You know the feeling. It’s time for the monthly unit committee meeting, and you dread sitting through a long drawn-out meeting which usually degenerates into an open-ended discussion or retelling of old “war stories.”
Perhaps you’re the committee chair and you equally dread the meeting, not knowing how it’s going to go, what you need to accomplish or why you’re even having a meeting in the first place.
Conducting good, productive meetings is a skill that takes determination and practice. Well-run meetings can improve the experience for all participants and can improve efficiency, getting more done in less time.
One of the most important aspects of a successful meeting is communication. It’s important not only to keep everyone informed of the purpose of the meeting but to facilitate discussion within the meeting.
It also may seem obvious to state this, but consider that much time can be spent by participants talking about things unrelated to the item on the table, such as gossip, complaining or personal anecdotes. Other participants tune out, the discussion gets off track, and nothing gets done.
In a paper published earlier this year, authors Simone Kauffeld and Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock identified two important methods for improving the chances of successful meeting outcomes. The first is that participants concentrate on problem-solving, including offering realistic viewpoints on resolving the issue at hand and working toward possible solutions.
Positive outcomes also result from the participants taking responsibility for issues on the table and planning specific actions on them. A firm but gentle guiding hand by the facilitator is needed to keep discussion moving forward and to ensure that all viewpoints are heard.
Of course, your meeting needs to have a road map in the form of an agenda, and the meeting leader should define the specific items of business and offer a desired outcome, so that everyone will know the outcome they are working toward and how to recognize it when they get there.
Pitfalls to be aware of include the tendency to discuss common gripes – more common in the workplace than in a volunteer organization – and for discussion to stray off course. The chairman of the meeting needs to be aware of these distractions. Indeed, Kauffeld and Lehman-Willenbrock found that disfunctional communication had a greater negative impact than the positive impact of functional communication.
Committee meetings need not be dreaded. As the leader, have a clear agenda and a definite time frame, and communicate that agenda to the participants, along with what’s expected of them and what the desired outcome is.
- Time for the meeting – Tips on before, during and after the meeting
- The purpose of meetings – Why we have meetings and what we do