I’m sure we have all been stuck in a meeting and had thoughts similar, just as in the parody articles below. The question no doubt asked is – “how did we get here?”.
That’s actually the question that SHOULD be asked. How did team members end up in a meeting without being fully aware of what it’s about. So here are some simple tips on maximising the value of meetings and reducing the pain for those there.
- Define why you need it: So often a meeting occurs because you’re just used to having similar meetings or there is some vague need to get/give information. If you stop and WRITE DOWN exactly why the meeting is necessary, you will have a better chance of making sure it only goes ahead if critical as well as staying on mission. Having mixed or multiple WHY’s can mean it’s a combined topic meeting, but often this can make the process a bit confusing for those in the meeting. Consider breaking topics off into separate forums or at least have a firm boundary of when one topic ends and the second one starts (e.g. firm agenda).
- Only have who you need in the room: Meetings are expensive given most people lose at least some time preparing, getting there or in the gaps between finishing their last task and not enough time to start another before the meeting. And in today’s knowledge worker age, we need significant mental focus to do our work – thus lost time getting back on topic afterward. Having people in the room for less than essential FYI reasons is just a waste of time and money that could often have been achieved with a follow up email or ‘offline’ conversation.
- Communication but not as we know it: All meetings are about communication in some way, but if it’s purely about communication and not consultation, then there is a high likelihood that at least some of it can be completed outside of the meeting forum. While it sounds simple, don’t underestimate the value in defining the direction of the desired communication you’re wanting to occur in the meeting. Is it top down or is it bottom up? An organisations leadership team (e.g. the PCBU/employer) normally have numerous opportunities to communicate down to the team members, so have a good think to determine if this is the best forum for them to deliver their message. Often though, in the HSEQ space, there is a need to provide a forum for floor level workers to raise issues to their leaders. So if this is the WHY behind the meeting, what harm is being done when it starts with a 40 minute presentation from a HSEQ professional or supervisor on some issue of the moment? Doing this and asking after ward, are their any issues to be raised will likely end up with none.
- Set the meeting up for success: Pick a time and place that promotes effective communication. Where possible, don’t have it first thing on Monday morning or on fly out day when team members are still waking up or reconnecting after their weekend. The except is if it’s critical to the team’s awareness of what they’ve missed over that period or information to help keep them safe/allow them to do their job on that first day/shift back. At the same time, and meeting on Friday afternoon or just before knock off is just likely to have the feeling in the room that they’ll strangle anyone who drags it out my more than a minute. If you want them to listen to the message from the top, or to raise genuine concerns, then make it an environment that promotes this.
- Consultation and communication are different: Consultation happens WITH someone and communication occurs FROM or TO someone. So don’t kid yourself you’re engaging in a consultative meeting if it’s set up so there is an endless flow of communication occurring which suppresses any likely consultation. If the main priority for having the meeting is to meet legislated consultation requirements, then make sure it’s consultative. A small amount of communication to define what it’s about or to ‘break the ice’ of conversation is OK, but remain ever vigilant in your focus on why your there.
There are plenty of other good tips on making the most of your meetings, but hopefully these 5 tips will reduce the pain for workers and leaders in sitting through meetings that add no value or seem to never be able to achieve their intended aim.
Check out the links below to these parody articles on meetings. I can certainly relate to being in and unfortunately sometimes running those ineffective meetings myself. Hopefully you’ll now be less likely to do either.