Want to drive more impact? Over the next few weeks, the focus on my blog posts will be about how to help club leaders drive membership growth and impact by HOW they lead their clubs. Let's start with how to run a better board or committee meeting. I believe that respect for others' time is one of the most valuable gifts we can give to our fellow Rotary members.
These ideas come from the American Management Association and were presented on a recent AMA Webcast by Hamilton College faculty member and Vital Visions Consulting principal Susan Mason, who specializes in personal, public and organizational communication. Here are 10 Golden Rules for Leading Productive Meetings, with a few of my observations from a Rotary context.
1. Know the results you want.
Take some time before each meeting to decide what you want to accomplish. What decisions, what actions, what consensus do you want to achieve? What information will be needed to reach those outcomes? Make sure information is sent in advance to people can review it - and set the expectation that the materials must be reviewed before the meeting.
During the meeting, keep your goals in mind to keep the meeting on track.
2. Position people to add value
Get people engaged and thinking about the meeting by sending questions instead of topics when you send out the meeting agenda. Call specific individuals so they can be prepared to contribute their specific knowledge. This also helps people avoid being blindsided and helps them ensure they put their best foot forward.
During the meeting, draw people into the meeting by asking them about their view on the topic. This can be especially valuable if you have team members who like to dominate the conversation.
3. Model the conduct you expect
If you expect people to listen, to power-off their cell phones, to be prepared, then demonstrate that by your own actions. If others have the floor, don't check emails or scroll through text messages. Display active listening techniques. "Listen with your whole body."
4. Have an agenda and timeline - and stick to them!
When you plan your agenda, allow more time for topics that require more discussion or are more important. You want to strike a balance for participants between feeling like you got something done, while making sure you address the most important issues. During the meeting, assign someone other than the chair to serve as time-keeper. If more time than planned is necessary, then move past it and cover the rest of the agenda.
5. Share responsibility
Share the workload and the limelight. Ask others to arrange the meeting room, record the minutes, serve as timekeeper or provide refreshments. If there are experts on a particular topic, ask them to lead that part of the discussion. If you tend to take a strong role when leading meetings, as I do, sharing responsiblities helps people feel that they have a role in shaping the conversation and the event.
6. Be ready for surprises!
We have all been in meetings where a participant offers a totally off-the-wall suggestion. If this is a pattern for this person, we often roll our eyes and brush off the comment as irrelevant. But how often do we really listen to a person whose comments suggest that, while they are looking at the same issue we are, they are definitely looking at it through a different lens. At those moments, you have a choice to explore it further, acknowledge the comment and suggest follow up or some other course.
Be ready for times when the level of the conversation shifts. When you move between strategy to tactics to methods, you run the risk of losing focus. Be ready to notice those shifts to keep the discussion on track.
7. Have rules of engagement
It is good practice to lay out all of the rules up front regarding cellphone and PCs, how interruptions will be handled, etc. On the positive side, if you want participation, let people know. If you want people to review information in advance, let people know. It is difficult to discuss a 5-page Treasurer's report, with detailed spreadsheets and tiny numbers with no summary comments. Ask people to distribute items beforehand so they can be considered and reviewed properly.
Be clear when the agenda calls for exploration of options versus comments on a specific proposal.
8. Beware spontaneous meetings
There are formal meetings and then there are the lobby conversations, the botton-holing in the parking lot and late night phone calls. People will accept bad news when they feel the decision process is fair. If decisions are made in the open with fair process, they can accept the outcome, even if they don't like it. If an issue cannot be explored in a meeting, then the question is whether it meets the Four Way Test.
9. Follow up!
At the end of the meeting, recap all of the action items and responsibilities. Publish the notes to the meeting participants for comment before distributing them to the club. This allows everyone to review the agreements made and to ensure everyone understood the meaning of the discussion in the same way. Set a regular rhythm for review. For example, notes will be published within 24 hours. Comments are required within 72 hours before communication to the full club.
While some clubs post their meeting minutes on the web, I advise that you only publish them in a password-protected, members-only area. Your website is for non-members and supporters. Communicate with members with a newsletter or secure website.
10. Don't hold a meeting just because that's what you have always done!
Not every topic needs a meeting. Let your committee teams decide the "how-to" of a project. Your board should focus more on the "how" of how things get done.
Try new tools. If you have a way to have a secure group chat, a survey tool like Zoomerang or Survey Monkey, or other electronic tools, you may be able to shorten some meetings while broadening club involvement. Be respectful of your club bylaws in terms of authority and process, but be open to new ways to communicate and drive input.
My entire Rotary club chose our July 4th Parade theme in less than 10 minutes using a simple, multi-voting approach. In the process, we got an excellent result in less time, while getting the full club to get more engaged in Parade planning. (Our committee had discussed the issue for 45 minutes the night before and could not come to agreement).
What would it be like to have people look forward to your next committee meeting? What would it be like to get things done well and done faster? Try these 10 rules and let me know how they work for you!
Want to listen to the archived presentation? Check out this link next week for this and other valuable archived presentations!
Respect people's time, give them value for it and you might find that they volunteer more of their time and energy in the process!