One of the biggest complaints in the business world is about time spent
in meetings. And, indeed, that is the issue. Time is often spent rather than
invested, because meetings are poorly conducted. The outputs are inadequate
in relation to the time and effort involved. But meetings are not inherently
bad. They are one of the best ways to make quality decisions and get buy-in
from people when they are conducted well.
Here are some hints to help you in your meeting management. They are not
rocket science, but surprisingly few people follow them well. Be the role
model in your workplace on how to do this well!
Basic Meeting Management Hints
- Use the correct brainstorming techniques (list below) every time you
are gathering input on an issue. This requires discipline and focus by the
facilitator and the group. Be tenacious!
- Start and end your meetings on time. Starting late encourages habitual
late-comers to continue that behavior and discourages those who come on
time. Finishing late creates conflicts with other priorities and encourages
bad feelings about meetings in general.
- Remember -- It is every participant's responsibility to make the meeting
productive and enjoyable. The entire group is in this together and responsible
for the results and outputs regardless of their individual jobs.
- Keep the group focused on what is best overall for the organization
you are working on, whether company, division or other, not what's best
only for them or their own part of the organization.
- Hold information pieces not needed for current process until the end
of the meeting so that people are not distracted and reading them while
the rest of the meeting is on.
- Make a separate follow-up list of any "hot" or urgent items that come
up that are not part of this discussion, but do need follow-up. Agree on
by whom and by when those will be addressed. Don’t let these become discussion
side trips that derail what the meeting is intended for. Create a “parking
lot” list for these to be handled later.
- At the beginning of any session where all participants do not know each
other, the facilitator should have each person introduce themselves and
what they do briefly.
- Active enthusiasm and high energy from the facilitator helps to move
the process along.
- At appropriate intervals, acknowledge together the positive results
that the group has accomplished so far.
- Monitor group fatigue levels, including your own, and stop if people
get so tired they can't function, even if some things have to be finished
later. Plan for reasonable food and rest breaks, with no longer than two
hour stretches without some break.
Guidelines for Brainstorming
- Identify the specific topic under discussion. Write issue (one only)
under discussion at top of clean flip chart page at beginning of that discussion.
- Request all possible ideas, as many and as rapidly as possible from
everybody. Record all of the ideas generated exactly as offered, making
no judgments and allowing none by the group at this point and with no discussion.
Remember, no idea is too crazy in the initial jotting down phase. A kernel
of genius often exists in apparently wild or impractical ideas. Emphasize
thinking outside current practices and models.
- After you get all ideas for a single issue on flip chart sheets (or
as you fill up each sheet), post in sequence along one wall where everyone
can read (so write large enough) as material for the discussion.
- Now discuss the ideas looking for combinations of whole or partial ideas
to get the best answer or solution. Definition of Synergy: 1+1=3 or the
whole is greater than mere sum of the parts. Open discussion is a must with
all opinions valued and a consensus decision of the highest quality is the
- When you get consensus on an issue, write the issue name on a separate
flip chart sheet along with the group’s conclusion about it and post separate
from the original brainstorm sheets, which may be taken down at this point.
It is helpful to pick one wall in your meeting room as the place where you
post in sequence the final conclusions.
When you are the formal leader/manager of a group and
the facilitator of the meeting:
- If you as a manager are facilitating a meeting wherein you are asking
for input on an issue, you should take care to request all input from the
group before offering your own on any given subject, with the exception
of any opening statements or information needed to create the context for
the discussion. Only offer your input first when it is necessary to get
a discussion going because no one else will speak up. Be patient and wait
out the silences for a bit before you jump in.
- Actively solicit input from all group members. Be sure all inputs and
opinions are acknowledged and given a fair hearing even if they are not
yours or the majority of the group.
- Remember, when someone in authority offers an answer, the tendency of
groups is to consciously or unconsciously shut down their own thinking processes.
The job of the manager/facilitator here is to achieve the highest level
of participation, which, in turn, produces both commitment and better quality
Marie Kane is President of Executive Evolution. Since 1981 Marie has provided
executive consulting and coaching services to help clients develop and implement
the right strategy, leverage the company's human talent, and create optimal
culture and communication. Her services include leadership, executive, management
and team development, strategic and operational planning, employee selection,
retention and development, change management, conflict resolution and a variety
of profiles and assessments, including 360’s. She is the author of the TEAMS
assessment and creator of “The Leaders Way - Discovering the Inner Art
of Leadership” program. You can reach Marie at 770-461-3820 or Marie@ExecutiveEvolution.com.
Visit http://www.executiveevolution.com/ for additional insight.