Injecting new life into tired management meetings.

Valerie Morton has a checklist for improvement

Q: My senior management team meetings are stuck in a rut. How can I bring them back to life?

A: Let's look at why this has happened. A number of factors could be at play here, and I often sum them up as the 'four Ps'.

The first P is for place. Where do you hold your meetings? Location can be critical to successful meetings. If they are always held in the same place and at the same time, it can be a challenge to get those creative juices flowing. Some staff might be distracted if they are popping back to their desks during breaks; others, if they have to travel some distance, might have to deal with early starts or be clock-watching to make sure they catch that vital train home. The simple solution here is to rotate locations and timings, and perhaps have the occasional meeting at an external venue - courtesy of a corporate partner, of course.

Next is people. You are likely to have the same people at most of your meetings; are you making the most of their individual skills and talents? If you have not already done so, try an exercise such as the Belbin Team Roles test. Even if some people have done it in previous jobs, carrying out the process again with your specific team will help everyone understand their colleagues better and help you to ensure each person's natural talents are used to best effect.

The third element is process. Your agenda might be an issue. Have your meetings grown organically over time, with more and more items and topics being added? Have you lost sight of the core objectives? Perhaps some items, such as those that are purely about exchanging information, can be dropped or moved to a separate conference call. Could some meetings be focused on a theme? Staff absence, for example?

The final P is preparation. Each item on the agenda needs to be thought through. How will you introduce it? Who will speak? What information do you need in advance to ensure a fruitful discussion? If everyone prepares well, discussions will naturally become more engaging and less formulaic.

I have used more radical solutions too, such as rotating the chair role, but if you start with these four Ps I am sure your team will notice a difference immediately.

- Valerie Morton is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant

- Send your questions to Valerie.Morton@haymarket.com

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