The Federal Credit Union — May-June 2012
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Management Insight
Laurie Maddalena

Getting the Most Out of Meetings

Chances are you feel overwhelmed by all the meetings you attend each day. This is one of the biggest complaints I hear from leaders. They say that they don't have time to do their actual work because they have too many meetings to attend. Can you relate?

There are more than 11 million meetings held in workplaces across the country each day, and over 50 percent of that meeting time is wasted.

Why do we keep having ineffective meetings? It could be because we're resistant to change and would rather stay comfortable doing things the way they've always been. If credit unions ran more effective, focused, results-oriented meetings each day, think of the time they would gain each week – time they could spend better serving their members.

In his book, Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni suggests holding weekly tactical meetings to deal with immediate concerns. During these meetings, Lencioni suggests having a "lightening round" where each team member shares their top two or three priorities for the week. He also advises organizations to hold monthly strategic meetings that focus on business planning. Many leaders are so busy putting out fires, that they rarely have time for strategic focus and planning.

Below are eight additional strategies that will help you get the most out of your meetings:

1. Determine if a meeting is needed. Many leaders call meetings for tasks that could be handled by email or a short conference call. One of the best ways to cut down on meetings is to not hold one.

2. Determine frequency. I work with some leaders who hold meetings with each of their employees every week. In some cases, a biweekly coaching session may be more suitable and productive. Also, don't schedule meetings with your staff just for the sake of holding a meeting. Give them the gift of time so they can actually get work done.

3. Set the tone. Start and end your meetings on time. Create an agenda and stick to it. By setting the tone, your meetings will be more productive and focused.

4. Be crystal clear. Begin each meeting by stating its purpose and the result that needs to be accomplished. Make sure to focus 100 percent on getting those results. Most meetings are unproductive because they're held without a goal in mind.

5. Create structure. Most meetings are unstructured and unproductive. Make sure you have a note taker who commits to sending the minutes within 24 hours of the meeting. This ensures that each person is aware of their action items. The note taker should also make sure that a staff member is assigned to every action.

6. Start with the important. Determine what result you need from the meeting, and start with the most important items.

7. Make it interactive. Meetings should be interactive, not passive. No one wants to sit in a meeting where the organizer dominates the discussion. Set the expectation that each person in the meeting should participate. If someone doesn't have anything to add, it's likely they don't need to be in the meeting.

8. Build in accountability. At the beginning of each meeting, have each participant share what they have accomplished toward the project or their functional area since the last meeting. At the end, each person could discuss upcoming projects and deadlines. If you start meetings with accountability, your team will know what to expect and will come prepared.

Make it a priority to set a high bar for your meetings. You will gain more time, get better results and reduce your stress.

Laurie Maddalena is the founder of Envision Excellence, LLC, a professional executive coaching and organizational development consulting firm. Maddalena has over 10 years of experience in management, human resources and organizational development.

There are more than 11 million meetings held in workplaces across the country each day, and over 50 percent of that meeting time is wasted.