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Making Meetings Count

John Manning Posted by John Manning.

John Manning is the President of Management Action Programs, Inc. (MAP), a general management consulting firm based in Southern California.

Making Meetings Count

Are your meetings more about having a nice discussion and eating lunch or all about direction and action? These two types of meetings look distinctly different and, consequently, deliver two different outcomes.

Fortunately, you have the power to help control the outcome by making accountability part of every meeting’s mantra. For most agenda items, focus on what decisions must be made, what action items need to be captured, who is going to do those action items, and when they will get done. Adopt this discipline for your meetings, and you’ll reap the rewards of greater goal ownership and achievement.

Here are some specific guidelines to follow:

Establish and enforce ground rules. Having courtesy and demonstrating respect both for yourself and others can make or break a meeting. If you don’t already have a list of rules, develop one and then gain agreement from the group, so there’s consensus and ownership on behalf of everyone attending. Consider making up and agreeing on a “code word,” so that if a rule is being violated there’s a friendly way of reminding the offender immediately. Then have the courage to enforce the ground rules that have been established. Hold everyone accountable to these rules they’ve adopted.

Pick a facilitator. If you’re not leading the meeting, you’ll need someone to facilitate it effectively. That person’s role is to manage the flow and tone of discussions, endure an efficient decision-making process, and create agreement around a decision or action around specific needs. They do this by keeping the team on topic, preventing or stopping discussions that tend to be general vs. specific, and bringing people back to the immediate goal.

Assign roles. When your people take on specific roles in the meeting, they’re more invested, involved and naturally accountable. Roles don’t have to be limited to facilitator, either. You can assign people roles of booking and setting up for the meeting, preparing the agenda, making a presentation or report, inserting some element of “fun” or surprise, timekeeping and doing minutes.

Capture action items. I’ve sat in plenty of meetings in which there was a lot of nice discussion but no takeaway. Or worse, if something was decided, people walked out of the meeting and soon forgot what they actually agreed upon. In both situations, the pitfall was a failure to answer the questions: What are the next steps? Who is going to do it? When will it be done? Every meeting should close with the dedicated effort to answer these three questions. To ensure that happens, actually list “Capture Action Items” or “What’s Next” as a line item on the agenda. Because this is so important for moving forward and accountability, if you do nothing else, don’t dismiss the meeting until the actions or next steps are crystal clear. Finally, in your follow-up communications, make sure the captured action items are stated and even emphasized.

What else have you done to ensure greater accountability in your meetings?

Originally published April 21, 2015

John Manning is the president of Management Action Programs, Inc. (MAP), and author of The Disciplined Leader.  Learn more about his work at www.disciplinedleader.com, or connect with him on Twitter @JohnMManning.

Have you had any luck using these tips to get your meetings back on track?  Share your story in the comments!  And to learn more about The Disciplined Leader, you can click on the cover below.  

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