Dear Meeting Guru,

Some members in our meetings seem reluctant to share things that are going wrong or downplay problems that may be occurring. The purpose of the meeting is to share information, not lay blame. As a manager of the department, sometimes I feel blindsided by things that team members have not shared. I'd like to draw up some guidelines as to how each member should be preparing and participating in our weekly meeting. Any suggestions?

Lawrenceville, NJ

Blessed Meeter,

It’s a good idea to send an e-mail to your group stressing how much you value the information shared during the group's meetings – good AND bad. Or you could tell them this in your next meeting. Letting them know how vital this information is to the success of the group might inspire them to share more during the meetings. Perhaps you should consider meeting in smaller groups. Sometimes this helps quieter people feel more comfortable and at ease sharing information.

Perhaps your group should also be preparing written bi-weekly reports (you provide an outline) that quickly summarize any progress, issues, concerns, etc. Ask them to hand in their reports at least two days before the meeting. This way you'll have enough time to prepare any comments or questions you might need to bring up at the meeting.

As you mentioned, stating some guidelines for your meetings is an excellent idea. The guidelines/expectations should be prepared in writing and sent by e-mail before each meeting. You might want to consider the following categories as you establish expectations for a particular series of meetings:

Attendance. Make it clear that participants are expected to attend all meetings. Discuss what might be considered a legitimate excuse for missing a meeting, and together establish a method for participants to notify you or another designated leader if they find it impossible to attend.
Promptness. Promise that meetings will start and end on time. Make it clear to the participants what "on time" means to you and what it should mean to them if they’re interested in having productive meetings.
Participation. Emphasize that each participant is a valuable member of the group and make it clear to each that he should both listen attentively and also speak freely.
Responsibility. Outline any responsibilities you’ll assume, as well as those you expect participants to adopt during the meeting.

You also mentioned that you're having difficulty getting people to participate in the discussion during your meetings. Here are more ideas on how to encourage participation in the meeting room and how to get a team to discuss its effectiveness.

It’s important to be honest and up front with your group about how you’re feeling. You need to encourage the team members to be open about the reality of the situation, regardless of whether it’s good or bad. As Confucius once said, "He who acts with a constant view to his own advantage will be much murmured against."

Until next time… may good meeting karma always be with you.



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