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We all know how unproductive meetings can be. The good news is that they don't have to be a giant time suck - they can actually become the useful, productive business tool you always hoped. Here's what you have to keep in mind...
1. Avoid the meeting totally. Yes, I’m serious. Never have a meeting that could have been more briefly & more clearly covered in an email. Almost never is a need for a meeting as urgent as perceived. Never have a meeting just because, “we always have a regular weekly meeting”. If it’s not substantial enough to put on an agenda, then it should be covered in an email.
2. Always have an agenda. It’s not a meeting without an agenda. In our organization a meeting without an agenda is called a “HUDDLE”. Just like a football team “HUDDLES” to call the next play. “Huddles” are quick, spontaneous and mostly last less than 5 minutes. Never over 10 minutes.
3. Get the agenda out prior to the meeting. Even when you do have a meeting, it will not be an effective meeting if all parties attending the meeting didn’t get the agenda at least 1 day prior. Why? Because they will not BE PREPARED with thoughtful contributions. And who can blame them when the person calling the meeting did not give them respectful consideration.
4. Make darn sure the meeting has a START & END TIME! Your meetings will be more effective when the participants know: a)what the agenda is b) that there will be no “small talk” c) that the meeting will have a set time to end. If topics are still not covered and the END TIME has arrived, stop the meeting!! And schedule the next “tentative” meeting. Why did I just say, “tentative”? Because you’re going to repeat step 1. Meaning that those unfinished items can very well be completed via email & AVOID another meeting.
5. During the meeting, never forget to ask & probe for clarity. So many times I’ve left meetings only to have participants approach me individually asking for additional clarity. Have you ever had a meeting with 5 people and later feel that they were all attending a different meeting? Hello!! That’s a sure sign that more clarity should have been sought while the meeting was still taking place.
6. At the conclusion of the meeting, everyone should know “who” is completing “each” follow-up action. Remember that the purpose of the meeting is to move the organization forward. Nothing can possibly move forward without a follow-up action plan.
Peace, love & gumbo!
Marvin LeBlanc, LUTCF, CNP
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