December 11, 2010

Transforming Meetings

I will periodically be posting some articles from my newsletter on my blog.  Here is one from Vol 1 No. 6.
How is it our concept of a ‘meeting’ is so negative?  We rarely speak of meetings with enthusiasm.   For most of us they are seen as something to be endured, time mostly wasted that gets in the way of getting ‘real work’ done.  I even looked for a quote about meetings for this article and couldn’t find a single positive one.  
It is possible to transform meetings.  What would it be like if people came to know you as someone who called and held productive meetings that were a good use of everyone’s time?
I googled the word ‘meeting’ and came up with this great graphic from the site,  There is no connotation of ‘waste of time’. 
Being responsible for great meetings is an art as well as a science.  The first clue is in the phrase ‘being responsible’.  The person who calls the meeting IS responsible:  for the time to be well spent.  That means responsibility for many things, such as:
·    being clear about what the intentions are of the meeting (a way to harness collective intelligence?  Brainstorming?  A key decision needs to be made?);
·    being mindful and respectful of the cost (if you invite 5 people making $50 an hour; a two hour meeting just cost your organization $500);
·    ensuring the right people are invited and able to attend (how many meetings have you been to where a key player wasn’t in the room, thus requiring another meeting?);
·    ensuring you have only invited the people who need to be there, and limit the information to what is relevant for the people who are there;
·    ensuring that the objectives are communicated ahead of time to the participants.  Send out a clear agenda (people need to know how to prepare, and those with a preference for introversion may need time to think about the material beforehand);
·    if you want to be able to participate yourself, have someone else facilitate the meeting;
·    start when you said you would.  Don’t waste the time of the people who honoured you by arriving on time to wait for those who are late; and
·    follow up with whatever commitments you make in the meeting (notes, action lists).
Taking responsibility for that one or two hour meeting means some prep beforehand and may mean some follow up afterwards.  But these few suggestions could make your meetings be seen as more valuable by the people who work with you.  

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