Making Your Meetings Matter

Are you a meeting minimalist, or do you have meetings for the purpose of planning another meeting? Most companies fall into one extreme or the other when it comes to meetings. Either endless meetings upon meetings, or to the other extreme, no formal meetings of managers or staff at all. There is no question you need to have meetings to communicate with your staff, plan for the future, and to share ideas. The test is in the preparation and planning for these meetings, clearly defining what needs to be accomplished, communicating this intent to each participant, and making every meeting have a useful and productive purpose.

Set a Time and Start on Time
Begin every meeting on time, and get down to business right away. This is a simple idea, but you may be surprised how many managers, supervisors and employees waste valuable time sitting in a conference room waiting for meetings to actually begin. You arrive at a meeting only to sit and wait for one or two of the participants to finish a call, pull together their meeting materials, or just sit at their desks finishing up work until someone picks up the phone to say, “We’re waiting for you.”

If it’s the boss who is always tardy, before long everyone will begin drifting into the meetings later and later as well. All behavior in a business is a reflection from the top. So, if you’re the boss, be sure you display the attitude that you want your company to mirror.

Smaller is Better
I’m all for seeing participation from every single person within a company, but meetings have to be limited in order to be productive. When a group grows larger than five or six, full interaction and participation diminishes.
In the spirit of being inclusive one company held a monthly meeting that included everyone who had any sort of supervisory title or position. The theory was to motivate through this inclusion, but the result was far different. Every supervisor and manager was specifically required to contribute one topic to the meeting (forced participation), even if the person had nothing worthwhile to contribute. As you might imagine, this monthly meeting was a long, drawn out, time consuming chore for everyone involved that resulted in nothing more than lost hours of productivity. And the rest of the office was left to operate during these hours without a single manager or supervisor available to the rest of the staff.

Purpose and Plan
Have a purpose for every meeting. Scheduling a weekly meeting is a waste of time if you can’t guarantee there will be some value in holding these meetings. There are many companies that are hardwired to hold two hour meetings each week, simply because a two hour meeting has been on the schedule for years. If you have two hours to fill with constructive work and resolving issues, then a two hour meeting is worthwhile. But, if you only have 20 minutes of productive information to share, cut the meeting time to 20 minutes.

If you feel the need to have a weekly meeting of managers just to “check in”, then keep it brief. Schedule a 20 minute meeting and offer the opportunity for any manager to discuss pressing issue of importance to the group. But make it clear that the other managers understand they are not required to speak, but rather that this is the weekly opportunity to bring everyone into the loop about a project or issue that affects the whole company. “Check in” and nothing more. Reprinted from Screen Print Weekly industry newsletter, available free at http://terrycombs.com/links.html
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Terry Combs is a 30+ year veteran of the garment decorating industry, offering training and consulting through his website TerryCombs.com. Terry is also editor of the management and production newsletter Screen Print Weekly.

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