Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Behavior norms for effective meetings

Man in meeting
Originally uploaded by tisner

Meetings are a key tool in a participative, involvement oriented company. They are also potentially the biggest time-wasters, cost-consumers and conflict-generators that you manage. You've read a zillion times about some of the principles for holding effective meetings, but let's review - because way more people KNOW these things than actually DO them.

  • Distribute an agenda in advance so participants can prepare.
  • Allocate a specific time frame and stick to it. Incorporate an allowance for discussion if two-way interaction is what you want.
  • Have someone take notes.
  • Distribute a list of action items once the meeting is complete.

Beyond the "stuff" that you do for your meeting process, you also have the human dynamic to manage, and here's where a lot of meeting leaders leave too much to chance. Take a look at this list:

  • No phone calls are to be taken nor texts sent during the meeting. When we are present we are completely present.
  • We start on time and end on time. If you're not here when we start we will (choose one) lock the door, fine you a dollar, make you sit in the corner, ignore you, etc.
  • You may eat or drink while in the meeting, but may not consume mind altering substances (caffeine excepted) or food items that stink while in here.
  • Leave your title at the door. We all have equal rights to our contributions, and to speak them without retribution.
  • No swearing, name calling, or spitting in the corner. This is a civilized room.
  • No personal attacks.
  • In God we trust - everyone else brings data.
  • We will test and measure. We do not engage in dueling opinions before the fact.
  • After the meeting someone will take action on the topics we discuss here. You will know what your assignment is before you leave.

You get the idea. It might seem at first blush that these things are common sense, that there wouldn't be a need to write them down. But in practice it's been my experience that leaders complain about things like, "People are never on time for the management meeting." This is probably because the group has waited for them to arrive in the past, creating an expectation that the group will wait. Then other people who don't want to waste the first five minutes waiting for the late arrivals will then ALSO start to show up late. It becomes a slippery slope.

As with any behavioral expectation, you will get the best compliance if all parties involved have a say in the development of the expectation. Agree upon the means by which a violation is called out, and what consequences will arise from a violation of the code. You as the leader set the tone for acceptable behavior - by what you tolerate and don't tolerate before you reel it in.

1 comment:

karim said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Karim - Positive thinking