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Meetings: From Dysfunction to Efficient!

Updated: Feb 1, 2020

I have attended a significant number of meetings over the course of a 24 year career. There have been highly effective meetings and then there were those that left much to be desired. Have you ever stopped to ponder how much each one of those meetings actually costs the organization? One meeting lasting a full hour with high level managerial staff can cost the organization a LOT of money. I've seen many people in a meeting where I estimated that the meeting cost the organization a good $1,500.00 or more. I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly. When I reflect on the dysfunctional meetings seen, below is what comes to mind as to issues noted.

Dysfunction seen - The invitee......:

1. shows up late and disrupts the meeting flow.

2. comes in with their computer, places it before them and does other work while listening to the meeting. You can periodically hear typing as they respond to an email or chat with a friend.

3. has cell phone out on table in front of them and checks it periodically.

4. member has action item from last meeting but doesn't do the work - not read for the meeting.

5. high ranking leadership staff member starts talking and can't stop hijacking the meeting.

6. team member starts talking about something of interest to them related to the project and takes the topic completely in a different direction and no work is done on the reason for calling the meeting.

7. team member is not engaged - mind wonders off elsewhere.

8. too many people in the meeting - too many opinions - can't get anything done.

9. minutes of the meeting not taken so no one remembers last meeting and their action items.

10. no one is taking notes in the meeting to remember ANYTHING.

11. never shows up as they are supposed to.

12. staff member demands control of staff meeting, spews out a ton of unorganized information, seeks approval based on unrecognizable handwriting and picture on white board and green employee agrees (afraid to not agree) to do whatever was said. This green employee later blows it off because she didn't understand anything, didn't know what to do and didn't want the responsibility anyway. Director of group is confused too so sits quiet. So, nothing got done.

In light of the fact that a meeting can be highly expensive for an organization it is imperative that they be efficient and effective. There are a number of things you can do to help ensure this. Consider the following:

Meeting Etiquette:

1. Release an HR policy that details out meeting etiquette expectations. This is an important first step. It lets the organization know that you will support leader of teams to help them meet goals and job relates expectations.

2. As the leader of a meeting always prepare and send ahead to members a detailed agenda of what needs to be accomplished during your time together.

3. It is best if the leader can delegate to someone the task of taking notes. If the leader of a meeting has to also take minutes of the meeting it can distract from active listening. HR can let the organization know in policy that this delegation is acceptable and expected.

4. When you send out the agenda have it remind all of the HR policy for meetings and reiterate that cell phones are not allowed to be out and on the table.

5. Sometimes people like to take their minutes via computer but let everyone know ahead of the meeting that they should not be doing other business. If someone looks like they are doing other business engage that person by asking questions.

6. If team members need to have something ready for the meeting send them a reminder ahead of time and ask that they forward to you their final product prior to the meeting for review.

7. Ask someone to be the time keeper. Their job will be to move the team along to the next subject. If the meeting gets hijacked then they can bring that to light and move the team away. Giving this task to someone else on the team leaves the leaders mind free to focus on ensuring the right information is gained in the meeting on the topic(s) at hand.

8. After the meeting is done send out the minutes to all attendees. In the minutes have a section that says "Action Items." While in the meeting collect due dates for all action items and have it listed in the minutes sent out.

9. Sometimes people disengage because they don't trust in giving their opinion as the environment is not safe. They are afraid to be laughed at. So, instead of risking being laughed at they don't give input at all. If you are in a meeting where the sharing of ideas is critical then start the meeting by reminding everyone that it must be safe to share. One way to create a safe sharing place is to have ideas written on post-its and then put them up on a wall to talk about. The person can decide if they want to share or not that they gave the input. If a team member belittles anyones input then this is grounds for a crucial conversation after the meeting.

10. Have a zero tolerance for disrespect policy!

These are some ideas on how to make meetings productive and safe. I'm sure you may be able to come up with some additional ideas. If you have any please do share them.


Photo Credit: WIX Provided

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