How do you decide who should participate in a particular meeting? Just because someone has a specific title or is part of a work group does not entitle or require that person to be in your meeting. The relevant considerations include: contribution, developmental factors, and productivity.
The most important factor when deciding “who should be included in your meetings” is the purpose of your meeting. By focusing the purpose to a few topics you can limit the number of attendees to only those people who are likely to have significant influence or input on the topics being addressed and maximize the productivity and value that come from your meeting. For example, if the meeting’s purpose is to make a decision on a particular topic, it will be important to have all of the decision-makers and influencers in the room. Failure to do so would result in delaying a decision and fragmenting the discussion.
Other factors to consider when factoring in contribution include: subject matter expertise, functional expertise, and willingness and authority to act. You want to invite people from inside and outside your organization that bring the most value in terms of subject matter expertise. Too often I see leaders are making decisions based on belief rather than knowledge. In addition, they leave out critical functional expertise such as information technology, human resources, and finance. Often these functions are left out of strategic and operational discussions on the front-end. The consequences are fragmented processes and systems, cost over-runs, delays in product launches, cultural breakdowns, etc.
Another factor when deciding “who should be included in your meetings” is the development of the team. For your organization to grow, your people need to grow. Including people from different levels in the same meeting it helps everyone grow. While the lower-level people may contribute less in the meetings they have a chance to learn from being in the meetings. It also gives you and the other leaders a chance to transfer your DNA to a broader audience. In addition to increasing the size of your meetings slightly to include “high-potentials” you may want to also consider a rotation program that allows everyone to have exposure to your meetings over the course of the year. This gives you the benefit of helping them grow, and you may be surprised by their input.
Two other important stakeholders usually excluded from meetings are the people that need to execute your ideas/decisions and the people that will block them. In the former group are the front-line people that really have a sense of what it takes to get things done. Too often, I find leaders are big-picture people that may have subject-matter expertise but have lost touch (if they ever had it) with what it really takes to get things done. In addition, they underestimate the detractors and do not consider the people aspects of driving change in their organization. We not only need the thinkers and deciders in the room, we need some doers.
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