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Three Indispensable Keys For Meetings That Get Real Work Done
June 16, 2015
Meetings, meetings, meetings! A lot of us feel like our lives are withering away at meetings. That's because many meetings are not crisp, well-organized, and purposeful.
Here are three keys that can help you build a reputation for hosting the kind of meetings that people actually enjoy! Why? Because they get real work done.
Key #1: Ask These Questions
Problem: Meetings that ramble.
A lot of our meetings drag on and on because attendees have different ideas about what should happen during and after the meeting. Here are three questions to ask that will vastly increase the likelihood that your meeting is effective. Be sure to ask and answer these questions out loud so everyone can be on the same page. Address the first two to start the meeting, and the last one each time an action is decided. It's also a good idea to review the total "who does what by when" list just before you adjourn.
1. "What is the purpose of this meeting?" Make sure you have a consensus about why you are having the meeting. This is not so much what you want to discuss, but the reason - either an opportunity to explore or a problem you are trying to solve.
2. "What needs to happen at this meeting for you to consider the meeting a success?" If you called the meeting, spend a minute (no more than two) outlining what you think needs to happen at the meeting for you to consider it a success. If you are meeting with a client or vendor, ask them, "What needs to happen at this meeting for you to consider it a success?" Jot down the answers, then sneak a peek a few times during the meeting.
3. "Exactly who needs to do what by when?" One reason so many meetings are a waste of time is that decisions are made but no one is tasked to implement. For each decision, ask, "Okay, who will be responsible for making this happen, and by when?" At the end of the meeting, quickly reiterate these next steps and who is responsible. If you have given tasks to someone who works with you, have them restate what they will be doing so you both can be sure you are on the same page. If you distribute minutes, be sure to include this list of assignments and deadlines.
Key #2: Work From a Draft
Problem: Too many options.
Years ago they assigned me to our church's finance committee. It was the first time I'd ever attended a church committee meeting. The purpose was to approve next year's budget. The chairman called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. There were about 30 line items on the budget. We haggled back and forth. At 11:30 p.m. we adjourned, everyone utterly frustrated, having agreed on only 3 of the 30 items.
The following year we had a new chairman. He called the meeting to order promptly at 7:00 p.m. At 8:00 p.m. we adjourned our happy committee after approving the entire budget for the next year.
The difference? A concrete draft. The previous year's chair had come to the meeting with the then-current budget and a blank sheet of paper. However, the new chair arrived with a concrete draft of the budget. He had already proposed a budget number for each line item before the meeting ever started. So, instead of bickering over an infinite number of possibilities, we negotiated each line item whether we should go, for example, up $100 or down $1,000.
One great secret to an effective meeting is preparation. The best way I've ever seen this done is for someone to arrive with a concrete draft proposal - whether it's a budget, monthly goals, a new project, or progress reporting. In fact, I would rather never have a meeting unless someone has created a one-page proposal.
Still, preparation alone is not enough to have a sensationally successful meeting.
Key #3: Pray For Success
Problem: The tendency to depend on our own best thinking.
At a weekly staff meeting, I asked a young woman who manages one of our programs to open our meeting in prayer. She prayed effectively. I said, "Now that we have done the work, let us discuss the details of how the work is going."
Conversely, I recently attended a men's ministry leadership team meeting which did not open with prayer. The meeting was predictably disjointed.
Prayer without preparation = presumption. Without preparation we risk presuming upon God to reward us when we lack diligence. That was the guts of key #2.
But the opposite is equally true. Preparation without prayer = presumption. If we carefully and thoroughly prepare for a meeting but don't pray, we tend to be self-reliant.
Prayer is the most powerful part of running an effective meeting. Preparation allows the Holy Spirit to speak with the clearest voice when invited to do so through prayer. Both prayer and preparation are essentials to run an effective meeting.
Even in the marketplace where you may not be able to pray publically, praying privately is still important. To skip either prayer or preparation is presumption.
You no doubt can add other great ideas, but be sure to incorporate any of these three keys you don't already have in your repertoire. Take them out for a spin and, before you know it, your colleagues will no doubt be whispering in the halls about how much fun it is to be in a meeting when you're the leader!
Until every church disciples every man...