Here are are with the final part of our series on actions to take in closing and after your meetings.
and a vital part as well.
#7 - Thank Everyone for Their Participation and Contribution - In our careers we have collectively bargained awards systems whereby employees receive money or other compensation to appreciate the work they do. These are important, yet sometimes, they overshadow how powerful a simple thank you or good job can be. Whether your meeting is one-hour, one-day, or several days, when it’s over, thank everyone.
People give time and effort from their busy schedule to participate in these meetings. Showing our appreciation makes them feel good about that participation, and also makes them more likely to give same time and effort for future meetings
When reviewing these steps for closing the meeting and follow-up, it can be summed up this way, all of these steps are based on communication. As we have repeatedly said, having a communication plan emphasizes its importance. Communication skills are perishable if not used, so for each meeting, learn them, practice them and use them.
Until next time I & I Resolutions remains committed to helping groups resolve their issues, communicate more effectively and become more productive. Connect with us to day and let's discuss how we can assist you and your group.
Welcome back to the Bargaining Table of Thomas and Andy. As per our last segment, 7 Important actions to take in closing and after your meetings....we know what we did and what needs to be done. And to help with that, we need minutes of the meeting.
If you have a recorder for meetings (and you should) the minutes of that meeting must be sent to all participants. Before the meeting ends, and if you have time, review and approve minutes focusing on important ideas/concerns, decisions made, action items to be taken. Cautionary note, you don’t need to capture EVERYTHING being said. Just what’s important.
If you don’t have time, then send minutes to participants within 24 after the meeting with a specific date/time for them to review comment and/or approve. Now while meeting minutes do not need to include everything that has been said, it does need to include (at least) the following:
# 6 - Evaluating the Meeting - Even in the most effective meetings, things don’t always go smoothly. In our experience we have found it valuable to take the time, maybe 15-20 minutes before a meeting ends, to evaluate how the meeting went.
Just think of what you learn by asking each participant the following
1) what worked for them; and
2) how could we improve the meeting.
We have heard participants say for example, “good decision-making process", "used our time well", "not enough participation", and/or "we need larger room” ...and many others.
These evaluations are valuable because they provide insight as to what happened. It tells you how people felt about the meeting both “good” and “bad.” It also gives you a road map for future meetings by building on what went well and what we need to do to make it better.
So glad you've come this far with us in our series! Next time we'll finish it off with our final, but vital tip.
We'll see you back here next week where we'll be discussing how to make yourself and others feel really good about the meeting!
We welcome your comments and you can leave your thoughts right here, down below! We promise to read each one and reply. If you'd rather have a private conversation, just click here to connect with us and take advantage of our complimentary consult services.
Continuing on our list of 7 actions to take in closing and after your meetings....
In our previous segment we discussed the importance of reviewing those decisions you made along with action items that need to be take. Before determining who is doing what it’s important that everyone agrees with and understands what needs to be done (action items). Once that is determined, it’s time to assign these tasks.
# 3 - Assigning Tasks - And here the key word is specificity. First, determine who is going to perform the task. Also, if there is more than one person again determine who they are and what their responsibilities are. For those who are not “in the room” yet may be crucial completing the task, contact those people and discuss with them 1) the task and 2) their responsibility.
Second, what is the due date for the action item and when will it be reported? Again, have a specific date/time. Avoid the word soon or within a reasonable amount of time. Our experience has shown us that soon has different meanings for different people.
# 4 - Holding Each Other Accountable for Action Items - If you are like us, we sometimes we need a gentle and sometimes more than gentle push to remind us about completing action items. Meeting leaders should check with those working on action items to see what is happening. This can be done by E-mail, or phone call or brief meeting.
We would also argue that if you are responsible for the task, you should brief either the team leader(s) or participants regarding your progress. Also, as stuff happens at work, that “stuff” may cause to fall behind in completing the task. By letting people know your progress (or lack of) you can work together to figure out what to do.
By checking in, we are you are sending a message this item is important and that we are expected to complete the task. By just letting it go until the next meeting sends the opposite message.
One final point about accountability. Every task/action item should have a “lead” person. This individual would be responsible reminding everyone of the action item, what their work is and doing follow-up to ensure task is completed.
Next time we speak, we will provide some tips on when and how to distribute minutes and evaluating how the meeting went.
Do you have questions or a need to have us be more specific about our recommendations? Please follow this link to connect with us anytime. We are here to help you develop the outcome you are striving for.
Here’s a quick scenario. You attend a meeting. Seems pretty productive. Meeting ends. You are back at work and you are not sure about meeting outcome. What are we supposed to do, who is going to do it? When is it supposed to be done? You might even call another attendee to find out. If they don’t know either, are you surprised?
While it may be easy to think that once the meeting ends, you are done, chances are there is more to do. If the meeting has been managed effectively, participants should leave the meeting with follow-up work to be done.
Lesson learned. Never assume what was discussed at the meeting will be remembered or that action will be taken.
So, closing the meeting and what happens after is just as critical as to what occurs during the meeting. To ensure you don’t live through the above scenario, we will over the next few weeks, offer 7 important actions to take in closing and after your meetings.
In this segment we’ll stress just two of them:
#1 - Ending the meeting on time....Sounds simple, yet we have all been to meetings that have run past “closing time”. Remember, people’s time is important. Don’t waste it. If the expectation is meeting is to end at 4, end at 4. Going past that time and its more likely participants focus is on “when is this going to end.”
#2 - Reviewing decision/actions, including next steps ...Each meeting must include a recap of what has been done and what needs to be done. Have you made decisions? If so, what are those decisions? Have they been captured correctly? Does everyone understand the decision? These decisions more often than not will impact your organization. Ensuring everyone agrees with, understand and supports all decisions are VITAL especially if you need to implement them.
Do the same with action items/next steps. What are the action items? Have they been captured? Does everyone understand them? Important point here is NEVER assume anything. Take the time to review/discuss what has been done and what needs to be done.
In our next Segment, we will talk about how to assign tasks and then hold each other responsible for those tasks.
In our next post we'll move to our next two tips in the Importance of Communication. Stay with us....and if you need our assistance in the meantime, please connect with us right away. Follow this link to take advantage of our discount price for first time Clients. We look forward to assisting you.
When we last spoke, we told you about facilitating with a group that had not met since May 2018. When we met with the group, we opened the meeting by 1) introduced ourselves, including expectations, 2) reinforced ground rules; 3) clarified roles and 4) reviewed the agenda. Again getting “buy-in” to move forward requires communication so all of us are singing off the same page to continue.
So, now it’s time to run the meeting. In looking at our facilitator role, our #1 function is to manage their discussion. All of our actions should be focused on the group’s ability to have productive discussions (again communication) that lead to effective decisions.
Working with groups are difficult but if we practice effective facilitative behaviors, we can assist the group to reach their objectives in this meeting. First, keep them focused on their agenda items. It’s important for them to adhere to their agenda unless the group specifically agrees to change it. Again, that is done by communicating with each other and getting agreement from everyone before changing it.
Also remember since agendas have several items, the group needs to discuss one item at a time. Sounds simple but ask yourself this. How many of you have been in meetings where different issues are being discussed at the same time? Follow-up question, how effective was that? One issue at a time.
Focusing and refocusing on the issue ensures everyone understands what is being discussed. We need to listen actively, ask questions, check for understanding, summarize, rephrase, encourage participation so the full scope of the issue and interests are being discussed. We also need to check with the group as to WHAT they need to do regarding the issue. What’s the decision they need to make, how are they going to make it? Quick note. In our next blog we will talk about closing the meeting and next steps and getting agreement on action items, responsibilities. So, stay tuned.
The process of discussing, asking questions, participation, summarizing, rephrasing, actively listening, determining what to do, in other words, communication must occur for each issue being discussed if you want to have an effective meeting.
In that vein, I think we can agree that all meetings are time limited which means agenda items are time limited. So, if we accept that the group is responsible for content, as facilitators, our focus is on process which often includes being a timekeeper. Communicating to them about time we see as a two-step process. First, make them aware of time. Second, ask them how they want to proceed. Maybe they want to set aside the issue and come back to it later. Or they may want to continue discussing and set a new time limit. What’s important is that we continue to communicate effectively so they can make the best decisions.
Finally, our experience has shown whenever you have a group of people with diverse interests, there is a real good chance that conflict is going to arise. We have always believed there are no “easy” issues with some being more difficult than others. Regardless chances of disagreement/conflict arising is a pretty safe bet. And let’s be honest, most of us do not like conflict and try to avoid it. Here, that may not be the best option.
So, what to do. #1, address the conflict immediately. It’s going to impact the discussion and it needs to be dealt with. Second, find out what the conflict is, and this is CRUCIAL, focus on the issue, not the individuals. What’s being said, not who is saying it. Pinpoint the areas they disagree on and why there is disagreement. Once you determine the what and why they disagree, only then can you get to problem-solving.
Communication, communication, communication. We all need to communicate our issues and concerns and just as important, communicate we have listened to and understand others’ concerns. Practice and use these skills and your chances increase the group members have buy-in to the resolution and commit to that decision.
The next time you are at a meeting, when it’s over ask yourself if this happened;
1) everyone listened actively by conveying they understood the issues and everyone’s concerns;
2) were you and others able to communicate your thoughts, ideas, concerns to others:
3) was there a good summary of the issues being discussed;
4) were the right questions being asked;
5) did anyone rephrase things that were said to ensure understanding and
6) were conflicts/disputes addressed and dealt with.
And with these questions we again emphasize the importance of communication, its perishability if not used and having good communication skills. And these skills must be learned, practiced and used.
Until next time I & I Resolutions remain committed to helping groups resolve their issues, communicate more effectively and become more productive. Connect with us today
The Importance of Communication –Part IV
Next week we are facilitating a meeting with a group that has not met since May 2018. Prior to that last session the group had been meeting almost on a monthly basis for the previous several years. So, as in the previous blog in putting together this meeting, decisions were made who would participate, an agenda was developed, previous ground rules were reinforced and logistics on how to conduct the meeting were determined. And, of course, all of this was communicated to the participants.
And as we work with that group, we understand the importance how to run that meeting to meet their objectives. In moving from preparation of a meeting to actually running the meeting, we will continue to need effective communication skills. For that we break down “running the meeting” into two steps a) opening the meeting and b) running the meeting. For this blog, our focus will be on opening the meeting. Now this should be simple yet many a meeting can go off track because we don’t take the time to properly start/open the meeting.
We both have been in meetings where whoever is “in charge” says let’s begin and starts talking immediately about the issues. We say stop. Because there are some important questions that have not been answered, Is everyone else ready to begin? What exactly are we doing? How will we get there?
Opening a meeting also requires preparation and communication because to move forward requires “buy-in” from the group. So, whether you are the group’s facilitator or chairperson (co-chairs) there are some basic tenets to getting a meeting started.
First, have everyone introduce themselves. Sounds simple, but don’t assume everyone knows each other. Especially if the meeting involves others from different parts of your organization. Also, in our meeting next week, there are four new participants from the May 2018 meeting.
In our experience we use introductions to ask these questions like,
1) tell us your name;
2) what you do;
and 3) what your expectations for the meeting
Let’s focus on #3. Why is that question important? The best way we can answer that is while I know why I am in this meeting do I really know why you are there? Don’t guess and don’t assume; let them tell you. Even if their response is “I don’t know” or I am here to find out, at least now the group knows that.
Now, you may ask doesn’t this take time and we may be on a strict time constraint. Short answer is yes. Also, you may have a lot of people in the room (which in itself may be a problem) therefore, getting expectations may not always be realistic. However, should you do this, remember this one rule, these expectations are not up for debate. Your only objective here is to listen and learn what others expect.
Once introductions are done it’s a good idea to reinforce and/or establish roles and responsibilities. Is there a group leader(s) who will lead the discussion, does the group have a facilitator and recorder, who is the group’s timekeeper ensuring you have enough time to discuss the issues? These are critical roles to any group’s success. Everyone needs to understand and be on board with who is doing what. The same applies to reviewing/reinforcing behaviors (ground rules) for the meeting.
So, we have introduced each other, established roles and reinforced our ground rules. Now, and maybe most critical we need to review the agenda.
Most meetings occur at least several days and/or weeks after the agenda has been prepared and sent to the group. Workplace issues can and do change during that time and these changes could impact your meeting. There can also be new issues that arise after the agenda has been prepared that could also impact your meeting.
Connect with us today. Follow this link to take advantage of our discount price for first time Clients. We look forward to assisting you.By taking the time to review the agenda we can make everyone aware of these issues and allow the group together to amend the agenda to reflect these changes. Remember the Agenda is like GPS in that while it guides you, we still do the driving. And haven’t we all because of unforeseen circumstance needed to change directions to get where we want to go.
And once again even with the “simple” task of opening/starting a meeting, we can see the importance of effective communication in helping us meet our objectives.
So, until next time I & I Resolutions remain committed to helping groups resolve their issues and become more productive.
We’d like to hear from you. Are you finding it difficult to navigate through your meetings?
Does communication seem to be a challenge?
Why not take advantage of our First Time Complimentary Consultation Service? We are standing by to get your questions answered!
The Importance of Communication - Part III
We hope everyone has been having a wonderful New Year thus far.
In the last several blogs, we have emphasized the importance of communication as it relates to the work environment and that good communication is about muscle memory, preparation and practice. So, let’s put that to use.
Recently, we did a workshop at Federal Dispute Resolution Conference called “OMG, Not Another Meeting”. Haven’t we all had that reaction when we are told we are going to meet. Regardless of reason for meeting (task force, problem solving, information) too many times we think this will be a waste of time. It’s fair to say that most of us hate meetings, yet we are a meeting society. So, assuming we are not going to eliminate meetings, then our focus should be on making them productive and that does require us to prepare and communicate.
Both of Thomas and I have attended hundreds of meetings, and we have facilitated hundreds more. The most successful are those where the parties have prepared (agenda, ground rules) and communicated the purpose of the meeting.
Let’s think about preparation. First, if you determine you need a meeting, what is its purpose? More important, have you communicated that purpose and gotten buy-in from those who are attending (stakeholders). If you have not, good luck with having a successful meeting. You will need it. Now, as to stakeholders. These are individuals who are affected by the meeting’s outcome and they need to participate. It is good practice to keep meeting numbers small, however, always ensure those affected by the meeting’s purpose or their representatives attend.
Your meeting has a purpose, you know who is attending. Now it’s time to do the actual planning. This includes date, time & location of meeting, logistics, room-setup, equipment needed. All of these are important and should be taken care of before you decide to meet.
Maybe the most important element in planning is developing the agenda. We view an agenda as a game plan that will both provide a structure for your meeting but also be flexible enough to make changes if needed. Now, before we talk about specific items that go into the agenda, remember the following: 1) develop the agenda with participant input and/or participant buy-in and 2) create the agenda early to ensure such buy-in and 3) everyone has the agenda ahead of meeting.
So, what goes into an agenda? Well, first, always define the meeting’s objective/outcome. In other words, what do you want to do at this meeting? Next, have specific topics/items and If you have more than one item (and most do) then prioritize. One point as to number of topics: please be realistic. Even if you have a 2-day meeting, having over 50 agenda topics could be described as an ineffective meeting. We speak from experience.
Also, for each topic, do the following:
1) Allow enough time for discussion and/or any action taken;
2) indicate what action is needed for each topic. This could be sharing information, making a decision, assigning the item to individual(s) for a later report out
and 3) identify who is responsible for leading the discussion for each item. This again, only reinforces the importance of communication before your meeting begins.
Having an agenda is like GPS. Helps you get there but you have to do the driving. Is it important to a productive meeting? Of that, there is no doubt. Yet, there is another component also important to achieving effective meetings. Remember the previous two blogs where I talked about how before each baseball game, and each team plays 162, umpires and managers get together to discuss the ground rules. I mean, why do they do that, they know the rules and it takes time. Think of it this way, everyone understands them and the behavior or players in the game are within those rules.
Same principle for meetings. Too often, the difference between productive or non-productive meetings can be determined by our behavior. Having behavioral ground rules, accepted by the participants, increases the chances of a successful meeting. While there is no “one size fits all” regarding ground rules, we have found these to be very effective.
Keep in mind that when putting together a meeting, you can use some or all of these ground rules or you may have others. What’s important; establish ground rules and before each meeting review them for understanding and commitment.
So, until next time, we at I & I Resolutions remain committed to helping groups resolve their issues and become more productive through effective communication, including meetings.
We specialize is helping organizations determine their own unique requirements and challenges in the area of communication. Connect with us today. Follow this link to take advantage of our discount price for first time Clients. We look forward to assisting you.
Connect with us hereI have come to learn by through our new millennial friend(s) that it is or can be much more specific and targeted with the hope that the receiver will buy the product or service the advertiser is marketing.
Yet, we come back to the same constant for this dysfunction. What is your organization’s greatest obstacle, problem, issue that impedes the efficient production of your organization? Almost universally the answer is always the same, COMMUNICATION!
So, if we are looking to increase productivity (best case scenario), or just escape the bad habits of dysfunction, how much time and energy do we place in this effort?
The irony here is while groups we have worked with recognize how important these skills are, too many still do not feel it’s worth making the time and effort or even if it is fiscally sound to improve communication.
It is the perfect set up for failure. We want our organizations to work as a team and have productive meetings, yet we do not prepare agendas, have ground rules as to how we engage each other, develop a process to identify and resolve issues, make decisions or even how to do follow up. So, when these groups fail, problems arise, or meetings become dysfunctional, we are angry & shocked.
Remember our baseball example? 160,000 games and counting and each and every time those that participate know what the rules are, and how to play the game. Again, we need to train people in these skills and once trained these skills requires practice, proper use and the eventual development of “muscle memory”. What some may view as repetition, we view as reinforcement.
As we move forward, our next blog(s) are going to take the focus of communication and how it applies to effective team building and meeting management.
In the meantime, there's no need to wait to create a communication strategy for your company. We are here to get you started. Connect with us here
First, we hope everyone enjoyed a very Happy and Safe Thanksgiving.
Here we are in the beginning of December. There are a couple of things we native New Englander and former New Englanders live, pray and hope for! One is the magnificent art show (also known as the best foliage anywhere) displayed by Mother Nature, the Creator, Zen, Buddha, (feel free to fill in here!). The second was far less as reliable and was only a dream until 2004, and that is the Red Sox winning the World Series!
The color in the Adirondack, Catskills, Greens and Whites and even the Berkshire Mountains put on quite a show and the Red Sox won the 4th World Series in our lifetime, we can die in peace!
This backdrop is the thought process on this ….and a few of our blogs to follow!
I had occasion to travel and the above was my backdrop. I was amazed to see how much advertising there was all over the place for just about anything!
Now I am no marketing or advertising expert or guru of any kind. But I did pause and think: what is advertising? Money, big money spent by businesses, in the “hopes” that you will recognize their product or service, ultimately buy their product or service and keep their business in business! If it works, great! Money well spent. If it doesn’t work, still money well spent and try again!
Yet many, if not all businesses or groups identify their number one problem as poor or dysfunctional communication. So, stay with me here, we are going to talk in this blog and a couple of others a 101 so to speak on how to prepare and execute a better strategy for meetings that includes communication and all types of business encounters with customers both internal and external!
Let’s go back to baseball for a moment. During the World Series, many thought the turning point was taking out Rich Hill who had a 4-0 lead. Once he left the Sox outscored the Dodgers 9-2, winning pivotal Game 4. After the game, there was a controversy over the words “watch me” used by aforementioned Mr. Hill. His manager interpreted those words to mean, “watch me I may be tired”, while Mr. Hill said he meant “Watch me, I am dealing”. Just two words and yet they caused two people to interpret them differently.
Now, think about your work environment. Do people come up with different meanings to words or phrases? Safe answer would be yes. Now move forward with that and what happens because we do see different meanings and DON’T GET CLARIFICATION. Good bet that it can cause conflicts to arise, projects to fail, deadlines not being met.
So how does this tie in to meetings? We are a meeting society. In our 60+ years in the federal sector we attended thousands of meetings. Facilitated hundreds more. Think of those that failed (too many) and more important why they failed. And those reasons for failure 1) didn’t communicate our needs/interests, 2) people left those meetings with different ideas of what was said, 3) failing to understand what needs to be done after meeting. And there are many more. And the one factor seems to be communication.
And so the next several blogs will focus on meetings, how to manage them and the importance of communication to ensure they meet your objectives. Until then we leave you with this:
The Red Sox have played in Fenway Park for over 100 years. That is well over 162,000 thousand games. Each game is known, what’s to be played, number of innings, and before each and every game, they meet at home plate to go over the ground rules that have not changed all that much in 100 years! That says something! That’s prepared!
Until next time, both Thomas and I suggest that at least one time you visit these areas during fall. You will not be disappointed.
So, with that, we at I & I Resolutions remain committed to helping organizations, like yours, resolve their issues and become more productive through more effective communication. Start here, Click and get your
First, Andy and I wish everyone a happy New (Fiscal) Year! We really didn’t know if there would be another Government shutdown, but Mother Nature had other plans that superseded! Also, since last we heard from our parties in the labor dispute, things have changed!
On September 21st, 2018, the headlines read: Medical Center and Nurse settle contract, includes 16 percent salary increase, needs approval from union members. On September 30th, 2018, the contract was ratified by members and the new agreement was signed, valid to July 09, 2021!
The above clearly illustrates, as Andy and I always say, we would rather be lucky than good! While Andy and I would always welcome, encourage and applaud ANY agreement mutually agreed upon as opposed to one imposed on the parties, this journey bears further examination!
Let’s take a look, if you will, with us, at what we like to call the metaphoric autopsy of this labor/management interaction. We want to see what maybe we can learn, going forward!
When we last left our parties, they were at impasse. There had been 10 months of non-productive negotiations. Hard and bitter, I can only presume! A two day strike had cost in excess of 3 million dollars and the parties were no closer to an agreement than when they started! They agreed to keep talking!
Suddenly, talks break off and the parties announce they cannot proceed any further and will seek help from FMCS!
Then, again, suddenly, the Chief Negotiator from the Union announces she is quitting leaving the entire process in disarray, as it is quite unclear in the media who will be speaking for labor! I can only imagine that talks continued without third party assistance and this only furthered frustration, ill will and harmed morale!
Then, there seemed to be media silence for quite some time! Occasionally, showing the nurses picketing, while continuing to talk and all of a sudden, September 21stheadlines appear! Unfortunately, issues remain for staffing and best possible patient care, will continue, the fight goes on! The press release reads!
So let us take a look, metaphorically, post mortem, at what was gained and lost. There was the strike, at least 3 million dollars, and that does not include all of the intangibles like, continued lost productivity, lack of respect, relationships harmed if not destroyed! And we contend to you that while the differences in pay may have been agreed upon, there is still a basic lack of understanding by all involved as to the real issues and interest of each party!
And on that pay issue. The Union wanted 21% and Management offered 14 %, I believe from the beginning. They settled on 16%. We are by no means mathematicians, but spending 3 million plus, to get where you probably would have got to for a whole lot less, and possibly avoided the strike, does not make sense to us!
We all think we are great listeners and negotiators but the fact of the matter is, we work better, more effectively when we work collaboratively, with the help of a trained, neutral third party! It produces better agreements, and the overall process is cleaner, less personal and NO ONE loses any rights or is forced into anything! We have seen it work and there are several business models that also echo proof of the success that we profess!
As always, we at I and I can NEVER guarantee results (an agreement). What we can and do and promise, is a process that will allow you to identify issues, interest and foster a professional, respectful negotiation/meeting environment! You may even find it leads to effective, more permanent solutions!
So we would rather be lucky than good! Mother Nature avoided a shut down and this labor dispute played out, gave us something of a teachable moment! By the by, I and I did offer our services to the parties, we have yet to hear back! We wish them all the best on their agreement and until next time!!
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