Every meeting should fall into one of the following general categories:
- Action Meetings: To get something specific accomplished;
- Announcement or Information Only Meetings: To share important information without a call to action;
- Team Meetings: To troubleshoot, brainstorm for new ideas, assign tasks in general (i.e., to a department.)
Some meetings serve a dual purpose such as to announce a new product line or service and then to brainstorm for ideas about how to best market them. But the more specific and focused your meetings are, the more productive they will be.
Define a Specific Purpose or Goal for Your Business Meeting
One of the most common mistakes made by management is to fail to define a specific meeting purpose that attendees fully understand in advance. For example, telling your staff there will be a meeting about employee benefits is too broad if the topic is specifically about health insurance options. If employees think the meeting is about all types of benefits, some attendees might try to ask questions about retirement plans, vacation and sick leave, or other benefits.
If you are holding a staff meeting about overtime be specific when you announce the meeting. Is the purpose of the meeting to find ways to curtail overtime or will more overtime become necessary in the coming months? These are two entirely different issues that will require different input from meeting attendees. When people understand specific goals they are better able to prepare for the meeting and arrive with constructive ideas in mind.
Employees should know in advance what the meeting is about and what will be covered so they know what to expect and have time to prepare any questions they might have. When employees understand the real purpose of a meeting it is easier to keep the meeting focused once it begins.
Ask For Ideas And Questions To Be Submitted In Advance
Offer a way for people to submit questions and ideas in advance of the meeting. This will save valuable time because you can answer select questions (that you have had had time to prepare answers for) instead of having to open up the floor to take random questions. If the topic being covered is touchy, allow people to pose questions, report problems, and offer ideas anonymously. If you solicit for input before the meeting, you are less likely to be blindsided by employee issues you may not have been aware of.
Another important reason for asking employees for their input in advance of meetings is because it sends the message management is interested in hearing about their problems and concerns; what is working or not working, and in getting fresh ideas about how to do business better and smarter from the people who often feel like they are the ones doing all the work (your employees.)
Allowing Employees To Participate Is A Sign Of Good Leadership
When management does not involve employees, by default, they exclude them. To instill greater confidence in management and company loyalty, include employees in information gathering stages whenever possible. Although it is up to management to make most of the decisions, people respond better to authority when they feel that they have been valued enough to have been asked what they think.