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Don't waste team member's timeMeetings Rules - The Basics

In the 2000 decade I conducted seminars for senior executives who wanted to improve how their teams worked together and surprisingly, key issues in every session were how to run meetings and once a decision was made, to improve accountability. With close to 1000 executives views, here are the basics people expect. You will find more of that research in my best practice guide.

How to Run a Meeting

  • Publish an agenda ahead of meeting.
  • Aggressively debate, ask questions, be the contrarian, actively listen.
  • Don't interrupt each other. Everyone's opinion counts.
  • Have a time limit.
  • Be fair.
  • Have a "hanging issues" or "parking lot" flip chart to move an item off the table for a while.
  • Have a mechanism for folks to acknowledge the understand someone's opinion, maybe by vote or a small flag you display, to politely end a discussion.
  • Come back to the "hanging issues" towards the end of the discussions to determine if you need to revisit one or it has been resolved. Remember, the future is uncertain and there will be ambiguities.
  • In the last round, everyone has to publicly agree or disagree. No silent dissent (passive aggressive behavior).

How to improve accountability

A very frustrating outcome of strategic planning meetings is that you think you have agreement around the table on what is to be done and who will do it, but a month later someone "recalls" that they were not accountable. Folks commonly agree to a concept in a meeting but do not explicitly accept accountability to execute. The solution to get people to be accountable involves how you run and finish a meeting — a leadership approach which respects the integrity and experience of those at the meeting.

First, here are six fundamentals on how to conduct decision meetings so the participants want to be accountable for the outcomes:

  • Ensure those who will be accountable are in the meeting!
  • At the start of the meeting before confirming the agenda, ensure everyone knows that the purpose of the meeting is to make decisions and to assign responsibility and accountability.
  • Ask those attending "can you make the decision or do you have to get someone else's permission?" If they are not empowered, call their boss and make sure they are.
  • As the meeting progresses, ask if there are concerns or objections. Keep a list of these issues that everyone can see.
  • At each milestone in the discussion be clear about accountability, responsibility and specific objectives (confirm and clarify) and then link an individual's tasks to everyone else's tasks.
  • Keep a running summary what needs to be done and who is responsible and accountable on a flip chart, whiteboard or PowerPoint presentation. Sometimes others may be responsible to carry out the work, but the person at the meeting must be accountable for its completion.

Second, there are two steps to end the meeting: the confirmation process and the boss acknowledgment of the assignments eyeball to eyeball.

The confirmation process involves committing to the agreement starting with the most junior person and progressing to the most senior. Ensure that any objections, concerns or uncertainties are expressed and resolved, or people can avoid publicly buying in. Once the more junior folks, usually those with most of the action items, think their boss or another boss is done, they can stay quiet and avoid responsibility. Refer back to the list of list of concerns, have the all be satisfied or at least discussed. Once everyone has the opportunity to resolve their issues or have them acknowledged, you then ask publicly "do you buy in."

If the meeting is of great importance, ask the boss to attend the final part of the meeting, summarize the agreement and get his or her buy off.

 



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