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Tag Archives: effective meetings

For amazingly productive meetings, switch to “public action minutes”

In our last video blog in our series on productivity tools for leaders, I gave you one idea on how to have useful and productive meetings.  Specifically, to issue an agenda using a four-column format.  Today, I’m continuing on that theme of productive meetings with another tip – always take and issue action minutes within 48 hours.

Always issue action minutes

Now I know what you’re thinking: 48 hours?  Yes I know, some of you are lucky if those minutes arrive the day before the next meeting!  But let’s just talk about this for a moment.  I have yet to meet one person who says to me “Oh Merge, I love taking minutes.”  In fact, almost everyone I know just hates it!  Some of you would much rather walk across hot coals than be volunteered as the minute taker for your next meeting!  We hate taking minutes … BECAUSE for most of us it’s a lot of work and it’s a pain in the neck!  Yet there is a way to get past this.

Are you ready?  This is a cool tool!  A very effective and painless approach to taking minutes is to focus only on recording action items.  Use a three-column format.  Take a sheet of blank paper and draw two vertical lines to create three columns.  Then title the columns as follows: Continue reading

One practical tip to eliminate loss of productivity in meetings

One of the biggest complaints I hear from leaders is about their loss of productivity due to the time they spend in meetings.  Most leaders attend more than 60 meetings a month.  Research shows that over 90% of meeting goers admit to daydreaming; over 70% do other work during meetings; and almost 40% say they have occasionally dozed off while in a meeting.  Clearly, loss of productivity due to meetings is happening every single day.  So for the next four video blog posts, I’m going to focus on specific ideas to stop the loss of productivity that is occurring for you due to those meetings.  Today’s tip: always, always issue a four-column agenda, distributed at least 48 hours in advance of your meeting.

Always issue a four-column agenda

The most common reason we don’t issue agendas is because it seems like a lot of hard work.  But it doesn’t have to be!  One of the best, easiest and most effective ways to develop an agenda is to use a table format using four columns.  Take a sheet of blank paper and draw three vertical lines to create four columns.  Then title the columns as follows: Continue reading

For effective meetings, hold a “wall” meeting

Business team standing in hallEarlier this week I blogged about “ball” meetings – a very useful technique to run more effective meetings.  Today, I want to tell you about another approach – “wall” meetings.  In a wall meeting, no one can sit down; everyone participates in the meeting while standing, leaning up against the wall.  For even more effectiveness, ensure that that there are no donuts available in the room either! 🙂  The premise behind this approach is that if people are not comfortable, they are more likely to get on with the matter at hand and move towards the intended result.  Basically, the discomfort creates focus, which in some situations may be exactly what you need.

A wall meeting is particularly successful if Continue reading

For effective meetings, hold “ball” meetings

TennisBallYou’ve no doubt attended your fair share of business meetings; in fact, if you’re in a formal leadership role, you’ve probably called a few yourself.  Given how pervasive meetings are in today’s world of work, you’d think that people would have figured out how to be more efficient and effective in meetings by now.  But alas, it is not so!  I am repeatedly told by clients how so many of the meetings they (are required to) attend are mind-numbing, ineffective and a waste of time.  As I have said repeatedly, it does not have to be that way.  Continue reading

Four questions to ask yourself before you call or attend a meeting

BloodyMeetingsEvery so often, the subject of “meetings” comes up in conversations with my clients, and invariably, no one seems to have anything good to say about them!  Why then do they continue to be such a integral part of the business workday?  The answer of course is because meetings don’t HAVE to be agonizing, ineffective and a waste of time.  In fact, if handled correctly, meetings can accomplish great things – elevate communication, generate new ideas, further morale, establish goals, build strong teams, and so much more!  So before you call or attend a meeting, ask yourself four very important questions to determine whether or not you should: Continue reading

For effective meetings ALWAYS take minutes

The word “meeting” seems to elicit a reaction (not usually positive) from virtually every supervisor or manager I talk to. Turns out that most people’s experiences with meetings are not encouraging. This has come up often enough that I have devoted past blogs to this topic:

So here’s one more critical success factor for effective meetings – always take minutes of meetings, and issue them within 48 hours. Minutes provide a written record of what happened at a meeting, but because it sounds like a lot of work, many people balk at this rule. However, meeting minutes do not need to be long or complicated. An effective and popular approach is to focus only on recording action items. Continue reading

Use “the parking lot” to manage unexpected or extended issues that arise in your meeting

Often in meetings, unexpected agenda items crop up, or certain topics generate legitimate discussion that go beyond the time frame allotted in the agenda. What should you do when such subjects threaten to take your meeting off track and off schedule?

When unexpected or lengthier issues arise, it’s the chairperson’s job to take control by considering two choices – either get agreement from everyone to adjust the agenda by reducing or eliminating another item, OR send the item being discussed to the “parking lot.” The parking lot is a designated whiteboard or flipchart where outstanding issues are logged, with an understanding that they will be tabled as agenda items at a future meeting. The parking lot approach is a very effective way to keep a meeting moving while still respecting other points of view.

So have you used the “parking lot”? What has been your experience? Or do you take another approach? Please share.

If your meetings aren’t as effective as they could be, here are some other posts that you might find of value:

Three key roles are necessary for effective meetings

Meetings continue to be the bane of managers and supervisors everywhere – I mean how many times have you attended the meeting from hell? Yeah, thought so!

In previous blogs, I have offered ideas on how to make your meetings more productive (see links at the bottom of this post), and today I have one more proven idea – establish three key meeting roles for every meeting — chairperson, timekeeper, and minute-taker — filled by three different people. The chairperson is responsible for facilitating the meeting — making sure all relevant input is being solicited and gathered, and smoothing over rough spots as necessary. The timekeeper’s role in a meeting is paramount — he or she is responsible for letting participants know when the allotted time for an agenda item is up. The timekeeper may need to be firm with participants to ensure that they stick to the agenda. The minute-taker’s role is exactly what it sounds like — he or she is responsible for producing a written record about key aspects of the meeting … more about this in a future blog post.

Another thought: if you hold recurring meetings, rotate the roles of the chairperson, timekeeper, and minute-taker for each meeting. The benefits of rotation are two-fold — all participants develop meeting skills, and, perhaps more importantly, there is greater awareness and respect for the challenges inherent in these roles.

By the way, these three key roles are just as applicable to unplanned or emergency meetings as well: if you don’t assign these roles, an emergency meeting can quickly turn into a waste of time.

So what do you think? Are these three key roles necessary? What advice do you have to offer to prevent the “meeting from hell”?

If meetings are driving you crazy, then these previous blog posts may be of value:

Agendas are a necessity for effective meetings

In previous blog posts, I’ve explored the bottom-line financial cost of ineffective meetings as well as offered ideas on how to make your meetings more productive.  Here’s one more thing that you can do to ensure that you maximize the potential in your meetings.

Always issue an agenda, distributed at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting. If you find yourself calling an unplanned or emergency meeting, use the first 10 minutes to develop a quick agenda on a whiteboard or flipchart, and don’t proceed until you’ve reached agreement on it. One of the best and easiest ways to develop an agenda is to use a table format with a minimum of four columns as follows:

  1. The agenda item
  2. The name of the person responsible for leading and/or facilitating the agenda item
  3. The required outcome for the agenda item, e.g. group discussion, information, update, decision, consensus, action, round-table reporting
  4. The allotted time for the agenda item (Make sure that the total of the allotted times does not exceed the total time set aside for the meeting!)

So for example, your agenda may contain the following items:

  • Purchasing software rollout: Amy Harris, IT lead; project update; 10 minutes
  • Customer service survey results: Reena Davis, customer service manager; information and action on complaints; 30 minutes
  • Software training vendor selection: Bob Edwards, procurement specialist; decision; 15 minutes

Now obviously, this is the basic format, but you can choose to add additional columns to your agenda based on your specific needs.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of an agenda … without it, you may well end up in the meeting from hell!  Have you attended meetings from hell?  Was the lack of an agenda the problem, or was it something else?

Ineffective meetings have a bottom-line financial cost

Have you ever attended the meeting from hell? Yes, you know the one – the objectives are undefined, the meeting crawls on for hours, personalities clash, disagreements take over, and progress grinds to a halt.  In short, nothing gets accomplished.  If you’ve been to even one bad meeting, then in my opinion, that’s one meeting too many!

Have you ever stopped to consider exactly how much these non-productive meetings are costing you and your organization?  Let’s just say you have a regular weekly meeting with five attendees that runs for two hours.  At an average salary of $50,000 per year, that translates roughly to $25 per hour.  If you add in benefits, that takes you to about $35 an hour.  Five people at two hours times 50 weeks a year equals $17,500.  And this total doesn’t include any additional costs such as travel, equipment charges, and catering expenses, nor the costs of replacement coverage while people at the meeting.  Unquestionably, there is a bottom-line financial cost of ineffective meetings.

What’s happening in your organization?  Are “meetings from hell” widespread and frequent?  Or have you figured out how to avoid the meetings “trap”?  Do tell.