An article about meetings? SHOOT. ME. NOW.
I know. I know. You have all been there. Some meetings just drain your energy! Meetings are perceived as one of the biggest wastes of time. For way too many companies…they are! However, if done properly, they can be a very effective tool used to simplify communication, coordination and decision-making on areas that involve more than one person
• How many and what types of meetings are applicable to your family farm?
• Who should attend and participate in the various meetings?
• What items are appropriate for any given meeting?
• When and where will meetings take place?
• Why are we having this meeting and what are the expected outcomes?
"Meetings get a bad rap, and deservedly so...
Staff meetings are generally intended to discuss tactics and day-to-day business activities. These will vary in frequency. On the family farm, there is often a need for short, quick daily “stand-up” meetings to discuss immediate needs and planning. Daily “Stand-Up” meetings are just that…standing. Don’t sit down. The goal is to make it quick, efficient and productive. Weekly meetings may be more appropriate during slower times and can be used for outlining goals for the week and assigning activities. Ad-hoc meetings can be called for training and internal announcement type information.
Management meetings are intended to explore bigger picture issues like planning, defining job responsibilities, coordination of resources, deciding on priorities, determining how to gather and analyze data and employee reviews and training programs. These meetings can be weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. It depends on the agenda and the desired outcome of the meeting.
Ownership and board meetings should be conducted at least annually and involve key stakeholders, owners and spouses. Many times, there is a need for these to take place quarterly and monthly, especially as your family business becomes more complex. Whether they are involved in day-to-day activities or not, spouses are a big part of ownership meetings for family businesses. They act as silent partner in the business by virtue of being married to an owner. These meetings are appropriate for strategic planning issues, general policy setting for operations, dividend distribution and management compensation.
Some best practices for helping ensure productive meetings include trying to make sure that attendees have balanced participation. Locate the meeting where business can be conducted without interruption, including cell phone usage during the meeting! Whoops, I let that pet-peeve out of the box. Toddlers should not be present and the TV should be turned off. Holding meetings at the kitchen table is not the best practice and is conducive to interruptions and perceptions of low seriousness. Location is important. Rotating locations can add some variety and helps level the “home turf” advantages that can subconsciously creep into the situation. Schedule meetings when they are appropriate. Don’t schedule a 4 hour long-term planning session during the middle of harvest.
Keeping meeting notes and using them as a basis for follow-up helps eliminate those decisions that are sometimes made where no one ever gets busy with the specific action items. Meeting notes also help create an environment of personal accountability. If everyone knows that there will be follow-up, odds increase that the work will actually get performed. You may have experienced it – everyone is excited about an idea, but it never gets implemented because the “who”, “what” and “when” of the idea were never decided upon. Several months later, the same discussion often takes place again…a complete waste of time.
General Rules for Business Meetings and Guidelines for Personal Accountability can provide serious productivity and accomplishment to various meetings in your business. Coming to an agreement on these things before holding meetings is a best practice and something we can explore in the near future.