In team-based organizations, it is not unusual for employees to spend as much as 70% of their time in meetings. For that reason alone, teams must utilize their meeting time wisely. Here are five essential rules for conducting meetings that you, as a business owner and likely team sponsor should insist on adopting.
1. Conduct team meetings only when there is a reason to meet.
Most team meetings will be information-sharing sessions rather than workshops. Most of the actual work on the project occurs outside of team meetings. Thus, meetings become opportunities to update the entire group, reach consensus, and make timely decisions. Don’t conduct a meeting just because you always meet on the second Tuesday of the month. Publish an objective or purpose for the meeting.
2. During the first few meetings, adopt a code of conduct and courtesies among team members if necessary.
The team should be able to compile and publish a list of practical guidelines for how team business will be conducted. This sounds mundane, but you’d be surprised how soon progress is made when all members know what to expect and how to perform their specific duties. The code may include:
- a commitment to start and end all meetings on time
- what the consequences are for action assignments that are not completed on time due to oversight or laziness
- how differences of opinion will be resolved
- how to avoid having spirited discussions turn into free-for-alls
3. Insist on following a planned agenda.
The most productive meetings I’ve ever participated in kept to an agenda that was distributed to all attendees beforehand. The schedule should describe the main topics and highlights. Equally crucial to the agenda are the action assignments and team member name(s) who accepted the responsibility for completing them. Begin each meeting with a review of the team’s mission statement. Each time the team is reminded of its goal, discussion during the meeting remains focused.
4. Publish and distribute the minutes soon after the meeting.
Nothing is more demoralizing than rehashing the same topics and discussions meeting after meeting because there was no written record of what had already been decided. Minutes of each meeting are particularly crucial to the absent team members. The minutes should not be a transcript of what was said at the meeting. Hit the highlights and main points in a concise yet meaningful manner.
5. Conclude each meeting with an objective evaluation of the proceedings.
What happened during the meeting that contributed to its success? Who asked the question or shed a productive light on the task at hand? The team leader or facilitator should recognize members for their positive performance. People tend to behave in a manner that will get them positive recognition from their leader and peers. Be sure not to blame or embarrass any team members. If today was the first time in five months that X task went right, be sure to make mention of that fact in the meeting review.