How Effective are Your Meetings?

As it appeared in the Daily Nation on June 19th 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu

Early on in my career, I worked at a production plant. It was customary for management team to hold daily meetings. I found the meetings very well organized; they were brief yet productive. What was also evident is that everyone came prepared for the meeting. Often, the meetings started and ended on time. The main production departments also held staff meetings. I moved on to the retail sector and once again, experienced effective meetings. These were held at the beginning of the shift, they were well structured and fun. In addition to updates on the previous day’s performance, challenges that the store was facing were shared and we took a few minutes to recognize acts of kindness witnessed the previous day. There was no need to record minutes at this kind of meeting. My early career experience with meetings was great!

Later on, I worked in two other organizations that also held effective meetings. In one of them, lateness to senior management meetings meant no entry as the door would stay locked. I consider regular staff and management meetings an effective way to communicate, make team decisions and gain commitment. This was not the case when I moved on to a very disorganized organization. Unplanned meetings was the order of the day. No meeting notices were given and no agenda items were shared beforehand. Our Chief Operating Officer simply expected us to show up when he called for a meeting. During the meetings, he intentionally put down those he did not like by highlighting poor performance in their departments. I recall once receiving a call at 6pm while on my way from an assignment in Mombasa informing me that there was a budget meeting as soon as I got to Nairobi. I hated having to attend these meetings. I have witnessed many other ineffective meetings especially as part of my involvement in community initiatives. I am almost certain that most of us hate meetings because we consider then ineffective, a waste of time, money and effort.

Every leader, every manager, every person who chairs a meeting has a major responsibility to make it effective. I believe meetings are important. For a meeting to be effective, it should have a purpose and set agenda. The meeting start and end time should be communicated. The person leading the meeting must effectively manage it from start to end. It is not in order for a few people to dominate meeting discussions, get out of topic, and pick phones in between. Items not on agenda are best discussed on the corridors or in the parking lot. In addition, participants should take notes so that they can track their actions. At the end of the meeting, it must be clear who will do what by when and there should be a follow through.

Before you call for the next meeting, have clear answers to these questions. Is the meeting necessary? What is the meeting’s objective? Who will lead the meeting? Who should attend? Why should they attend? What preparation is required by the leader and by the participants? What ground rules will guide the meeting? How long will the meeting last? What input is required from each meeting participant? What outputs are expected from the meeting? Effective meetings require preparation; they are enjoyable, and productive!

Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy

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