Leadership Skills: Managing Meetings
Analyse Strategic Level Meetings Needs, by: considering the strategic direction and objectives, and senior level operational objectives; identifying an appropriate structure of meetings to satisfy the communication and decision making needs in these areas. Evaluate The Current Meetings Structure, by: analysing the current structure and format of senior level meetings: identifying and evaluating the frequency, format, attendance, and outcomes of current meetings; comparing these findings with the needs identified in the previous stage. These two stages are critical. In all areas, and at all levels, leaders of organisations must not allow the status quo to remain in place without regular and rigorous evaluation against current and forecast objectives. The same is true of senior level meetings. The attendance, format, frequency, and outcomes must be regularly evaluated to ensure that they meet the needs of the current strategic direction and objectives.
Establish Agreed Meetings Structure, by: informing and discussing proposed changes with all senior level stakeholders; agreeing and implementing the revised or new structure; providing training for new roles and approaches, where necessary. Changing the existing framework and format of senior level meetings will inevitably cause some disruption and possibly some conflict. However, it is essential that the organisation has structures and processes in place, at all levels, and in all areas of activity, that support and contribute to the strategic direction taken by the organisation. Meetings are a key part of the communication, information management, and decision making processes, and must therefore be shaped and managed to meet the needs of these functions. Any difficulties that change in this area brings, must be dealt with and overcome.
Planning for meetings for the leader, by: discussing and agreeing with colleagues, when appropriate, the purpose of the meeting; deciding on the purpose of the meeting; setting clear and precise objectives, as outcomes of the meeting; deciding on who should attend, though this might be a by-default list it is still necessary to review this regularly; set an appropriate date, time, and place for the meeting,again a default may apply, but should be reviewed regularly; issue an agenda to all participants and to all other stakeholders; issue supporting information in time for participants to become familiar with it; arrange pre-meeting discussions where necessary; ensure that necessary administrative arrangements will be made; complete personal participation preparation. Planning for meetings for the participants, by: ensuring that all participants are made aware of their obligations to prepare professionally for the meeting; ensuring that participants are provided with all necessary information to enable them to contribute to the meeting effectively; arranging for pre-meeting discussions with participants with particular concerns or needs regarding the meeting; adjusting the agenda to take into account legitimate specific needs of individual participants. In ensuring that each individual meeting is effective, planning is the most important stage. As with all key activities, appropriate preparation is the key to success. Even regularly scheduled meetings should be prepared for in the manner described above. The most common reason for regular meetings losing their credibility and influence is that each meeting is not given sufficient individual attention. The purpose, the desired outcomes, attendees, format, frequency, timing, location, should all be reviewed regularly. The leader must ensure that each meeting is managed professionally and that its purpose is not diluted by lack of preparation, not on the part of the leader, or chairperson, nor on the part of any of the attendees.
Chairing Meetings Effectively, by: being fully prepared, as described above; arriving in advance to oversee final preparations; welcoming participants as they arrive; starting the meeting at the agreed time; introducing new participants; summarising the format of the meeting; reiterating the purpose of the meeting; reiterating the agenda; shaping and controlling the nature and direction of discussion on each agenda item; ensuring that each participant is encouraged to contribute appropriately; remaining as objective as possible; summarising progress and decisions, at appropriate intervals; managing the time spent on each agenda item and overall; reviewing key discussion points and decisions made; confirming individual and collective follow-up actions; thanking participants for their contributions; reminding participants of the next scheduled meeting; formally close the meeting. When taking the role of Chair, the leader is highly visible, and the way in which they manage the meeting will be judged by the participants and add to or detract from their opinion of the leader’s capabilities. For this reason, the leader must ensure that when they personally chair meetings, they do this in a professional, firm but fair manner. Although some would argue that the Chair of a meeting should remain unbiased and act purely as a facilitator, this is not possible when the Chair is also the leader, or one of the leaders, of the organisation. Nevertheless, when acting as Chair, the leader should make every effort to facilitate effectively, whilst also presenting their own views when appropriate. A difficult role, but one that must be carried out well.
Follow Up Effectively, by: ensuring that all key discussion points, issues raised, decisions made, actions agreed, are recorded accurately; distributing the minutes of the meetings to participants; requesting action plans from participants who have agreed to take follow up actions; monitoring the progress on follow up actions; obtaining feedback from participants on their view of the effectiveness of the meeting; adjusting the approach to future meetings as necessary.
In Summary: although managing meetings at a senior level can appear to be technically straightforward, these meetings play a critical role in the strategic level communication process, and if ineffective will seriously damage the quality of this activity. In addition, poorly managed meetings can damage relationships between the leader(s) and the team and between team members. The objective of senior management meetings are to inform, discuss, make and confirm support for decisions, and agree continuing support for, or changes to, the strategic direction of the organisation. The role of the leader is to ensure that these meetings are planned and managed effectively, are productive in terms of outcomes, and contribute to maintaining the quality of communications at the senior level.