Make meetings more effective (part 1)

Make meetings more effective
(part 1)

Why should you attend so many meetings
when they are so boring and ineffective..?

I like meetings and I organize lots of them but nowadays people seem to prefer seeking feedback and decision making by e-mail, rather than having a meeting. Seeking guidance and commitment by sending an e-mail to a number of people is, however, also often not very effective. Some recipients respond by starting an e-mail debate creating a huge trail of questions and answers. `Some recipients don’t want to respond because they assume that by not-responding, somebody else will take ownership and they can even pretend not to be aware. My experience is that in order to create a proper discussion, good progress and clear accountability, a real old-fashioned (or Skype) meeting is often still required.

Meeting pitfalls

The challenge is how to conduct an effective meeting that immediately adds value for the time spent or in other words organize such interaction among the participants that the outcome of the meeting is worth the effort. In this blog, I have identified four common mistakes that can make meetings rather ineffective. They are described in such a way that you can easily recognize their occurrence. Thereafter I will explain how to respond when you hear certain statements and start making meetings more fun and effective. This blog is split into two parts so you will get the first two root-causes of ineffective meetings in this part and the second part with two more root-causes will follow in two weeks.

Part 1:
a) What is the time horizon of the meeting; one day or tomorrow?
b) If you don’t know what you are looking for, you will never find it…

Part 2:
c) Anybody could do it but nobody did it as the action is outside the room.
d) Could you please have a look at it, and then he looked at it and saw nothing.

 

Past-change is impossible, future-change is hard but you can start tomorrow

Many meetings are ineffective because they have no focus on the short term, therefore they are not action/ result oriented and the outcome is that there will be no action or result (…rocket-science…). For a proper discussion, it is important, to understand what the long-term (strategic) direction is and what has been learned from the past but only to the extent that this is relevant for decision making during that same meeting. (‘..your contribution is valid but please specify what part is relevant for decision making today…?’)

Also spending a lot of time discussing what somebody ‘should have done’ or ‘could have done’ will not change anything. Activities that probably only start in months to come and that are not even certain should be quickly parked (prio 3; don’t drop it but not now). The focus (time spent) should be on what actions/ commitment can be agreed upon for the next two weeks (as prio 1). If some actions still have a dependency/uncertainty than these can be parked (as prio 2) where the action-owner is supposed to come up with commitment in two weeks after sorting out the dependency/ uncertainty issue.
It is good to know the big picture but even big pictures were painted with small steps so agreeing on weekly small steps, is likely to create faster results. If you’re not going fast enough, you may have to slow down!

 

Are you aware that change (almost always) requires action

Another root-cause that makes meeting very ineffective is when participants believe that they suspect that the problem is embedded in the organizational culture. For example ‘There is lack of trust….’, ‘We are not communicating enough….’, ‘There is insufficient focus……’ are comments where a lot of people may agree but still nothing happens. Even if only a minority agrees, these topics still seem to be so crucial that nobody dares to really ignore them.

Although these topics can be discussed for hours and hours, the solution on how to address the challenges raised is extremely simple. Assuming that we cannot change the past, the only question that needs to be asked in response to what action would be appreciated: ‘… What do you believe you can do -starting tomorrow- to improve trust, communicate better, focus more, etc….?’. Or: ‘…What do you suggest I can do….?’. No need to blame the past that it was not good or not effective as the past cannot be changed so you just have to find out what are small steps for improvement to restore trust, communication or focus.
Please be aware that moving to fast and suggesting small steps for improvement, makes some people believe that you do not respect the cultural challenges people had or the complexity of the problem. People should get some room to speak out without blaming (that triggers defensive responses) which is constructive (positive, forward-looking) feedback aiming for small steps of improvement.

Conclusion

Chairing meetings is a balancing act between collecting input and creating empowerment by letting participants speak-up, but at the same time discussions should be kept short and there should be a push for actions and decisions. A chair probably has to repeat the same sentence again and again after every long monologue of one of the participants; …so what are we going to do now?…..so what are WE going to do now?…………so what are we going to DO NOW?? ..and the meeting can move on to the next topic….

Part 2 will follow in two weeks

Mastering Implementation and Execution?

Management Master Mind is a platform that facilitates the exchange of today’s’ leadership opportunities/challenges and shares practical solutions. For the self-starters, there is a very structured and practical guideline as captured in the book on Behavioral Leadership. For those that like to get more examples of challenges and success stories, there is a blog for all five focus ambitions. Finally, there will be workshops, consulting and coaching for those that prefer more in-depth engagement and exchange.

The book on Behavioral Leadership

A step-by-step interactive approach to create success through employee and customer engagement covering all ambitions.

The blog on challenges and success-stories

A variety of easy-to-read articles that give more practical insights on the five ambitions that drive success.

Get in touch for more engagement and exchange

You are invited to share your personal challenge or opportunity and see how more exchange support can be organized.

Embedded service excellence or stand-alone?

Embedded service excellence
or stand-alone?

Do you expect customer service excellence only from your customer-facing staff?
Then it is very likely that your customer and your organization will suffer…..!

During the annual budget process that I attended, HR was asked to come up with some financial details and a breakdown of their training proposal. It was good to see that the HR director already prepared herself by asking all departments for their training need analysis. This overview was shared with the budget committee so we could clearly see how the requested budget would be spent.

These departmental requests were pretty obvious as the finance department wanted to have finance-training and the technical departments asked for technical-trainings. Only the sales and service departments -that had customer-facing activities- asked for training in service excellence.

Although the overall impression may be that the training proposal made a lot of sense, this approach of asking departments for their preference also could have some pitfalls that should be addressed.

Balancing between employee and organization interest

Departments already tend to work in silo’s and by further expanding their own expertise, these islands may even drift further apart. There is, of course, a need to understand the latest developments and requirements for their own field of expertise but in many cases, experts already read expert-magazines and talk expert language with their expert colleagues because they share the same expert interest.

Being best-in-class in terms of expert knowledge is an important ingredient for success but only by exploring this knowledge during interaction with other departments, the real benefit, and added value will be achieved for the organization. In other words, as long as the expert department has no clue what the needs and ambitions of other departments are, the investment in expert training will only be an investment in individuals instead of an investment in both individual and organization.

Service consistency by internal and external engagements

You may recognize the experience that I had many times whereas the service level of my contact person (waiter, account manager, bus driver, etc.) was pretty good but I could sense that they were struggling to offer better service due to their internal organizational challenges. They did not have the right tools and lacked the required internal support and sometimes even expressed their frustration: ‘…Those guys in head-office don’t seem to care and they definitely have no clue… ‘

is little engagement between customer-facing departments and internal departments. It is therefore important that there should not only be a common service-excellence training throughout the organization but also a well-structured process for internal engagement. Like front-office should try to understand and act on the needs of the internal customers, a similar engagement should be organized on a regular basis to make internal departments understand the needs of the customer-facing departments.

Benefits for service and development

There will be a number of benefits for the organization once the process and training for embedding service excellence are in place and supported by the entire leadership team.

  • Front-line employees will feel more confident, more proud as they are better supported once they experience that internal departments care about their challenges.
  • In the past, internal departments had to investigate a drop in sales or an increase of returns, after getting the monthly reports but now they already could know and act on improvement based on frequent engagement with front office staff, even before numbers start to show a declining trend.
  • Product development and second line support will get direct feedback from the user experience by getting front-office input, therefore being able to become more pro-active in terms of improving products or develop new solutions.

Embedding customer service throughout an organization is crucial for achieving service excellence. Internal departments are also part of the service chain and the weakest link in the chain…. Embedding customer service is however not only important to protect the business but also to grow the business as a better understanding and faster responding to customer need’s is a strong competitive advantage.

Embedding Service Excellence in your organisation

Management Master Mind is a platform that facilitates the exchange of today’s’ leadership opportunities/challenges and shares practical solutions. For the self-starters, there is a very structured and practical guideline as captured in the book on Behavioral Leadership. For those that like to get more examples of challenges and success stories, there is a blog for all five focus ambitions. Finally, there will be workshops, consulting and coaching for those that prefer more in-depth engagement and exchange.

The book on Behavioral Leadership

A step-by-step interactive approach to create success through employee and customer engagement covering all ambitions.

The blog on challenges and success-stories

A variety of easy-to-read articles that give more practical insights on the five ambitions that drive success.

Get in touch for more engagement and exchange

You are invited to share your personal challenge or opportunity and see how more exchange support can be organized.