Is communication, or the lack of, the biggest issue I see in my day to day activity?
Probably not the biggest, but it certainly plays a part in a lot of less than perfect scenarios that inhabit the rural sector, writes Hub Rural’s Hugh Baker.
What’s the best way to correct this? Effective meetings.
This sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many meetings that achieve little more than simply distracting the participants from something they would rather be doing.
This sentiment is in itself a problem as it dis-inclines those attending to be positive about the next meeting and so it goes on.
Good meetings are a really simple way of collectively transferring information between people and agreeing next steps for the good of the company, family or organisation.
It’s not that hard to get right - follow a few simple rules and you’ll be having meetings that people actually want to be at, and things will get done.
It doesn’t matter what the purpose is, or who’s there, the basics are the same:
Set a date (and try not to change it)
At the end of each meeting agree the next date or dates. Don’t leave long gaps between meetings as this makes them longer when they do happen, making them marathons not sprints.
Have a chairperson
Make sure they’re aware of what the role encompasses.
Agree a location
Choose somewhere where there’s a usable space, with suitable facilities. Standing up in a coldstore works quite well!
If physically gathering people proves tricky then Skype or teleconference, while potentially challenging, is better than no meeting at all.
Send out an agenda
Do it well in advance and include timings for each element if you can. Make sure those contributing are aware of what they’re required to do.
All reports should go out before the meeting and attendees should have read them before the meeting.
The meeting should be used to answer questions about the reports and to discuss the implications and outcomes of the content, not for reading of the information itself.
Have a means of taking notes, turn off your tech and focus on the meeting. There should only be one conversation at any time.
Silence generally means acceptance of a plan, so don’t keep quiet and then say you don’t like something after the meeting. Unravelling decisions later can be really hard.
Challenge the issue or idea, not the person delivering it. And let people have their say.
People that say nothing at meetings are more of a concern than those you cannot keep quiet, as at least with the latter let you know they’re awake and have a view.
Don’t be the waffler
Nobody wants to be the inducer of the rolling eyes and tutting brigade; if it’s not relevant to the point, don’t say it. Listening is a relevant as speaking and there needs to be both from all attendees.
Don’t leave anything out
The news will not always be good - be brave and tackle all the topics, not just the easy ones.
Make sure accurate minutes are produced and agreed asap after the meeting - allocated action points are vital, as it encourages accountability.
The actions from the previous meeting should always be reviewed at the beginning of the next meeting.
You’ll be surprised what these simple rules can do to transform the effectiveness of your meetings.
People who are engaged, informed and feel part of a democratic process with good governance will really respond while those who don’t, or dont want to get it, will become apparent.
That way you know what you’re dealing with.