In Part I, we listed the rules for an effective agenda. In this article, we will discuss effective ways to lead and participate in a meeting. The agenda focuses all the attendees on the meeting’s goals, topics, processes and timescale. The elements, themselves, are delivered through effective meeting leadership and participation. The meeting leader’s and the other participants’ focus is always on:
- The results as defined by the goals and purpose set out in the agenda.
- Ensuring appropriate progress during the meeting.
- Responding to something important that raises its head during the meeting.
Effective Meeting Rules
Meeting rules fall into three main categories:
- Procedural: Meeting start and end times, comfort and phone call breaks, no private conversations, etc.
- Interpersonal: Treat each other with respect, approved/unapproved language, stay positive, etc.
- Behavioral: What attendees actually do to show respect, stay positive, contribute appropriately.
Having rules is one thing, applying them is another, knowing how to apply them, and agreeing to always apply them is another still. Effective meetings need rules, and attendees must agree how to apply them.
Vince Lombardi, the great Packers coach, always started practices 15 minutes early, so if a player arrived “on time” he was actually late. Everyone knew this, agreed to it, abided by it, and the team always got in an extra 15 minutes of practice time. It’s not just about everyone knowing the rules they have to agree to follow them.
These are the most difficult to implement and to follow, but they are essential. Knowing you have to be respectful is not the same as actually being respectful. Just knowing everyone should stay positive does not mean different attendees will automatically do and say things the same way. Behavioral rules demand attention. Use the following points as examples to work on and as a basis to develop your own. You want meetings rules to reflect, and contribute to corporate culture.
- Check what the speaker means. Ask questions before criticizing their point, direction or the material they are sharing.
- Share relevant material before the meeting, and use it during the meeting, so everyone stays on track.
- Score relevance to grade it, rather than assuming absolutes. “That point is not all that relevant,” is less useful than “I give that point a relevance score of eight out of ten.” Firstly it clarifies how important the interrupter believes their point to be. Secondly it enables the original speaker to move the relevance from an eight to a nine or a ten score. It also saves time asking the interrupter to explain what they mean by “not all that relevant.”
- Use common corporate methodologies so everyone automatically stays on message, and on track. Here are some examples:
If your sales force uses SPIN selling, then it helps if a Situation, a Problem, and the Implications of not solving the problem are stated and explored in that format. It also helps to establish the Need-Payoff (value) of putting in the effort and resources to solve it.
If your entire management team uses the ACED coaching model, then by clarifying what the speaker Aspires to, it makes setting and agreeing goals so much easier. That will then, automatically, lead on to Considering the current situation efficiently and effectively, Exploring the options that will move the topic forward, and then Deciding clearly and unanimously what those involved will do in order to meet the agreed goals.
Using common and accepted business methodologies will save meeting time, and keep everyone in step. They automatically enable and encourage assumptions to be understood, tested and accepted or dismissed. They also result in decisions, future actions, standards of performance, and so on, being tested and accepted or altered more easily.
The result is that meetings become, and stay, effective. They also reinforce the corporate culture.
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