Managing the Group Meeting

©2003 Johanna Rothman, www.jrothman.com

Does your staff look forward to flu season so they don’t have to attend your group meetings? Are you looking for ways to escape your manager’s meetings?

Boring group meetings tend to be a result of inadequate agenda-setting and facilitation. The bad group meetings are just status meetings, one-on-one’s between the manager and whoever is talking. Even donuts don’t help a meeting like that.

Group meetings don’t have to be that boring or awful. They can be a technique for teambuilding, for increasing the group’s knowledge, and for problem solving. To do this, you have to have an agenda and an environment that supports group work.

If your group meetings boring or not useful, and you’re not sure what to do about it, try an agenda like this:

  1. Spend five-ten minutes on juicy information such as: corporate information, cross-department news, company gossip, and rumors. This is the time to spread good news and find out what other people think is going on. Managers can listen to what their staff thinks is important. Staff can talk to their managers about their concerns. Consider adding appreciations—”I appreciate you John, for taking the time to calm the marketing manager down. I was busy, he was ready to go beserko, and you took the time to help determine what his concern was, and then you started the problem solving. Thank you.”
  2. Take five minutes for someone to review a thorny problem they solved or would like help solving. Or, ask for new information that others may have about their projects.
  3. Use the next ten-thirty minutes on “the issue of the week.” If you are just starting group meetings, or if you want to restart them, one way to generate issues is to ask, “What do we need to do, and who do we do it for?” That question will spawn a list of issues for your group: who does what for whom, and what the obstacles are. Plan to reprioritize this topic list, as one of the issues of the week.
    • Facilitate the meeting, by choosing a facilitator and a note-taker for each meeting. (This is also a good way to help your staff build facilitation skills.)
    • Make sure the facilitator ends the meeting on time.
    • If you’re done discussing the issue of the week, end the meeting early.
  4. Use the last few minutes to wrap up. Either close the discussion, or plan how to carry over the discussion to the next week.

That’s it. No boring meetings, no individual one-on-ones. And you don’t need donuts to enjoy this kind of a meeting. Send out the agenda before the meeting. Make sure the note-taker sends the notes out within a day, and you’ve got a recipe for successful meetings.

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