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A Meeting of the Minds

A Meeting of the Minds Meetings offer managers the chance to unify the workforce, communicate important messages, and create an organized forum for employee concerns. Therefore, meetings are a crucial aspect of running a business. Unfortunately, many managers treat meetings as ad hoc events and fail to properly prepare. Preparation, however, is the key to holding a successful meeting. Without clear objectives, managers flounder. Without rules and protocols, meeting participants can transform a quiet company gathering into a chaotic brawl. To avoid such a disaster, managers must learn to take charge of the meeting from the planning stage through to the conclusion. Proper preparation is all it takes to affect a meeting of the minds every time.

Most of us have sat through meetings where managers never make a point. And most of us walk away from such meetings feeling frustrated and confused. After all, no one likes to invest their time just to come up empty handed. Aggravated employees, however, are far from the only hazard of poor planning. Ambiguous presentations require employees to fill in the blanks that their managers have left incomplete. Without clear guidelines, it's easy for employees to draw erroneous conclusions about their manager's expectations.

An unclear agenda also leaves room for one disgruntled employee to transform a quiet gathering into an emotional battlefield. Envision how this plays out: A manager begins to discuss a controversial topic when one employee interrupts with a probing question. As the manager struggles to answer, the meeting participants begin to talk amongst themselves. Suddenly the crowd becomes quite animated. Order devolves into pandemonium as one employee after another drills the manager about an unpopular company policy. In this case, the lack of preparation allowed meeting participants to override the manager's objectives and unveil negative sentiments.

By investing time up-front, managers can avoid these inherent dangers of poor-planning. Before calling a meeting, managers must develop a clear and concise agenda. Attempting to pack too much into one meeting will obscure the bottom line, and prevent employees from grasping the intended message. Managers should always provide meeting participants with an advanced copy of the agenda. Distributing the agenda prior to the meeting gives participants the chance to prepare on-point question. It also ensures that participants will not feel blindsided by a controversial meeting topic. Well-informed participants are more likely to engage with the meeting organizer, creating a fluid and comfortable atmosphere. Finally, attendees will appreciate knowing how their managers intend to spend their time.

Planning puts managers on the right track but effective facilitation ensures they hit the mark. Effective facilitation has substantive and procedural components. Success on the substantive side requires that managers prepare talking points that track the previously distributed agenda. Talking points help managers stay on course when interruptions and disturbances threaten the meeting's progress. They also help with time management because managers can highlight the sub-topics they must cover and address them first.

On the procedural side, meetings must have set time-limits. Participants lose focus when meetings drag on and are more likely to remain engaged when they know that a meeting has a definite end. Time-parameters make it easier for managers to refuse to entertain an off-topic question, which helps to eliminate a major cause of unproductive meetings.

Good preparation and effective facilitation are all it takes to run a successful meeting. By investing time in planning and strategizing, managers avoid stuttering through difficult topics. A clear agenda not only helps managers deliver their message, but it also helps attendees receive the message. Planning offers comfort, which builds confidence and a take-charge attitude. Pushovers get swept under the rug, but self-assured managers captivate their audiences from beginning to end. With foresight and fortitude managers can avoid the hiccups that cause meetings to go awry.

About the Author:

Linda Finkle, CEO of Incedo Group, works closely with leaders and management to create sustainable productivity and organizational strength. She holds a Master Certified Coach designation through the International Coaching Federation. For more information on Linda and Incedo Group, please go to www.MakeSomeDamnMistakes.com

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