The success of your business is reliant on the success of your people working for it. When companies place time, energy, and resources on ensuring the well-being, success, and growth of their team, not only will this yield a more responsive and loyal staff, but it will also unearth a plethora of talent, creative ideas, and passion for the company.
One way businesses can help their staff grow is through meetings. Meetings are the bones of an organization, and regular scheduled meetings with the right number of people provide the structure for getting things done in your organization. Business meetings, whether they are focusing on new products, organization changes, or the input of your team, are all about getting your staff on the same page and solving actual problems.
To be effective, business meetings need to be led and conducted successfully. This is not as hard as it seems. In reality, there are very few steps to a great meeting. Since the kind of meetings we are talking about are repeating meetings, an agenda that never changes can really help.
If you are looking to avoid the business meeting blues, here are 8 tips to help ensure that your business meeting is a success:
1. Preparation Is Key
As with every successful plan, preparation is the key to success. Whenever you decide you are going to have a business meeting, the following need to be thought about by every member of the team:
- Who needs to be at this meeting weekly? In management terms, a meeting should be no larger than what a single large pizza can feed. If you want your team to engage, you have to keep the number of relationship pairs to a minimum to allow people to manage each other. Too many, and people hide. Too few and you don’t have enough diversity to make choices. Try for no less than 4 and no more than 10 in any meeting. There are exceptions to this rule, but larger meetings tend to be “telling sessions” rather than meetings and smaller ones can be held individually and don’t really need a meeting at all. Teams can be Leadership teams, or sub teams like Sales Team, Marketing Team, or Operations Teams.
- What numbers do we need to discuss in the meeting? Your company needs a scorecard, and the numbers will tell you whether you are winning or not, both as a team and as individuals on a team. Your numbers need to be simple leading indicators of the future of what is likely to happen, or has just happened, so you can make choices about what to do when they do not meet expectations.
- How are we doing on our main priorities? Generally these are Goals or Rocks the team has agreed to complete in a quarter. You only need to report on the status, not give a catchup. Is the priority On Track? Behind? Completed?
- What headlines need to be shared with the organization? This is about sharing information around the company about staff and clients. Who had an anniversary? Who did a great job last week? What stress is a client or an employee under? To get everyone on the same page, you have to know these ahead of time.
- Are we getting the things done we need to? In last weeks meeting, we assigned out tasks to be completed before this weeks meeting. All we need to report on is, “Did we complete the task or not?”
- What issues have arisen in the last week that need to be discussed? Over the last weeks of meetings, your team has discovered all the issues that are keeping your team from meeting its goals, and have gotten them out on paper. These are the issues that need discussion. During the week, as issues arise, they can be added to the list for the meeting to come.
Never start a meeting without being able to answer the above questions. While meetings can be effective, ones that waste company and employee time can lead to frustration and lowered morale of your staff. Just as you value your time, remember that your staff also values theirs, and showing them that you respect that will go a long way.
2. Make Sure You Have a Clear Agenda
If you are ever walking around the office and hear the dreaded words from your staff, “do you even know what this meeting is about?” then it is a strong possibility that your staff isn’t invested. They are not invested, because they are boring and really do not require your team.
Now, how about an agenda that will guarantee involvement and excitement. Here is that agenda:
- 5 minutes of ice breaker. Two good things from each person. One professional, one personal.
- 5 minutes going over the numbers. If they are not as expected (off the goal) then make an issue on the issues list for each missed number.
- 5 minutes going over the rocks. If they are OffTrack, make an issue of each off track goal.
- 5 minutes on employee and client news. Just announce it. If there is potential action to take, add it to the issues list.
- 5 minutes on last weeks tasks. Did they all get done by the date due? If not, make an issue of the task.
- 60 minutes of going over the issues. This is where the fun happens.
When the agenda is the same every week, all your team will be ready for the meeting every time. Additionally, your time will be freed up to focus on issues and numbers, and not focus on creating an amazing agenda.
3. Make Sure You Are Inviting the People That Need to Be There
Not every part of your staff has the same purpose or role. It is important to align most meetings with the teams that the people are on. Leadership, Marketing, Sales, Operations, Finance all may need separate meetings, and each will be slightly different and cover different issues, but the agenda will be the same for each meeting.
4. Make Sure You Are Scheduling Meetings at Considerate Times
There are specific times of the day where meetings are not only ineffective but can result in a poor turnout. For example, meetings should be avoided during the following times:
- The first hour of the workday
- The last hour of the workday
- Lunchtime (unless food is provided)
- During the busiest days and times of the week for your business.
- Mondays can be bad because so many of them are National Holidays, you will be rescheduling your meetings all the time.
Schedule the meeting for the same time every week. Pick a time that works for each team, and ensure other teams cover for them while they are in the meeting.
Make sure people know that being late or skipping the meetings is unacceptable. This is where the really hard work of the team will get done and they will be needed.
5. Always Start On Time And Follow The Agenda
Meetings should always start and end on time and progress according to the schedule. Make sure you have some simple techniques to keep the meeting on track and moving smoothly. This will keep people on track and satisfied that the meetings are actually solving key issues. Here are some tips:
- Make sure you have a decisive way to start the meeting, such as closing the door
- Make sure you keep a watch or a clock to take note of when your time might be running short. A 5 minute timer is very helpful.
- If you are getting to the end of your meeting but the team is still discussing, make sure you interject by asking if a second meeting should be scheduled to continue the discussion
If your meeting is nearing the end a bit earlier than expected,this could be a sign that your users are not ferreting out all the needed issues. Still, if there are no issues to solve, lets get back to execution of the business.
6. Encourage and Direct Discussion
Discussion happens during the Issues Segment. Here is where the fun begins.
Go over all the issues on the list and do the following:
- Kill old issues that are no longer an issue
- Combine issues that relate to each other.
- Keep current issues
- Review each issue for clarity about what it means. (do not discuss it at this point other than to get clarity.
- Vote on which issues to tackle. Each member gets 3 votes, and they can spread them out or put them all on one issue.
Now, take the issue that gets the most votes and start the IDS Process. Take the first issue and solve it like this.
IDS stands for Investigate-Discuss-Solve:
- Investigate to discover the Core Issue. Don’t just discuss the issue. Make sure you are talking about the root cause, and not just a symptom. You can use tools like “5 Whys” or Fishbone Diagrams to ensure you are discussing the right thing, but do not go further until you are sure you are talking about the Right Thing.
- Discuss ways to solve the Core Issue. This is where fighting for your plan is needed. Encourage everyone to pitch an idea. Then everybody discuss which one will likely give us the best outcome.
- Solve the issue so it never needs to be solved again. This is more difficult to do than you would think. Come up with tasks which can be accomplished to do your plan to solve the issue and get it off your plate forever. Assign these tasks and put them on the task list for next week.
Then move on to the next issue, and progress down until your time runs out.
Every team has individuals who are quiet, thoughtful, and often don’t share their ideas in a larger setting. Don’t let those team members go unnoticed or unheard. Sometimes, a little encouragement or asking for their thoughts can help lead to viewpoints that have not been thought of and lead to ideas that can be game-changing to your business. The same goes for individuals who may not agree with the group. Respectfully ask for their opinion. Sometimes opposition can lead to finding a middle ground or pointing out flaws in the policy or product that weren’t previously considered.
Remember also to direct the conversation as sometimes it can wander away from the topic at hand. Stay on the IDS pathway for each issue. While these off-topic discussions can be valuable, they can also be distracting and waste time. When you are having a meeting that is starting to go off the rails, there are a few things you can do to help bring it back to the matter at hand:
- Write down the new issue and add it to the issues list. Let the team know it will be discussed if we have enough time, or next week if it gets voted on.
- Let your team know that the meeting is getting off-topic and that you would like to return to the meeting agenda
- Ask questions about the original topic, bringing the meeting back to the original line of thought
It is also important to set guidelines about electronics usage in the meeting. Phones are extremely distracting. Remind employees to turn off their phones or put them on silent. This will allow your employees’ attention to stay where it is needed.
7. Make Notes About Employee Feedback
Taking notes about what your employees say can help you remember the important points of the meeting and any concerns that may need to be addressed, and it also shows your team that you are actively listening. Sometimes, keeping these notes in front of the team, such as on a whiteboard, can help focus the conversation by reminding others what has already been said and creating a clear understanding between your team members. Remember to also make note of the outcome and whether or not a follow-up meeting is needed.
8. Before You End the Meeting, Give a Recap
Keeping notes during the meeting can help with this step. Giving a recap can ensure that you and your team members are on the same page. This reiterates that the new information shared as well as any concerns and thoughts are all understood. Any follow-up meetings should be scheduled immediately to prevent running into scheduling conflicts and to help keep everyone on the same page. Recap should cover:
- Each person’s ranking of the meeting, 1-10. Rate on whether we did the agenda or not.
- Review each task assigned and who took it on.
- Review messages that need to be pushed down to sub-teams to ensure all the messaging is consistent in the company.
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