Effective meetings

83Very few things are more frustrating, especially when you are busy, than to be constantly called into meetings that are a waste of time. They start late, don’t appear to have an agenda or objective, no conclusion or action is reached, people arrive late and the meeting stops to update them, people are allowed to speak at length who don’t really have anything to contribute, someone answers a phone call on their mobile, and nothing new or interesting comes out of the meeting.

This happens because whoever has called the meeting has not managed it effectively. A good meeting has only the attendees who need to be there, everyone knows it will start on time, and if they are late they will have to catch up outside the meeting, a focused agenda has been circulated prior to the meeting, there is an objective, and the meeting is chaired by someone who does not allow time to be wasted, and works towards a clearly defined objective.

Managing effective meetings

If you call a meeting, respect the time of the attendees. Bear in mind, in a busy office, that many of your colleagues will have to take work home and catch up on it at the evenings and weekends, and so effectively you are using their own time for your meeting. This thought will enforce some discipline in the management of the meeting.

Similarly, if you are asked to attend a meeting, try to show the same consideration for colleagues. Participate if you have something to offer, be part of the discussion, contribute ideas and answer questions. Be supportive to the chairman, offer ideas, ask sensible questions, and share relevant experience.

A good meeting utilises the experience of the group and facilitates employee engagement and alignment.

Often meetings are events where new colleagues or young people can get noticed and make an impression. Make sure the impression is a good one, the last thing you need is to make a poor impression on senior people.

You want your meetings to be known as being effective, a good use of time. You want everyone to know they will start right on time, move along quickly, interruptions and irrelevancies will not be welcomed, and the meeting will draw to a swift a prompt end with action points allocated, conclusions drawn and meeting minutes will be circulated promptly. You respect your colleagues’ time and you expect them to respect yours.

Meetings as social interactions

The fact that mitigates against this objective is that meetings are not just purely business functions, but do have a social element as well by their very nature.

They are an interaction between the people involved in them and not everyone interacts equally.

Some people like to be in charge, be the leader, and do not take well to being a meeting participant and not the meeting manager. Their behaviour can be challenging or aggressive at worst, or non-supportive or disruptive at best.

Attendance at some meetings may confer status, and may offer an opportunity to impress senior managers. In this case people use attendance as a means of scoring points, or fulfilling a personal agenda, rather than making a meaningful contribution to the matter at hand.

Sometimes meetings act as social gatherings, especially if the workforce are scattered or meet infrequently. So people may have different perspectives on the reason for the meeting. Some attend because they view it as a priority, and want to contribute, others attend just because they have been invited. Some will have prepared well and arrive ready to contribute, others will have done no preparation and are not really knowledgeable about, or interested in, the topic under discussion.

All of this poses a challenge to the manager calling and running the meeting .Lets have a look at how to manage meetings effectively in the next part of this lesson.