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January 18, 2010

Cranking Out The Valuable Benefits of Meetings

With the negative press they get, who would have thought there was much value to glean from meetings. Yet, when you look at the possibilities, there are many positives to gain, when you know how.

Let’s be clear, there are different sorts of meetings. We’ve all been to the ones that drive us crazy. Nothing valuable happens or they overrun – and even those really fun ones where there was no real purpose for us to be there at all.

The joys of meetings can be somewhat hard to find.

Yet, when the focus is right, there really are meetings that can add value, especially when they are structured the right way and managed well to give the outcomes that you need.

Let’s take a look at three key types of meetings and where you  can create useful, value-cranking outcomes from them!

Information Giving Meetings

To start with, there are meetings where information is given.

These one-way meetings are simply to ensure that a consistent message is given to all attendees. There is little, if any, two-way exchange, because debate is not the purpose. Typical of this would be presentations, announcements and often mass communications of some sort.

Sometimes the time and effort to hold these can be avoided, particularly when the information can be given in writing or electronically. Remember though, that there are some people who ‘get’ the message best when they hear and see it.

And it’s good to follow up with something written down for reference, however it’s done, because people don’t always hear well and need something to go through again, when they have time to focus more precisely.

The value here is consistency of message and actually seeing you give it, to show that you are together with the rest of your team.

Personal Meetings

These are one-to-one meetings that you as a manager take the time to provide for someone in your team probably – though not exclusively of course, as they could be with a customer or supplier, as two other examples.

Here discussion takes place openly and the interaction quality will vary, depending on the openness and rapport that is built between the two parties involved.

A typical scenario here would be an objective setting meeting, a disciplinary interview or a coaching session when it comes down to you and a member of your team. There is a huge opportunity here to create rapport and develop the relationship as an investment for the future, so it’s a really valuable thing to do.

With customers or suppliers, as the other two sample examples, it could be to negotiate a deal, review existing contracts or even simply to deal with a complaint. This meeting is again another opportunity to create the rapport than can prove so useful in the future, as long as you handle it professionally, as well as openly and honestly too.

Collaborative Meetings

These are meetings where there are more than two participants and usually not more than perhaps 20 – probably the typical meeting experience for many.

This is an open – well controlled through facilitation – discussion about the relevant ingredients of the agenda.

In this sort of meeting, all relevant stakeholders who can contribute into the debate to create valuable outcomes, will be present.

The value here – and where most frustration over meetings can happen – is in the shared responsibility for an outcome, which is generated by the contributions – the ‘collaboration’ – of those present. Participants are there to create an outcome which one or two alone simply could not.

When the meeting activities do not match up to this, those who attend are likely to wonder what they are there for and switch off, citing the whole exercise as a waste of time.

The collaboration is the catalyst for solutions to be found that the debate synthesizes to create a ‘better than the sum of the parts’ outcome. Everyone present is good for this contributory effort and all who share the work are there because they add value and for no other reason.

Where meetings add value they are worthwhile. Getting a meeting structured such that added value is the main criteria, is the key to resources being used effectively, efficiently and very, very usefully.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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