Thursday, February 23, 2012

Nothing to Do...Let's conduct a Meeting!

Off to take another meeting for your team members?
Think twice…Have you prepared for it? Are you one of those, who decides to meet his team for 30 min, but ends up spending at least 60 min, if not more? If not, do you have a manager who is perceived to be like this? If that’s the case, go on and read…
Every meeting is like an election…if conducted in the right way, it results in a beautiful country; if not, it leads to complete devastation. As you climb higher on the corporate ladder, and as your business grows, meetings will become an inevitable part of your life; esp. for the people who are related with the high-profile jobs associated with the business, the strategies and working of it – they seem to be running on the wheels of these meetings.

People spend so much time in meetings, that turning meeting time into sustained results is a priority for successful organizations. To ensure that you indulge in an effective and efficient meeting, your actions should be linked to ‘management of the meeting’; otherwise, your meetings will not bear the fruit you desire from the time you invest in meeting.

Most managers I meet, say that they don’t have the time to meet their team members formally, but they will chat over a cup of coffee periodically. The trouble is, although they think they are saving time by having a fleeting meeting now and then, in reality they are almost certainly wasting more time than if they sat down with a proper agenda, and conducted a fully minuted meeting.

Few basic ways and means to ensure that you are known as a great meeting chairperson are as follows:

1. Venue: Remember to book a venue for the meeting way in advance. It is bad corporate etiquette to barge into a room without booking it. Depending on the number of participants, you may book a conference room, or a 2 to 4-seater meeting room.

2. Agenda: Have the meeting agenda in place. When you send the invite to the participants, ensure you attach the agenda in your email. Before the meeting commences, if possible, take printouts of it and place it on the chair of the attendees. Additionally, you may even use the whiteboard or the flipchart to write the agenda for all to see. This really helps, esp at a time, when participants try to digress from the key topic of discussion. An agenda gives a sense of direction for the meeting. If you feel that anyone is talking boundlessly, no one is stopping you from requesting him to stop and take the conversation offline. Remember, by doing this, people around may get unhappy initially, but, gradually, will realize that you value yours and the participant’s time.

3. Frequency: Don’t conduct meetings at the drop of a hat. You will lose your importance and respect. Call for a meeting only if it is absolutely essential and that too, as spoken above, for a stipulated duration. Remember, you too have work to finish; if not, then, what are you doing in the organization?

4. Come to the Point ASAP: Always good to start by asking holistic questions and then moving on to the real business. It pacifies the participants and makes them receptive to the rest of the discussion. Don’t make the audience say, “When our boss has nothing to do, he calls a meeting”.

5. Listen: Walk the talk before you expect anyone to listen to you. Give all an opportunity to express their views…well, that is why they were invited, right? A anonymous study claims that in a 15 min presentation, only 50% of the information is retained. Remove all barriers to listening, including, information overload, unidentified and hidden emotions amongst the participants, phone calls, complicated language / heavy on accent, etc…

6. Non-verbal communication: Carry an open body language without crossing your arms. Look at the participant when he speaks, as it makes him feel important that his point is being listened to carefully. Use your head to nod as and when required. Be wary of others body language as well.

7. Time Management: This is again linked to point 2 and 3; however, very critical to be handled separately. Only if you start the meeting on time, will you be able to end it on or before time. The room that you have blocked may be required by another party on exigency. Besides, everyone plans their work according to the 9 hours given to them for work. More than anything else, the participant connect will be stronger if you stick to timelines, as they will stop getting distracted by their watches.

8. Meetings over Lunch: It is never recommended that you have critical meetings during lunch; even if it is your sales numbers meeting. Neither can all participants concentrate on the discussion, nor will they be able to eat their food peacefully. Remember, one of the reasons why you work so hard is, so that you eat good food which is consumed in a disciplined way. Half of our health problems flank us because of our bad eating habits.

9. MOM: It is very critical to have clear documentation of whatever is discussed in the meeting room. Post the meeting, it needs to be shared with the participants, so that implementation of tasks and progress report is mapped from the time the task is in ‘WIP’ (Work in Progress) to ‘Completed’. The MOM should have a standardized template as well. Before closing the meeting, the organizer should summarize the MOM for all as a reiteration. Post that it should be emailed to all.

10. Seek Feedback: Don’t think that if you are the HOD, you are perfect in terms of conducting meetings. There is always scope for improvement to ensure that your next meeting is more effective. By doing this, your team and colleagues will demonstrate more respect for you.

The way you end your meeting is just as important as how you open and run the meeting. Ensure to thank people for their time and inputs. This is basic etiquette.

So, how will you conduct your meeting today?

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