Contractors depend on frequent meetings to keep communications flowing. But ask yourself: how often do your teams look forward to your meetings? How can you improve them while simultaneously making them more fun and less laborious?
Here are six tips for running better meetings and producing better results.
- Start your meetings with appreciations. My partner and I took a psychologist’s class more than 20 years ago, and she advised starting meetings, internal or external, with appreciations. You won't believe how much goodwill this will create! For example, on a jobsite you could say, “I really appreciate that XYZ trade came out a few days early, scoped everything out, and walked the job. They really put in that extra effort so when they got on site they could be super productive in favor of the next trade.” Tell people when you appreciate the little things they do, and you'll be surprised how far that goes.
In addition, take time to focus on positive things. It’s far too easy to dwell on the things that DID NOT go well. Block off 10 minutes of meeting time to focus on only the positives. You can use the rest of the week to drill down on all the details and negative stuff that every contractor must endure. Focus on appreciations and positive things first and see the effect this creates.
- Make sure your meeting has a purpose. Too many meetings take place just because they have always taken place. Have purposeful meetings, and make sure everyone knows what that purpose is. Each meeting should have a clear leader. It doesn't always have to be the boss; sometimes situational leadership works better. The leader should facilitate so that different people speak up offering different perspectives, ideas, and opinions.
- Avoid topic slippage. Every meeting must have an agenda. When items arise that are off-agenda, table them and put them in a parking lot. If they're easy to dispose of, perhaps you can do that at the conclusion of your meeting. If they're important, maybe they deserve their own specific get-together. Perhaps you can easily tackle them with one or two individuals offline, so you don't consume everyone else’s time. Keep your meetings tight, focused, and short, and that will increase their quality and effectiveness.
- Record meeting details. You must be able to review what took place in your meetings—especially what decisions were made. It's important to know who agreed to do what and when they agreed to do it. If you find yourself having meetings where no decisions take place, that is the very definition of an ineffective meeting. Every meeting should produce some decisions or action items even if it's only to convene at another time to dig deeper into a particular subject. If your team breaks up and says, “What did we just meet about? And what did we decide?” you've wasted people’s valuable time.
- Try to draw the emotion out of the room. When meetings get tense, and some certainly will, try to draw emotions out of the room. For example, in a peer group meeting I facilitated years ago, one of the members went off on a tangent, which angered the host. I knew there was going to be a clash, so I told a story that, frankly, took so long to relate that they almost forgot why they were mad at each other. In doing this, I deflected the emotion out of the room. Following that, I worked as a diplomat, shuttling back-and-forth between the two people to put things in a better place.
Another approach is to simply call a timeout. When you see someone's about to blow his or her stack, call a timeout for 10 minutes, allow everyone to take a bio break or check emails, and then reassemble the group. Timeouts are a clean, simple way to cool down emotions.
- Review your meetings. Were they effective? Was the time well used? Did you make decisions? Was someone assigned accountability for the decisions made? One of our employees, former heavy-civil contractor Kevin Albanese, would passe out slips of paper at the conclusion of his meetings, upon which attendees voted on a 1 to 10 scale whether the meeting was effective. This practice helped Kevin improve the quality of his meetings and even enabled him to eliminate some altogether.
In order for your company to run on all cylinders, you’ve got to have your folks open, listening, enthusiastic, and ready to learn and contribute. Instead of viewing meetings as just a necessary evil, examine ways to deliver great, fun, high-intensity meetings. You’ll be pleased you did.
Wayne Rivers is the president of The Family Business Institute, Inc. FBI’s mission is to build better contractors. Wayne can be reached at 877-326-2493, [email protected], or on the web at www.familybusinessinstitute.com.