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Face The Challenge - Sample Section, Chapter 10

Chapter Ten - Meetings

"Meetings" helps Leaders to maximize the productivity of this unavoidable element of organizational life by providing instructions on conducting effective leadership meetings, improving meeting proficiency by emphasizing good meeting habits, increasing participant creativity, reducing bad meeting behaviors, and how to use effective leadership meetings to have a positive impact on worker productivity.


10.1 An Unavoidable Fact of Organizational Life.  Meetings are the inevitable, unavoidable consequence of organizing and administering any human endeavor involving more than one person.  And though often consuming vast amounts of a Leader's time without a directly proportional payout, the alternative of reduced communication is always less desirable or productive.  But for Leaders to think that they can achieve any substantial level of success without spending many long hours listening to others drone on and on is just as delusional as thinking that someday they will discover the fountain of youth.  However, what Leaders can do is to resolve themselves to maximizing their communication skills and the benefits which may potentially result from such unavoidable agony.  As the rudimentary purpose of any meeting is to facilitate the exchange of ideas or information in an efficient manner; as opposed to a Leader having to repeat the same conversation over and over again with each participant individually, or engaging in the even greater, mind-numbing, time-consuming process of committing everyone's thoughts to writing and then reading and synthesizing their input.


(A) The effective number of attendees at any meeting is dependent upon many factors including: (i) the scope of the agenda, (ii) the amount of input or participation expected from each attendee, (iii) the number of agenda items, (iv) the inherent nature or complexity of each agenda item,  (v) the degree of group cohesion or cooperation, (vi) the frequency of such assemblies, (vii) the amount of information to be disseminated, (viii) the amount of time allocated, and  (ix) the Leader's parliamentarian skills.  If a heated debate is expected, the number of participants should normally be limited to ten or less (approximately the same constraining limit as an effective span-of-control).  If the amount of two-way dialogue is expected to be more limited, the effective number can rise to as many as fifty; but greater numbers all but preclude any meaningful attendee participation, and such meetings are usually only suitable for instruction purposes or for disseminating information.


(B) Besides their direct or immediate communication value, meetings also provide the Leader and the participants with additional benefits, including (Jay, CM p241): (a) an increased sense of belonging, (b) a greater understanding of each group member's motivations, (c) an expanded appreciation for the group Leader's role or contribution, (d) an indirect opportunity for Leaders to observe and evaluate their Subordinates, (e) an improved awareness of each participant's strengths and weaknesses, (e) the development of participant interactive skills and meeting protocol, (f) an opportunity for Leaders to give further encouragement, provide group recognition, or raise individual self-esteem, (g) a time for Leaders to reaffirm or reinforce the group's values, standards, purpose, or dedication to the objective, and  (h) a forum for Subordinates to participate in the decision making process and expand their overall sense of accomplishment.  Additionally, meetings allow Subordinates to form an opinion of their Leader firsthand, rather than through his or her directives and memos, or from hearsay and peer-group gossip.


(C) And while some successful Leaders might suggest that attendees should remain standing to abbreviate meeting times or pride themselves on being able to knock off so many irksome agenda items per minute, meeting brevity in and of itself has no particular virtue.  Though being forced to stand, talking in cryptic code, limiting presentation times, cold meeting rooms, or uncomfortable seating may reduce the number of hours spent chewing the fat; such time-saving tactics also invariably reduce Subordinate interest, candor, or participation.  More appropriately, achieving an effective payout for the time invested should be the Leader's primary meeting goal; not setting an Olympic record for processing a laundry list of brilliant ideas or strictly limiting debate to a specified number of minutes.

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Copyright 2006 by H. Garrett Hayward from Face the Challenge: The Leader's Success Handbook