I’ve been in a lot of “go no-where” meetings lately, and some of my friends (and poker buddies) have mentioned the same thing. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review provided some tips on how to take action to make meetings productive. I learned a long time ago that focusing on clearly defined action items moves things along and gets results. So, here are just a few tips to help you take control and make meetings more productive.
- Play Dumb: Don’t be afraid to ask simple questions. “What’s the problem we’re trying to solve? What needs to happen to resolve this issue?” Too often I see people afraid to speak up and ask questions. Don’t be!! In large groups, I’ll guarantee you there’s at least a few other people wondering the same thing. If you’ve been invited to the meeting someone believes that you can add some value, so don’t be afraid to speak up. Questions clarify issues and get you one step closer to a resolution. To really make meetings productive build “Clarifying Questions” into your meeting agenda. This can help to make asking questions “safe” (especially with new team members) and will get you to the core of the issue and resolution more quickly.
- Identify A Decision Maker: Before a meeting starts, identify who the decision maker is. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just picking the most senior person in the room. (If they aren’t even in the room well, your group is wasting their time). Once the decision maker is identified they will need to tell you what’s required to make the decision and when they want that information. All too often I’ve seen groups of people run around collecting data only to make a presentation that doesn’t provide the decision maker with what they were originally looking for. So just ask!!
- Get the Right People in the Room – ALL of them. For example, when looking at taking on a new piece of business you often talk to your sales people and hopefully your operations team. But do you also have HR in the room? Let’s face it – if you can’t find new, qualified employees in time to make deliveries you may do more harm than good with that new client. And what about purchasing? Are the raw materials you need available – and at the price your sales person quoted last month? Gasoline is up TWENTY CENTS in the last two weeks!! Other commodity prices may fluctuate just as much – if not more. Oh – and speaking of fuel prices – is your shipping or logistics manager (or outsourced partner) in the room? You sales people (rightly so) want to make the sale and your operations manager wants to deliver. But without all of the information from all of the appropriate parties, how can the truly RIGHT decision be made?
The overriding theme here is that to make meetings more productive don’t be afraid to ask questions, identify the key issues and decision makers and get the necessary people in the room. If you do all of this, you’ll probably find that your meetings are shorter, more productive, and seen as time savers, rather than time wasters.
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