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Communicating as a Leader

Managing Effective Meetings: A Powerful Tool for Leaders, Part I

Ed Oakley asked:

Anyone can hold a meeting. Forming a work group and conducting a productive meeting, however, is a greater challenge. This article has tips for meetings that get results.

Determine the outcome or objective of the meeting Having a clear purpose goes a long way to ensuring a successful outcome. Ask yourself and/or the participants questions like:

What would be the most valuable thing we could accomplish with our time? What is the purpose of the meeting?

How does this meeting contribute to the organizational goals and objectives?

Plan in advance

Abraham Lincoln was notorious for planning and said that for every 1 hour spent planning, it would save 8 hours in implementation. Considering the project failure rates in organizations it would be hard to argue with him.

Determine the type of meeting (i.e., problem solving, brain storming, dissemination of information, etc.) and what format will support that purpose.

Assess what information or other preparation will be needed. How will you communicate the results to others not participating in the meeting, but who need to be apprised of the outcome?

Choose the participants

Select those who have a reason to participate. Those attending should:

Have a thorough knowledge of the meeting subject-matter and be ready and able to make a valuable contribution. Be responsible for implementing decisions or bringing a project to the next stage; represent a group that will be affected by decisions made at the meeting.

Between four to seven people is generally ideal for any meeting, ten is tolerable and 12 is stretching the limit. Meetings tend to be more productive when the number of participants is low. In large group meetings, there is less opportunity for individuals to participate and consensus decision-making becomes extremely time consuming and frustrating.

Roles

Determine what roles will be needed (i.e., someone to take notes, story board, present important information, etc.). The most critical role is the facilitator. This person is responsible to meet the meeting objective, keep it on track and tactfully ensure no one person dominates the meeting. Select a facilitator who will make sure the ground rules are followed and maintain a neutral stance.

Develop guidelines

These are often created once and reused in subsequent meetings. It is helpful to list them on posters or flip charts that can be referred back to again and again. Some examples are: No criticism

Confidentiality

No one will be interrupted while speaking Ideas won’t be judged in order to encourage creativity Start and end on time Don’t present a problem without being able to present a solution. It’s ok to pass

We have found that a fun way to enforce guidelines is to take a piece of paper, crumple it up, and, if someone violates a guideline, throw it at them. It keeps the mood light while still sending a very important message.

Use meeting openers

These can be fun and getting the meeting off on the right foot. It is important that the expectation be set up front to only take one or two minutes in order to minimize time impact. Some examples are: What would you like to get out of this meeting?

Share something about you no one else in the room knows about. What has been the best part of your week?

Where are you having success in you area right now?

Use visuals

Most people can see what you are presenting better than they can hear it. Doing both will ensure your message gets across. Use flip charts and white boards to set the agenda, brainstorm, or present ideas.

The parking lot

It can be easy to get stuck on issues that might be important, but not directly tied to the objective of the meeting. Using a flip chart, list the items as they come up. At the end of the meeting resolve what actions need to taken to deal with them.

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