Shirley Fine Lee Spotlights Seven Meeting Blunders Participants Bear

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Why put up with bad meetings? There are many blunders that meeting attendees allow which influence whether the meeting is effective or nonproductive. Seven of the most common blunders are presented and easily solved using hints from the book "R.A!R.A! A Meeting Wizard's Approach" by Shirley Fine Lee (ISBN 1-4196-5367-9 on http://www.Amazon.com).

Professionals have to attend multiple meetings each week and often find these meetings were a waste of time. Why is time allowed to be wasted in meetings? Meetings are supposed to help get things done not hinder progress. Having to be at meetings where participation is low or things get out of control causes objectives for holding the meeting to not get met. To meet objectives, start by avoiding the seven common blunders that meeting members make and allow from others without question. These blunders are:

1.    Members do not understand the importance of their role in generating ideas, solving problems, and making decisions.
2.    Attendees will not demand a written agenda with timeframes.
3.    If they have an agenda, they allow random changes or rabbit trails.
4.    Participants don't use visible records of their progress during a meeting.
5.    Attendees choose not to review distributed minutes for accuracy.
6.    Members do not insure actions items are recorded during meeting.
7.    Participants don't commit to actions by volunteering with a completion date.

Now let's evaluate each of these blunders according to Shirley Fine Lee's book "R.A!R.A! A Meeting Wizard's Approach", which is available at http://www.amazon.com/R-Meeting-Wizards-Approach/dp/1419653679. R.A!R.A! is an acronym for Roles, Agenda, Records, and Actions, which are key elements to successful meetings according to the book.

1.    Members do not understand the importance of their role in generating ideas, solving problems, and making decisions.
For a meeting to be successful every member must agree to meeting purpose and processes then adhere to those throughout the meeting time. All members must understand the reason they are part of the meeting is to share their knowledge and expertise with the team. Sharing comes in developing ideas and solutions or establishing criteria with a process for making decisions. Some individuals may require help to understand their importance to the team.

2.    Attendees will not demand a written agenda with timeframes.
Sometimes people feel that short meetings do not require a formal agenda. However, they quickly discover that by not having a proposed agenda at the beginning of the meeting, they get off-track and lose control of the meeting. Having an agenda with important topics first and timeframes listed will help keep the meeting on-track and on-schedule.

3.    If they have an agenda, they allow random changes or rabbit trails.
Sometimes meetings will start with an agenda, but it isn't adhered to. People are allowed to come into the meeting and change the agenda at any time by talking out of turn or changing the topic while discussing an agenda item. Although it may sometimes be necessary to change an agenda for an urgent item, this should be done at the beginning of the meeting and agreed to by all present. Use the written agenda to refocus the team to what they have agreed to do during the meeting timeframe.

4.    Participants don't use visible records of their progress during a meeting.
A great way to keep a meeting on-track is to make sure all idea generation, decision-making, and other discussions get recorded in a way that is visible to all while the meeting is going on. Having a visible record using marker boards or flip charts often keeps members from repeating themselves to make sure they are heard. It also helps to bring members back into focus on the current topic if someone begins to stray away from the agreed upon subject.

5.    Attendees choose not to review distributed minutes for accuracy.
Some meeting members understand the importance of taking meeting minutes to have a record of what went on during the meeting, but they do not make sure those minutes are distributed to attendees and others after the meeting has finished. Quickly distributing meeting records allows members of the team to correct mistakes they think were made in the records as well as serving as a reminder of decisions made or actions to complete.

6.    Members do not insure actions items are recorded during meeting.
Too often meeting members may wonder why they are having all these meetings and yet nothing seems to be getting done as a result. This usually means that an important action which came out of a team discussion did not get recorded. One way to remedy this is to have a place where all actions are listed as they come up.

7.    Participants don't commit to actions by volunteering with a completion date.
Progress can be made if all the outside actions were recorded, that is if someone volunteers or is assigned to complete the action. It is also very helpful to make sure the person doing the action knows when it must be done by. A due date helps individuals plan their time outside the meeting.

That explains the seven blunders meeting members allow and how to avoid them by using the R.A!R.A! Approach. Although Roles, Agenda, Records, and Actions are the backbone of Shirley Fine Lee's book "R.A!R.A! A Meeting Wizard's Approach", there is more in the book. The author also includes sections on preparing for meetings and how to handle disruptions in the meeting. The book includes various forms for planning, recording, and evaluating meetings as well. A free meeting evaluation is available on the author's website (http://www.shirleyfinelee.com). Find this book on improving meetings at http://www.Amazon.com by searching for ISBN 1-4196-5367-9.

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Shirley Lee

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