Tips to get the most out of meetings

score Question:
It seems like I'm spending most of my time at one meeting or another, manufacturing, sales, human resources, etc. I'd like to know what's going on and be involved with my company's direction, but I don't need all this lost time.

Business meetings consume about 25 percent of the average manager's time and as much as 75 percent of a large company manager's day. Organizations are changing, and organizational meetings need to be transformed as well.

There are new insights into how to maximize your group's time together. If you're going to discuss sales, that is an activity, not a result. What you want to achieve with sales is a result. When you start with the end in mind, you're more likely to achieve your goal.

Some thing to keep in mind:

  • Start your meetings by discussing its purpose. Meetings are an essential tool for management; therefore, it's imperative that they be adapted to your expectations. A problem in most business meetings is a lack of clarity regarding the purpose of the meeting. Get your people results-focused not activity-focused.

  • Some meeting should not take place. To help determine this, have the meeting chairman [or woman] write down and distribute what change or result is to be accomplished so that the success of the meeting toward reaching your goal can be assessed afterward.

  • Project updates and the sharing of FYIs can be emailed. Not every meeting has to have a strategy session. A meeting is important when there is a cultural change in the organization.

  • Inadequately prepared meetings are among the chief complaints of managers. Preparation needs to address the purpose, who's coming, what's going to be decided, how long the meeting will last and where the meeting will be.

  • Decision by default is probably the most used pattern of business and governmental decision-making. Authoritarianism is out, consensus is in, and this can be a series of small meetings.

  • The standard agenda is a thorough, logical method to define the problem, analyze the problem, establish criteria by which solutions can be evaluated, explore alternatives, select the most effective solution and implement that solution.

  • Meetings have a problem when overdeveloped egos take over and issues get decided on the competing interests of the people at the table, not on the merits of the issues. The meeting chairman [or woman] must prevent this by informal one-on-one consultation so that it doesn't interfere with the purpose of the meeting.

  • Meetings are expensive, and preparation must be taken to ensure their effectiveness. It is up to you as the leader to set the tone - by setting the standard for all of those who report to you. The time spent in developing that standard can show great returns upon implementation, greater productivity and profits.

    Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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