure that person is held accountable. Review key developments, assignments, and deadlines regularly until an assignment is completed.

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