In my post entitled, “in meetings … Behave Yourself!” I listed some bad meeting behaviors. One of my readers suggested that I offer a few suggestions on good or acceptable meeting behaviors. I believe that we must first make meetings effective and productive to improve behaviors.
Meetings are often criticized as time wasters and worthless. A Recent Clarizen Survey found 67 percent of information workers spend between one to four (or more) hours per week just preparing for status meetings, while four out of ten of those respondents feel that prepping for and attending status meetings is the largest obstacle to efficiently completing work.
Additionally, a Microsoft survey tracking office productivity contacted 38,000 workers around the world to identify “productivity pitfalls.” Respondents reported that two out of every five days on the job were wasted. The main culprit: “ineffective meetings.” Therefore, at least one solution is to design and conduct productive meetings.
Meetings can help you be more productive, not less. They can actually save you time instead of wasting it. The suggestions that follow are some of the ingredients underlying better meetings and therefore better behavior.
1. Have a clear and narrowly focused purpose
Every productive meeting must have a clear purpose. Participants should know what the meeting is for. The purpose should be worth pulling people away from other productive work. For example, the purpose of one of your meetings could be to assess the status of your current Projects, agree what the next steps are, and assign them as Tasks.
2. Provide excellent content and logistical preparation
Preparation is key to productive meetings. Your dashboards or other metrics should be updated prior to the meeting so that the data or information is current and accurate. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) need to show the current score. Projects and Tasks need to be updated to reflect the current reality. Your dashboard must “tell the truth” about exactly where your company is at right now. Every attendee should come prepared to share their perspectives in order to achieve the purpose.
For example, preparation could require that anyone whose Goals or Tasks are falling behind needs to arrive prepared to discuss what is happening, and to provide their recommendations for how to move things forward.
3. Have a clear and defined process
Productive meetings have a clear process, which is defined by an agenda. Your agenda should describe specifically what topics will be discussed and in what order, so that participants know what to expect and how to prepare appropriately. Ideally, you should have a standard agenda for every recurring meeting.
4. Design the meeting to maximize constructive participation
Productive meetings are characterized by the participation of everyone who has been invited. People should only be invited to the meeting because they have something valuable to contribute to the discussion. Otherwise, they should not be there. In addition to this, a meeting facilitator should be appointed who makes sure everyone present is given the opportunity to speak and asked to share their opinion, and not just let the louder, more extroverted team members dominate the discussion.
5. Acknowledge progress and focus on challenges
In a productive meeting, everyone should make progress. They should leave the meeting better off than when they entered. People should be held accountable for honoring their commitments. Decisions need to be made and documented. Everyone should leave with clarity about what needs to done next to move the Goals forward. Any progress achieved since the last meeting needs to be praised and acknowledged.
Progress has been proven by research to be a key driver of employee motivation. When people can see that they are making incremental progress, and receive acknowledgement for it, they are much more likely to feel motivated and engaged. Future progress is ensured by discussing and agreeing the next steps, getting commitments from those involved, and documenting these commitments as specific Tasks to be done before the next meeting. These suggestions for productive meetings should apply to any meeting that a team leader conducts.
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