Meeting Guidelines Revisited !

Last fall I shared some meeting facilitation tips from Roger Schwarz, author of “The Skilled Facilitator” and now with the start of a new academic year – its time to revisit and add more meeting ideas to your toolbox!!  And, no one is surprised that this would also be a topic in the Chronicle for Higher Education. We do have lots of meetings!!

The Chronicle article (10 Ways to Better Manage Your Meetings ) shared insights from Allison M. Vaillancourt, Vice-President for Business Affairs and Human Resources at the University of Arizona and let me highlight some of her suggestions along with my own experience facilitating a broad range of meetings.

One initial consideration based on my experience is for those who lead meetings to analyze whether there are any interaction issues in your meetings?  First, do a self review:  Do you have Agenda’s for your meetings and do you send them out ahead of time so people attending can prepare and know what’s to be discussed? Do you start and end on time? Do you monitor/facilitate across the agenda so that all items are addressed? Do attendees regularly share ideas? Do you have any structures (guidelines) in place to manage who talks and in what order? Do you have a mechanism to capture ideas that are off topic? (a parking lot). Second, talk with those that attend your meetings for feedback either in direct conversation or even do a small confidential survey to acquire feedback.

Assuming you want to enhance your meetings, think about these tips from Vaillancourt (not the full list):

“Track who’s talking in your meetings” – this links back to the idea of a review and will provide you data on whether you have only a few talkers or if others regularly engage. Or, you might already have a sense of the balance of engagement.

“Establish ground rules” (I prefer the term guidelines) – here’s a sample from Vaillancourt: “Raise your hand to speak; don’t revisit agenda items that have already been decided; call out credit-stealers and interrupters; and have the meeting’s leader make sure that everyone who wants to share a perspective has an opportunity to do so before others are allowed to weigh in again”

“Rotate meeting leadership” – most of us recognize that it’s challenging to both lead a meeting and be a full participant plus if we lead and offer opinions, that can sometimes squelch opposing views. Thus, bringing in an outside facilitator is one option or ask group members to take turns facilitating the meeting. You still put the Agenda together and convene the meeting, yet you get a group member to handle the discussion traffic.

“Manage interruptions and Stand up to bullies” ( I use the term abrasive behaviors instead of bullies) – this is where guidelines can come in handy in terms of how to manage interruptions or other behaviors that detract from interactions. As facilitator, I prefer to call out the behaviors instead of the person. If someone interrupts, I interrupt them, acknowledge that there has been an interruption and then go back to the initial speaker to invite completion or a willingness to hear the interruptor.

“Consider that you might be the problem” – are you taking most of the air-time of the meeting, when you share an idea does everyone always agree (or just sit silently), do you routinely run the meeting past its end time?  These are just a few of the questions to ask yourself and if the answer to any is “yes” then get to work on having a better meeting!

In conclusion, give some thought to your meetings, try out a few of these tips, and get more from your team when you next meet.

Want some help and not sure where to turn – Go Ombuds !