The key to conduct a meeting productively involves a number of procedures - primarily from the perspective of being the organizer and facilitator.
Circulate an agenda - An agenda should show the planned steps that get the meeting from ‘one point’ to ‘another.’ It helps the participants prepare suitably and anticipate the kind of information they might need to produce. Most importantly, it works as a contract with the participants.
Have a theme - Meetings shouldn’t be indirect tours of each participant’s logical understanding. Make it clear why this meeting is happening, why each person is participating at a given time, and then use your agenda to augment how the theme will be explored or tackled in each section of the meeting.
Set (and honour) times for beginning, ending, and breaks - There’s nothing worse than a meeting where everyone who knows anything will just chatter on or where the leader will stop only when he gets tired of hearing himself talk. Own your meeting by putting up walls — provide structure and be firm about respecting everyone’s time. Honour the time walls. .
No electronic grazing. Period - Phones off. You’re either at the meeting or you’re not at the meeting, and few things are more distracting or disruptive than the guy who has to check his messages every five minutes. Schedule breaks for people to fiddle with their ‘toys’, but fearlessly enforce a no grazing rule once the meeting’s back in session.
Schedule guests - Do not put thirty people in a room for three hours if twenty of them will have nothing to do for all but the last ten minutes. In your agenda, make it clear when people will be needed and you’ll encourage best use of everyone’s time. It’s also extra incentive (or even an excuse) to tick off agenda items in a timely manner. (”Well, it looks like Mr. Khanna is here to share his sales report, so let’s move on.”)
Be a referee and employ a time-keeper - If you can afford it, have one person in the meeting be the slavish time-keeper so you, as the leader, can focus on facilitating, summarizing, clarifying, and just keeping things moving. Working closely with the time-keeper, you should not be afraid to announce things like “Okay, we have three minutes left for this, so let’s wrap up with any questions you have for Mr. Khanna, and then move on.”
Stay on target - Any item that can be resolved between a couple people offline or that does not require the knowledge, consent, or input of the majority of the group should be scotched immediately. Close rat holes. As soon as the needed permission, notification, or task assignment is completed, just move on to the next item.
Follow up - If you have been utilizing a project manager or note taker (and God knows you should), be sure to use a few minutes at the end for him or her to review any major new projects or action items that were generated in the meeting. Have the project manager email the list of resolved and new action items to all the participants.
Be consistent - Take any of these tips that work for you — and many certainly may not — but understand one thing above all; meetings do not run themselves, and if you have any desire to make best use of people’s valuable time, you’ll need a firm hand and a lot of thoughtful planning. Set a pattern of being the one whose meetings don’t bore others and you’ll start seeing the productivity, tone, and participation in your meetings consistently improve.
“What part does decision making play in managing? I shall find it convenient to take mild liberties with the English language by using decision making as though it were synonymous with management.”
| Herbert Simon |
You are bright, knowledgeable and ambitious. Your career is spiraling upwards. Now, an emergency crops up and you can’t reach the boss who’s out of town. You have some vital choices to make—on your own. How do you feel? Confident, focused and clear about your goals? Excited about taking the initiative? Nervous—you break into a cold sweat? Like there’s an invisible sword dangling over your head?...
Look at the corporate doyens of today. How did they achieve so much? Well, obviously they worked hard, networked well, asked the right questions, and learnt from experience. They were curious. They were creative. They persevered and they felt accountable for their actions. Well, these are the traits of most successful people. However, besides all of this, they also had to make certain crucial and timely decisions during the course of their career. These were the points of no return, where the tide could turn for better or for worse. And there was no time to calculate or contemplate the possibility of regret.
To decide is to make up one's mind. It implies making a conscious choice between two or more alternatives. We constantly take decisions in our professional and personal lives. But how do we make the right decisions? Well, ‘good’ decision-making starts with a strategic thinking. It comes from never being ‘indecisive’.