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Many people are so focused on what they want to accomplish that they overlook how they want to accomplish it. While creating your agenda, ask yourself, "How will we do this?" This simple step goes a long way towards improving your meetings. Also, consider meeting less often and breaking into sub-groups in order to accomplish more.

Meetings 3: How's it going?

Posted  on 10/14/09

Woman at a meeting writing on a flipchartThe other forgotten details - who, where, when, and, most importantly, how

Let's start with the "how."  When you are planning your agenda, along with figuring out the "what," figure out how you will accomplish that item. If you need to make a decision, how will you make it? What happens if the group doesn't agree? Does majority rule? If you are brainstorming, how will you choose ideas? If you are voting, how will that work? How many votes does everyone get? If you are creating an action plan, how will you document it? How will you make modifications as you move along?

I can't tell you how many meetings I've attended where the leader was totally unprepared for dealing with  the "how." After a fruitful brainstorming, we had to figure out the best way to choose ideas, or while developing a project plan, the leader wrote the tasks down on a whiteboard.  All it takes is to ask yourself, "How are we going to do this?" as you write down your agenda items.

Now for the "when." Why are we stuck in the hour-long meetings every week or every two weeks paradigm? I prefer monthly meetings of 2-3 hours in duration. Everyone makes an effort to show because they'll miss a lot by missing one meeting, and it gives everyone plenty of time to work during the meeting and between meetings.  I also like to set up sub-teams of 2-3 people to work on tasks together. I find it is more effective than assigning a task to a single person.

Who should attend? I like to  have 5-7 people, and all of them should be involved. (See my section on meeting roles in this presentation.)  Avoid inviting people with reporting relationships if you can. Having the boss in a meeting always changes the behavior of the direct report. Also, avoid having your own boss in the meeting as well or anyone who has not been involved in the project and wants to drop in. They tend to hijack meetings. As a manager, I hate to admit that I have thrown several of my direct reports' meetings off-topic because of a question I had, and no one wanted to tell me to take it "offline."  Find a way to debrief managers and "visitors" outside of the meeting, with emails, telephone calls. or one-on-ones.

Where: One of the advantages of booking meetings monthly rather than weekly is that you can reserve a meeting room well in advance. Often, we just book whatever is available and are stuck in an environment that is not conducive to working. Make sure you have all the equipment you need including a projector, markers, and plenty of flipchart paper. Also make sure you have a well-lit room that is comfortable. There's nothing like a dark, warm room to lull participants into a stupor. Arrive early to set up and give warning to the prior meeting occupants that you have the room next.

None of these tips qualifies as rocket science, but they can make or break your meeting, and it's often the simple things we overlook that can wreak havoc with our plans.

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Featured Neologisms

Undue diligence   –
the endless process of collecting more information in order to avoid making a decision
Team vynamics   -
Group behavior wherein individuals at a meeting vie for dominance