Every manager needs to master the skills for chairing a meeting. An effectively chaired meeting will have the participants leaving with a sense of accomplishment and a clear understanding of future direction and task. Here are some pointers.
Start on Time
When you wait for newcomers, you penalise those who have arrived on time and you reward late arrivals. Before long, everyone will arrive late. So, how do you get people to your meetings on time? Start on time! Always.
Get the meeting off to a business-like start
Welcome other participants, introduce them and yourself. If necessary, explain their roles. Clarify the objectives of the meeting, ensuring that each member understands the task and is aware of the expertise available in the group.
Preview and confirm the agenda
Check that each member publicly agrees with the stated objective of each item, ensuring that all irrelevant or hidden agendas become redundant. Indicate the successful criteria for a meeting and how the group will decide or know when the outcomes are achieved.
Focus continually on your objectives
Keep the meeting’s main objectives and desired outcomes in mind. Initiate discussion on each item by setting the scene briefly and asking for responses. You may refer the matter first to a member who can make the best initial contribution. Reinforce each item.
When moving on to a new item, reiterate and clarify its purpose and objective.
Clarify issues. If debate leads to confusion, it is your job to unravel the strands so that a decision can be reached.
Summarise regularly. During lengthy discussion of an item, summarise progress periodically to maintain a sense of direction.
Clarify the decision-making process beforehand. If people are not sure about whether a decision has been made or, if it has, by what means, conflict and poor productivity will result.
Conclude discussion of an item by summarising. When you sense consensus on main points, these should be tested with the group, voted on if necessary, and recorded. Resist the temptation to try forcing people into agreement in order to tidy up discussions.
When a decision has been made, be clear what that decision is and how it will be implemented. Assign responsibilities to group members and set deadlines for action.
If an issue cannot be resolved, find out why and appoint a task group or individual to investigate and report back to the next meeting.
End on a positive note and on time
Try to end on a positive note even when there has been substantial disagreement during the meeting perhaps save for last an agenda item on which everyone can agree. Respect the plans of those who assumed that the meeting would end on time. This will mean bringing discussion to a halt about five minutes before the scheduled time. Sum up the entire meeting, restate the outcomes, confirm allotted tasks and deadlines, and thank participants. Make arrangements for the next meeting.
Review and analyse thesuccess of the meeting
While the meeting is still fresh in your mind, it is important to assess its effectiveness and your own style of leadership. Employ that information to make your next meeting better.
Follow up promptly
Concise minutes, including a list of the decisions made, the tasks assigned and the deadlines for any action and follow-up, should be completed and distributed promptly. Where necessary, inform other interested parties of outcomes as soon as possible after the meeting.
In the period following the meeting, monitor the progress of assignments if possible. At the next meeting, uncompleted assignments should be considered first and unmet deadlines discussed. Such accountability helps to ensure that the agreed outcomes of your meeting have some meaning next time.
Source: Just About Everything a Manager Needs to Know, by Neil Flanagan & Jarvis Finger.