“You’re probably wondering why I’ve called you all here …”
Are your business meetings efficient and effective?
By Rosemary DiDio Brehm
TO: Company President/ CEO/ Business Owner
FROM: Your Employees, Colleagues, Clients, Vendors
RE: Business Meetings
Dear Boss, Colleague, Consultant, Vendor:
We can’t get anything done because we are spending too much time in unproductive meetings. Please help.
Your Employees, Colleagues, Clients, Vendors
TO: My Employees, Colleagues, Clients, and Vendors
FROM: Company President/CEO/ Business Owner
RE: Business Meetings
Dear Employees, Colleagues, Clients, and Vendors:
I agree. Let’s meet to discuss this issue.
Your Boss, Colleague, Consultant, and Vendor
Sound familiar? Sadly, too familiar for many of us.
Often we use flawed tools to try to fix a flawed system, and we do more damage. Instead, we need to identify the flaws and find new and better tools to address the system, not the symptoms.
State of Meetings in the US
Verizon Conferencing commissioned a Meetings in America study to look at meeting trends.
This research found that:
“Meetings dominate business life in America today. According to the National Statistics Council, 37 percent of employee time is spent in meetings. Other data indicate there are 11 million business meetings each and every day.
Busy professionals attend over 60 meetings each month.”
Given the impact that numerous meetings have on organizations, can the Company President/ CEO/Business Owner make meeting time more productive? Absolutely! In fact, this change can ONLY happen if top leadership initiates and directs a “tops down” approach to change how meetings are run.
WARNING! STOP HERE if you aren’t serious about making this commitment to change the meeting dynamics in your business. This takes full organizational commitment, practice, and accountability check-ups to be successful.
If you are ready to make change happen, please read on.
There are 6 stages to making meetings more productive:
1. Find out what meetings are happening in your organization now.
Analyze all current meetings - Conduct a formal or informal “Meeting Audit” of all regularly scheduled repeated meetings that involve 3 or more people.
What kinds of meetings are taking place? Examples: senior management meetings, project planning meetings, team meetings, department meetings, sales meetings, status meetings, ad hoc or spontaneous meetings.
What is the purpose of those meetings? Provide information, collect information, improve group dynamics, build the team, brainstorm issues or products, make decisions, resolve conflict, work on projects together, assist customers?
How long do those meetings take? How much time is planned versus how much time is actually spent? Are meetings running overtime? How often?
What meeting tools are currently being used? Agenda, professional facilitator, meeting rules, time-keeper, process-keeper, follow-up notes and action plans?
Ask Attendees to rate meeting effectiveness. Which parts of each meeting get the most results? What meetings are redundant? How much time is spent on meeting process (methods used to run the meeting) vs. meeting content?
2. Decide what meetings are absolutely required.
Less is best. Determine what should be done outside of the meeting. Bring people together only when collaboration is needed. Decide if conference calls or virtual meetings might produce better results.
3. Bring in the professionals when needed.
Some meetings require professional help that you may not have within your company.
Large conferences and full day meetings often require meeting planners and multiple facilitators.
Certain meetings require professional facilitators. Use an outside “neutral guide” to keep specialized meetings on track; to help members “confront the brutal facts” (Good to Great, Jim Collins); to create a safe and healthy meeting environment; and to manage difficult attendees. Consider professional facilitators to plan strategy, resolve conflicts, build teams, create work processes, or work with other difficult agendas.
There are certified professional facilitators trained specifically for those specialized meetings. Go to www.iaf-world.org to find a certified professional facilitator in your area.
Bring someone else in to run the meeting when your full participation is required. It is hard for the company leaders to run meetings effectively and participate at the same time. It is also difficult for internal leaders to remain neutral during the meeting.
4. Create and customize meeting management tools.
Determine what meeting tools you already have and improve them or create new ones. Professional facilitators can help you create these success tools or you can search the web for meeting tools to meet your needs.
Prepared and written agendas communicated ahead of time with pre-work assigned
Meeting rules and guidelines to present at the beginning of each meeting
A “Parking Lot” strategy to “hold” un-related topics
Designated roles and responsibilities: meeting leader, time-keeper, rule-keeper, note-taker
Meeting notes summarized by “decisions made”, “actions planned”, and “responsibilities assigned”
Email action plan reminders and notes to missing members
5. Institutionalize those meeting tools through training and reinforcement.
Actively seek others to help at this stage.
Test meeting tools for effectiveness and efficiency.
Communicate, train, and reinforce the use of those tools as company standards. This is where Company leaders have the greatest impact. Set the example by having top management model these guidelines every time.
6. Review meeting progress each year and revise the process for continuous improvement.
Do not just assume this process worked. Conduct a meeting audit each year and measure progress. Continue strategies that work; change those that do not.
It is much easier for you as Company Presidents, CEOs and Business Owners to measure company sales, expenditures, investments, and profits than it is to measure meeting effectiveness. Given that employees spend over 37% of their time in meetings, it is best to work to accelerate meeting potential into successful results!
About the Author
Rosemary DiDio Brehm, President, turningpoint4results is a Certified Professional Facilitator and Organizational Development Consultant. She helps organizations turn strategic plans into completed actions. She facilitates the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Women Presidents’ Organization. Contact Rosemary at 813-960-7774 or firstname.lastname@example.org