Archive for February, 2012
We’ve all experienced this workplace scenario: just when you’re in a super-productive groove, checking off your to-do list and impressing yourself with your productivity, a reminder pops up: you’re due in a meeting in 15 minutes. “Oh great,” you think. “This will be a complete waste of time.” By the time the meeting is over, your day is completely derailed and you’ve lost your momentum. To make matters worse, nothing was actually accomplished!
Meetings are a necessary part of business. Most of us wouldn’t dread them if we felt they were actually productive, instead of a waste of valuable time. Unfortunately, too often meetings are ineffective, where little is accomplished and participants feel frustrated.
It doesn’t have to be that way. When people have a clear expectation of a meeting’s objective and what they need to do next, they’re more likely to engage. Your meetings will be more productive, and you won’t be wasting anyone’s time. Most important, your colleagues won’t be filled with dread each time you call a meeting.
Here, we’ll highlight some simple ways to make meetings more effective, by respecting everyone’s time, creating action items and following up.
Respect Everyone’s Time
In the current business climate, most businesses are doing more with less. They’re asking employees for higher productivity, or combining the work of two people into one position. When planning meetings, it’s more important than ever to acknowledge that your co-workers could be overworked and stressed out, with very little extra time.
Since people hate wasting time, the meeting organizer’s job is to ensure it doesn’t happen. Here’s how:
- Decide who really needs to participate, and invite only those people. Provide meeting notes to others who need to be informed, but don’t need to attend.
- Prepare an agenda and stick to it. Determine the meeting objective and state it front and center. An example might be, “We’re meeting to establish a preliminary range for the sales staff’s annual salary increase.”
- Then, list the actions that need to occur in the meeting to accomplish the objective. Use verbs such as “discuss,” “review,” “brainstorm,” “schedule,” and “decide.”
- Keep the meeting as short as possible. If necessary, establish time limits for discussions and table undecided items until the next meeting.
If you’ve run an efficient meeting, you will accomplish the objective. Now, what happens when participants return to their offices and get back to work? Will Steve do that salary survey he mentioned? Was Meredith supposed to contact the management team for input? Or will everyone have forgotten what he or she agreed to do? Assigning action items prevents confusion over who does when, and when.
Create and Assign Action Items
Before everyone leaves the room, determine what needs to happen next. By following these steps, you’ll have a clear plan of action:
- Take official notes. Encourage participants to fully engage by assigning an official note-taker or recording the meeting. It’s difficult to be both facilitator and note-taker, so recruit someone else. Assure attendees they will receive a report, including key points and decisions made by the group, along with action items.
- Decide how decisions will be implemented. Ask participants for input on how the group’s decisions will be implemented. These will be the action items.
- Assign tasks to the group. Determine who is best equipped to handle each action item.
- Distribute notes and action items to the group. As soon as possible post-meeting, distribute a report and list of action items to each participant. Each item should have a clear expectation of what is necessary for successful completion, as well as a due date. Avoid using “ASAP,” since people are more accountable to actual calendar dates.
Assigning action items ensures that the meeting objectives are not forgotten when participants return to their offices and aforementioned to-do lists. It’s just as important to follow up and hold people accountable for their action items.
Follow Up and Report Progress
Action items are the most important component of a meeting. They ensure something will be accomplished and keep all team members on the same wavelength. Remember, it’s essential to hold your co-workers accountable for their action items, or the due dates will come and go without any progress.
Follow up with each attendee to make sure they’re on track. Stop by to talk, send an email or make a phone call to check in, and extend due dates as necessary. Report any progress back to the entire group on a regular basis, until all action items are complete.
To Make Meetings Effective, End with Action Items
Meetings can move projects along or stop them in their tracks – it all depends on how they are run. By following these steps, you’ll make your meetings more productive and effective, with actionable items that get things done. Instead of feeling resentful that their time is being wasted, your co-workers might even look forward to your meetings. Especially if you don’t forget the doughnuts!
Erin Palmer is a contributor to U.S. News University Directory – a leading source for higher education information online. The directory provides working professionals a reliable place to locate accredited colleges. Offerings include advanced business degrees and certificate programs in areas such as; human resources, marketing and project management. For additional information, please visit http://www.usnewsuniversitydirectory.com.
Yes, I am shamelessly exploiting the death of Whitney Houston to write a blog post and using her name in the headline to snag readers.
Actually this idea has been rolling around in my mind for quite a while now, but it took the untimely death of an extraordinary talent to nail it down and give it context.
The lesson? Wellness.
The best definition of “wellness” I ever heard was that is was “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This was said by a doctor during a lecture about integrative medicine. His message was that health care should promote wellness (as defined here) and joy, not only treat disease and illness ( “sick care”, he called that).
The foundations of wellness, he explained, were simple: optimal nutrition, fitness, proper sleep, stress management, and spirituality or joy. These items are not negotiable – they are items that you must do to be well. You cannot be well if you are a stressed out, socially unhappy, tired person, no matter how well you eat or how much you exercise.
Unfortunately, in most cases, companies in the US like to talk about all of the “wellness” initiatives they are making – like giving incentives for people to quit smoking, or playing games with prizes for weight loss. The major reason they do this? It lowers their benefit costs.
But many of those same companies overwork their employees, ignore their personal needs, and dismiss their spiritual or mental well-being. You want to take off the afternoon to go to the beach with your kids? Fuggedaboutit. What do you mean you were watching a video with your family and couldn’t answer your email? Bad performance review. Worked late last night and want to miss the morning meeting? Are you effing kidding?
No matter what the coroner determines Whitney Houston’s cause of death was, she was clearly not a well person, as her public struggles show. She was also a self-employed workforce of one, and that employer paid a very high price for ignoring all the components of wellness.
Someone needs to give American companies a message that employee wellness would be promoted by paying just as much attention to an employee’s mental and social well-being as they do to their weight or smoking habits. If they are really serious about wellness – remove employee’s stress by making sure they are paid well, are valued and not abused, are encouraged to sleep well, and have the opportunity to pursue joy.
Before it’s too late.
Seeing the response to SHRMChat and the increasing involvement of interested people and chapters gives me great hope for the use of social media at the state and local chapter level, and for the increased communication between SHRM and it’s affiliates in general. Let’s keep the momentum building!
Our January chatters discussed platforms and their respective goals. Here’s a general summary:
1. Linkedin is the preferred platform. My own experience tells me that Linkedin is trusted by a larger amount of HR pros, and reaching them where they live seems to be a wise strategy for all of the chapter and council leaders. It was generally agreed that Twitter, which we all know and love as individuals, is too hard to learn for most chapters to adopt as a major communications platform. We are sure that time will change that. There was little discussion of Facebook as a platform.
2. Not everyone is using specific strategies and/or goals in their social media efforts. Some leaders prefer to use social media in whatever way they see fit, without being tied down to a strategy/goal model. Others have very specific goals in mind when they determine effective strategies. Increase in membership numbers seems to be a common goal.
3. Fear of social media by members is an obstacle to overcome. This issue was also discussed in our first chat. It is common experience among all of the tweeps that members are fearful of social media, and that fear creates limitations in the success of social media efforts for chapters. ”Baby Steps” is a mantra that is continually repeated during these discussions. Unfortunately, most don’t know how big my feet are – baby steps are just plain hard for me.
As I mentioned in last month’s blog, the people who have participated in SHRMChat so far seem to be very interested in taking this chat beyond social media. Most want to talk about all things SHRM, and it’s interaction with the locals and states we work so hard to support with our volunteer efforts. With that in mind, I have only one theme and related questions for February:
Which programs or issues do you think are important and appropriate for a future SHRMChat?
For example, the SHAPE initiative has already be discussed to a degree as a way to increase social media use among chapters. What other programs should SHRMChat consider discussing in-depth? If we have a particular program or topic assigned in advance, it would be helpful to get someone from SHRM to be a guest and discuss.
PLEASE JOIN US FOR SHRMChat on Tuesday, February 14th at 8:00 pm EST/7:00 pm CST at #SHRMChat on Twitter.
If you have read this blog before, you know that I like to tell stories. At my advancing age there are so many of them, and social media connections help me remember and revisit them to see if I learned anything at the time, or can still learn now.
So when a Facebook friend posted this comment (about a picture of an alligator), it reminded me of my own time at the police academy.
When I attended the academy, candidates were required to meet certain standards in the following areas – academic, physical agility, and marksmenship. Each area had a minimum score that the candidate had to reach during a final test in order to pass and become certified. If you weren’t certified, you could not work as a police officer.
The physical agility test was a series of tasks, like running a mile in a certain time, and doing a minimum number of push-ups and sit-ups. When it was my turn, I did whatever minimum number it was to pass, and then stopped.
“Hey!” yelled one of my instructors as I was getting up after doing my minimum sit-ups. “I know you can do more!”
“Sure, ” I replied, “but what for? I’m not going to win any agility award, and I passed. I don’t see the point in doing any additional.”
Then I walked away, leaving the instructor scowling.
HR pundits and bloggers often discuss how important it is to try, and how people shouldn’t stop themselves from achieving more. But I’m not sure if it’s necessary to always try to be on top. It may be just as important to minimize your effort in some area in order to shine brighter in another (I did win the academic award with the highest score in my academy class).
Sometimes, I think, good enough really is just that.