Posted by: johnocunningham | June 6, 2016

Collaboration and Meetings: How To Make Them Work Together

In recent months, I have noticed a spate of stories about two seemingly contradictory trends – a growing emphasis on the importance of collaboration to innovation and product quality, and an uptick in the number of employees who think that team meetings are a waste of time.

What this says to me is that collaboration is great in theory but messy in practice, especially when it comes via office meetings that are too often poorly conducted.

A survey of articles on the subject of meeting facilitation shows that the top five complaints about team meetings are as follows:

  1. Meetings go too long, a phenomenon blamed mostly on endless repetition and parroting of thoughts that could be expressed more succinctly.
  2. Meetings lack a clearly stated purpose and agenda, which also contributes to their length. They become unedited verbalizations in search of a meaning.
  3. Too many people arrive late, leave early or pay no attention during meetings.
  4. When someone other than the leaders speaks out, their ideas are criticized or rejected out of hand.
  5. Too often, there are no stated conclusions as a result of the team meeting and there is no action plan for what to do prior to the next meeting in order to achieve meaningful goals.

If you want to conduct an effective meeting that facilitates and enhances collaborative communication, here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Identify the purpose of the meeting, and limit the purpose to something that requires consensus, analysis or brainstorming by the entire group, so that you don’t waste people’s time.
  2. Communicate the purpose of the meeting ahead of time, and state what you hope to accomplish with such a meeting.
  3. Invite all people necessary to achieve the meeting’s purpose, but only those people necessary for that purpose as well.
  4. Select a meeting venue that is conducive to your stated task, perhaps one that is quiet and isolated from distractions.
  5. Well ahead of the meeting, provide all attendees with an agenda and any supporting documentation that will be discussed.
  6. Limit the number of items on the agenda so the meeting does not run too long.
  7. Designate a meeting leader or facilitator who understands meeting principles and who can skillfully and gracefully maintain group focus and pace while encouraging people to participate and collaborate in developing solutions to group problems. Such a facilitator should also know how to summarize and state conclusions or action plans for the group as a whole.
  8. Designate a note-taker who can work well with the facilitator on summarizing issues and proposals discussed at the meeting while identifying action steps to be taken after the meeting by various team members.
  9. Request that all pagers, cell phones, and other electronic devices be turned off during the meeting, so that everyone in the group is respected.
  10. Start and end the meeting on time, leaving late attendees to get their own information from meeting summaries and post-meeting conversations. This will train people to respect the group and put the interests of the group above their own.

If you need help facilitating a productive group meeting or conference, don’t hesitate to contact me. For several years running, I ran the highest-rated service department in a company with several thousand employees while maintaining a high level of employee satisfaction and retention.

 

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