Did We Have This Meeting?

Okay, admit it!  If you are a meeting leader, how soon after a meeting do you follow-up on action items and key points from that meeting?

a) within 24 hours?

b) before the next meeting? 

c) at the next meeting when you ask for a status report?

If you are like most managers and team leaders, your answer is likely to be “b” or “c.”  And this one of the key reasons that meetings fail – and important tasks get delayed, detoured or deferred.

To quote from the Harvard Business School Press Pocket Mentor, “Running Meetings”

“Meetings that end without a communications and action plan often have no life outside the meeting room.  After all, the point is rarely the meeting itself, but rather the action that comes out of it.”

“Following up energetically is the single most important thing you can do to make the meeting (and any to follow) a success.”

In my years of experience, I have rarely participated in a meeting that concluded effectively.  Seldom, did the meeting leader summarize the key points and review responsibilities before concluding the meeting.  Yes, there were some assignments made during the meeting.  And, sometimes, decisions were reached during the meeting,  But I would wager that if you took a quick poll of 10 people in that meeting to determine what was decided you might get 10 different answers or interpretations.  Is it any wonder why most meetings are a waste of time?

Most meetings run too long – long past the stated conclusion time.  They whimper to conclusion.  Far too many people either “sneak out” or they “tune out” – by checking email, doodling, or passing personal notes – while the meeting is still going.  Those that remain to the bitter end usually rush out to attend their “next” meeting – or they storm back to their desk to get their “real work” done!

Does this sound familiar?  I thought so.  So how do you start to change conditions in your business.  How do you begin to run effective meetings?  How can you make your staff understand that (effective) meetings drive your business; that real work is accomplished during (effective) meetings?

I suggest that you start by putting real energy and effort into making sure that your meetings come to a real conclusion – just like a piece of music!  An effective conclusion might include a brief recap of the decisions or recommendations that were reached during the meeting.  The meeting leader should be looking at all team members during this recap – paying special attention to “body language” to spot those who do not seem to “buy in” to or seem unhappy about these decisions.  (The leader should then seek these team members out after the meeting and ask them to express their real feelings.  Leaders who do this consistently have seen dramatic positive energy shifts in their teams.)

If at all possible, a meeting scribe will have written and posted these decisions / recommendations on a white board or large “post-ti” notes attached to the walls.  This helps to reinforce the message that this was a group decision or recommendation and not just some subjective conclusion.

Just prior to concluding the meeting, I recommend that the leader review the “action items.”  When your team member publicly goes on record  – in front of their peers – and commits to completing “X” task by “Y” date with assistance from “A, B and C,” the results are truly amazing and will energize the entire team – plus you will get more accomplished.  And that is the real reason that we have meetings!

This is your “Communications and Action Plan” at work.  A tool to help your team deliver results and to communicate key decisions and recommendations.  It is not just a fancy way of writing up the minutes of your meeting (which no one actually reads.)  It is a vital tool to running a successful business – a business that is successful in part because they know how to meet effectively to accomplish their goals.

The Pocket Mentor, “Running Meetings,” has several meeting forms (Meeting Planner's Checklist, Meeting Agenda, Communications and Action Plan) that you can adapt to fit your company's needs.  It is an invaluable resource for any manager or leader to own – and use!



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