25.11.2020 , BY Craig Tallents
25.11.2020 , BY Craig Tallents
I spend a lot of time in meetings and I am sure that you do too! I leave a lot of these meetings asking myself why I bothered to attend and making a note that ‘that was two hours of my life I am not going to get back’.
One of the things that I have learnt about GP practice partners is that they hate meetings and that is not surprising given the ones that I have been to. They are often unstructured, achieve little, bad tempered and worst of all can end in arguments that get personal. When I work with practices one of the first things, we look at is Partners’ meeting and how to change them, so we all want to be there.
So how do we do this? How do we make meetings effective and not a chore!
Most of us have not had training in ‘meeting facilitation’, but we can learn to do it. The same goes for knowing if you need a meeting in the first place!
The first thing to remember is that an efficient meeting is not necessarily an effective meeting.
An efficient meeting starts on time, has an agenda that has been shared before the meeting, keeps to it (good time management), finishes when it is meant to and achieves its aim, involving as few people as possible.
What is wrong with that? Well, efficiency is a superficial quality that makes us all feel good. Yes, we need efficiency in meetings but ask yourselves this: were the right people at the meeting for the right reason and did the meeting add anything to the underlying business. Was it a meeting for meetings’ sake or was it needed, and did it add value?
For example, I remember working with a practice and the partners wanted to discuss the reception function, so they put it on the agenda of the Partners’ meeting. Sounds good to here, right? Well, no, they got to the item and I stopped them, as why would I sit in a meeting wasting my time on this subject when the reception manager was not in the meeting and no partner had thought to speak with them. The discussion was stopped, and a partner was delegated to speak with the reception manager and come up with a plan to present at the next partners’ meeting together with the reception manager. Job done - time wasting and arguments avoided.
So, it goes without saying that you run an efficient meeting but how does that efficient meeting become effective.
An effective meeting is one where we bring together the right people for a specific purpose and to have an open and frank discussion which delivers an action that we can move forward with and share with those it impacts.
What do we need to consider for the meeting to be effective?
Do we need that meeting?
The first rule is, do we need a meeting? The planned meeting must have a clear aim. The most demoralising meeting is the recurring meeting that no longer has any value to those who get to go. In fact, a lot of them find a reason not to and thus the meeting becomes a waste of time as decision makers cannot be bothered to attend. A meeting should not be an information sharing exercise. It should be aimed at an outcome. The accounts can be shared on email and questions asked, we do not need seven people sat in a room discussing the monthly accounts as it is likely only 6 will be engaged.
Give the meeting a clear purpose
Make sure we all know why we are there. Make sure the meeting has a clear purpose that needs a discussion and cannot be solved via email threads, think brainstorming when you need to bounce of each other.
Get the right people there
Invite the right people, those who know the area of discussion no matter what their level. Make sure they can make it and if they cannot make sure any replacement they send, has the authority to make decisions. There is nothing like discussing something for three hours and getting an agreed action to find that someone must report back. A waste of time!
Build the agenda together
Make sure that when you call the meeting your idea of the agenda is attached justifying why you need the meeting. But do not get upset if others want to change it, openly encourage discussion and let people decide if they are the right person for the meeting given the agenda.
Make sure that relevant information is made available to attendees in time for them to review it prior to the meeting.
Keep attendees engaged
Keep the lid shut. Turn off PCs and phones to ensure maximum concentration. If someone is under pressure elsewhere let them go off and do that work as they will perform better, and you will have engaged attendees. Hold the meeting at the right time not in someone’s lunch hour.
Focus on the results
Keep the meeting focused on why it was called and do not let it wander. Focus on the end game. If you need a decision, get one.
Leave the meeting with an agreed action plan with allocated responsibility and agreed timelines that you publish. Follow them up and hold people to account.
Hopefully by reading this you are committed to changing how you run meetings. Hopefully, you want to run efficient and effective meetings. But you are not the sole judge, so make sure you ask for feedback from those who came. Ask them this, ‘Do you feel that the last two hours was worth it or is it two hours they will not get back?’
Look to improve and accept suggestions on how to improve the meeting conduct positively and not personally.
Aim to only hold and attend meetings that matter!
Craig Tallents is available to assist with meeting facilitation through RBP. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.