We all spend a lot of time in meetings, but not all meetings are an effective use of our time. Here are nine simple steps to make your meetings more effective and worth the time.
Meeting Purpose. Why is this a group meeting? If it’s a standing group meeting, such as a bi-weekly management team meeting, articulate the group’s purpose clearly to know what topics should and should not be covered. It helps to create a purpose statement for the management team or any ongoing group. If it’s an ad hoc group, the purpose of the group should be spelled out at the start of the meeting to focus the members on the specific tasks they’ve been charged with.
Meeting Calendar. Use a basic planning calendar to track the team’s group goals, projects and progress. The calendar can then be checked prior to the development of each meeting’s agenda to make sure important issues and projects get scheduled into the team’s routine work. This helps the team prioritize the goals they want to accomplish and not just spend the whole meeting on routine topics.
Ground Rules. Clearly understood ground rules for meetings set the expectations for conduct and professionalism. For example, are team members expected to uphold a team decision outside the meeting even if they disagreed with it? Write down these expectations as a “code of conduct” and ask each team member to sign it, acknowledging agreement to adhere to the rules. Written codes of conduct also provide excellent tools to orient new team members to the standards of the team. Click here to download a sample code of conduct.
- Use an agenda template to simplify agenda creation. Click here to download a sample meeting agenda.
- Allow participants to offer agenda items and be sure each topic has an owner. No one person should own the entire agenda.
- Indicate the expected outcome for each agenda topic. Is it an announcement? A discussion? A decision?
- Allocated time to each topic realistically to achieve the expected outcome.
- Order the topics for good discussion flow.
Design Your Meeting Space. Make the meeting space easy to navigate for all participants. To allow the meeting topics to take center stage, keep the meeting space free of clutter. Make sure everyone can see and hear each other. This means people should be able to re-direct their attention and bodies easily and without restraint. Finally, the space needs to be comfortable in terms of temperature, noise levels and adequate room for seating or standing.
The Importance of Facilitation. The facilitator ensures that the meeting starts and ends on time and follows the agenda, respecting the time allotted for each topic. But good facilitation goes beyond this. A skilled facilitator encourages everyone to be heard, doesn’t let anyone dominate the discussion, helps clarify others’ contributions and makes sure the group reaches its desired outcome. If the team leader is presenting many of the agenda items, it can help to assign the facilitator role to someone else. Also designate a timekeeper and a note taker.
Action Steps. That entire meeting is of limited value without clarity on what to do next. No topic on the agenda should conclude without clearly documenting the next steps. Determine in the meeting one specific person who will be responsible for ensuring that the next step happens, and a deadline for completing the work. Even if, ultimately, the whole team is responsible for getting the next step accomplished, choose one person from that team to be responsible for seeing that it happens.
Parking Lot. When a great but off-topic idea arises, capture it in the parking lot. Move items from the parking lot onto later agendas as time allows or the topics become high priority.
Following up. Meeting documentation is rendered useless if no one goes back to see if we did what we said we’d do. If you have recurring meetings, make it a habit to start each meeting with a follow-up from the last meeting, or to ensure that meeting participants otherwise report out on their progress, get feedback and any support needed to be successful in their assignments.
Grab and Go Solutions is a resource from CDS Consulting Co-op to provide easy to implement solutions to common issues facing food co-ops. Watch for future releases tackling a wide variety of topics including HR, governance, member engagement, safety, store and growth.
Other Resources for Better Meetings:
- Make your Team Meetings a Success by Carolee Colter, Canadian Natural Health Retailer, November 2011
- Your Best Meeting Ever a webinar produced for Food Co-op Initiative by Mark Goehring and Michael Healy, 2014
- Recipe for Good Board Meetings by Michael Healy, Cooperative Grocer magazine, January-February 2010