Meetings, Bloody Meetings!

angry-meeting-dollarMeetings are supposed to be an organised process facilitating good decisions, involving several people with a common goal: too many of us spend too much time in meetings that don’t deliver, are frustrating, or just rubbish.

And they’re hard to change from the inside, aren’t they?  First you have to realise they’re a problem, then work out what’s wrong with them in a coherent way you can communicate, then come up with a way to fix them that won’t terminally offend or bore everyone else involved.

There’s no generic solution, because no problem is common to every meeting, but here’s a few ideas that might make your meeting* better:

  • Adopt the minimum necessary standing orders**, make sure everyone’s familiar with them, and make sure the Chair sticks to them;
  • Hold a regular planning day for the Committee/Board – say, once a year – facilitated by someone external, so all members can participate fully, including the Chair.  This helps develop a shared purpose and focus for future meetings;
  • There must be a strategy, or plan, or achievable and defined objective for every group that meets – otherwise, what’s the point of the meeting?
  • Insist on follow-up of meeting decisions – maybe through an action list circulated for each meeting;
  • Don’t let important decisions get made without members having prior warning and an opportunity to inquire, contemplate, and prepare;
  • Rotate chairing, so less experienced members get to improve their skills;
  • Induct new committee members properly: training in meeting procedures and committee member responsibilities, and a “welcome on board” kit with the constitution, rules, standing orders and forward plan;
  • Insist reports include clear and specific recommendations reflecting the issues raised by the report;
  • Discuss only those recommendations – otherwise you end up nit-picking your way through the whole report;
  • woman-reporting-meeting-dollarIf reports are verbal, and decisions are made (or not made) based on them, then there needs to be a record of key points made;
  • Check meeting minutes to ensure they reflect all decisions – not the discussion;
  • Ensure meeting business – the agenda – is built around effectively delivering on the agreed strategy;
  • Help keep debate is relevant, robust and respectful;
  • Your rules or standing orders should ensure proxying is rare or prohibited – continuity of involvement is important;
  • Be ready to strictly enforce rules and standing orders, for example when members try to speak three times, or incessantly, or off-topics;
  • At the same time, make sure no member feels excluded from the decision-making process;
  • Support the Chair in delivering on all of these – and keep pushing to ensure they can and do!
  • Take personal responsibility for ensuring meetings function effectively: when they’re not, make appropriate suggestions and interventions.

Sometimes, it is easier to get someone from outside to audit your meetings and provide proposals for improvement – Ethical Consulting Services can help improve your meetings.

… and, here’s a tip: if a subset of members feel they should get together before a meeting and decide how to behave and what to say in the meeting, intending to smother the views of others, then your meetings are a failure, guaranteed.



* Particularly committee or board meetings
** Supremacy of the Chair, speaking time limits, no speaking twice in one debate, speaking only to motions, and a few others depending on the nature of your meeting.  Here’s a draft template for standing orders that you’re welcome to use – change it as required!



About Mike Smith

Partner in Ethical Consulting Services:; Ethical strategies and programs which get you where you need to go ... * Exceptional government & stakeholder relations, * Thriving governance systems, * Specialised project facilitation, * Inbound investment assistance, * Successful marketing, communications and PR campaigns ... and customised training in each of these areas.

Posted on January 27, 2016, in Communication, Culture, Culture change, Democracy, Governance, Leadership, Meetings, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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