In our last edition of our video series on productivity tools for leaders, I talked about how the time-keeper is a very important role in a meeting in order to achieve objectives. You might recall that the time-keeper’s job is to let participants know when the allotted time for an agenda item is over. But sometimes, an agenda item crops up that really does require additional discussion beyond the time frame allotted in the agenda. Which brings me to today’s tool to improve your productivity so that you can still achieve objectives. Use a “parking lot” to make your meetings more effective.
Use a “parking lot” to achieve objectives
Let’s say you are chairing a meeting and you have a great time-keeper who is making sure your meeting agenda stays on track. But now the allotted time has run out for something under discussion that still warrants further conversation. When this happens, you, as the chair, needs to step in and offer two choices.
Your first option is to get agreement from everyone to adjust the agenda to extend the time available for this agenda item. This means that you must eliminate or reduce the time allotted to another item on the agenda. If this option is selected, the agenda must be adjusted and total time recalculated before continuing.
The “parking lot” explained …
Or the second choice is to send the item being discussed to the metaphorical “parking lot”. The parking lot is a designated white board or flipchart where outstanding issues are logged, with an understanding that they will be tabled as agenda items at a future meeting. Take note that the parking lot is not a place to slough off items in the hope that people will forget about them. The parking lot says, respectfully, “We don’t have the time right now to give this item the attention it deserves, so we are parking it for now until we have a chance to address it more fully.”
The parking lot approach is a very effective way to keep the meeting moving forward while still respecting others’ points of view. It allows you, as the chairperson, to truly facilitate the meeting, and ensures that the meeting continues to stay on track to achieve objectives. In addition to keeping discussions on track, it’s also a respectful way to help people save face, and keep meetings positive and productive.
This video tip is actually number six in a new series I started in January focusing on productivity tools for leaders. If you’d like to access the whole series (and achieve objectives!), then you can access it in our Video Archives.