Last week we gave you 5 tips to ensure your meetings at work are a success – every time. Hopefully you’ve managed to put a few of these tips into practice and started reaping the benefits. Wasting time in unproductive meetings is not something any of us enjoys.
This week we’ve got 5 top tips to help you discuss topics constructively, reach agreement and close out effectively. Most meetings will typically have a number of items to discuss on the agenda, some more important than others, some big and some small. The trick in dealing with them efficiently is learning opening and closing techniques and applying them well
Our Top 5 Tips for reaching agreement and moving on
- Allocate appropriate time for the topic.
A fatal flaw in most agendas is a stunning lack of appreciation of time. More specifically the amount of time an item needs for discussion, clarification, agreement and action. This is definitely not a one size fits all situation. Some things can be dealt with in a few minutes (like the car parking spaces outside the office) but some will require significant time to ensure you get all opinions and thoughts in the room before reaching conclusions. Get this one right and the rest will be much easier.
- Use the right “Opening Up” tool
Opening up tools are techniques to help structure discussion on a particular topic. Open up the topic, review different viewpoints & perspectives and develop options to address the issue. The key here is quantity of thought, not quality. That comes later. Suspend judgement for a while and let the group explore the issue without the constraints of logic, budget or current reality. The best solutions often come from radically different ideas which can seem stupid at first.
My favourite opening up tool is negative brainstorming. Similar to regular brainstorming where you come up with as many positive ideas as possible, but in reverse. People are generally better at thinking up ways to make something fail than they are at making something succeed. So rephrase the issue as a negative; “What could I do to make sure the dinner party I am having tonight is a complete disaster?” People will be all over this and suggestions will start pouring out. Once you’ve gathered them all up, just flip them into an opposite and you have a list of things you could do to ensure your dinner parties success.
Remember it’s all about quantity of ideas at this stage, not quality.
- Use the right Closing Down tool
This is where fantasy hits reality and you start to filter out the good ideas from the bad. Some ideas may be easy to filter out due to lack of budget, resources or time but others may prove more difficult. Unfortunately you can’t do everything, or keep everyone happy so a Closing Down tool is a great way to reach agreement and move to action. There are some great Closing Down tools available like Voting, Weighting and Clustering but my favourite is probably the Boston Square. This simple 2 x 2 matrix quickly helps you identify benefit against effort required and is a great way to focus the mind. Scribe as you go
Nothing is more frustrating than getting to end of a meeting without having a clear record of what’s been discussed and agreed. Get in the habit of writing things down as you go. Flipcharts and whiteboards are best for this as not only do you have a record, but everyone can see what is written. This helps people keep track of the discussion and makes decision making more structured.
- Document and Record actions & owners
Once you’ve got through all your agenda items, opened up each one for discussion and closed it down effectively, remember to document and record all actions and owners. It’s amazing how many times I see this step skipped because we’ve run out of time. People invariably go away with a different understanding of exactly who is doing what if you don’t write it down and get agreement before they leave. Don’t fall into this trap.
So there you go. A total of 10 top tips for successful meetings. If you’d to know more or even try one of our short half day Meetings Clinics drop us a line.