By Cindy Vallance
Why do we have meetings? Often our reasons are noble. We want to share information and plans, encourage collegiality, and provide opportunities for consultation, decision making and mutual learning.
Sadly, however, some meetings can seem to make decision making more difficult and feel like a substitute for getting things done. People leave these meetings frustrated or puzzled and wonder why they bothered to attend.
How can we ensure that meetings we are responsible for are organised and conducted in such a way that demonstrates respect for everyone who is giving their time to attend? In turn, if we are asked to participate in a meeting, how can we show respect to the person who has called it?
If I am responsible for the meeting, firstly I need to decide the PURPOSE of the full meeting or each portion of the meeting.
Is it to pass on information? I have news to share with you about …
Is it to gather information? What do you think of …?
Is it for decision-making? What are we going to do about…?
Is it for problem solving? How should we resolve…?
In preparing the meeting agenda, we must be clear about its purpose and make this purpose known to meeting participants.
There are also a range of OBJECTIVES to consider when conducting meetings:
For instance, we may want to:
- test the reactions of colleagues to our ideas
- pool ideas and experiences on a subject in order to learn from each other
- identify when further information is needed prior to decision making
- build group morale
This might all seem like common sense.
However, meetings provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the old adage “easier said than done.” I know that I certainly have not always given due thought to purpose and objectives with every meeting I have been responsible for. However, that is why reminders exist…to bring us back to principles that we may know but have sometimes become too busy or too lax to practice with the appropriate rigour. Meetings, like any other professional practice, require thoughtful consideration and intentionality.
Wouldn’t it be great if more meetings were clear on their purpose and objectives before we showed up, poured a coffee, and settled ourselves around the table?
Next time, hints on regular team meetings.