How many times have you left a meeting and felt lie it was a waste of time or unsure of what was actually agreed? More often than most of us care to admit I bet. The truth is many of us are so eager to leave that we forget to do the most vital 5 minute exercise that creates clarity, focus, accountability and commitment.
Gone are the days where every Manager has a secretary who writes meeting notes. I don’t think I ever worked in that era. Instead, every member of the meeting became responsible for writing their own notes and actions, before quickly moving on to the next meeting. By and large one notes page turns into another and different people write down different priorities. Each member of the group leaves with a different agenda, a different understanding and priority.
To set yourself up to have a productive meeting with clear actions you need to try a different technique.
At the beginning of each meeting as someone to make meeting notes. These are not word for word transcriptions of the conversation, but bullet points. Date, attendees, topic or title.
As the meeting progresses, the note takers role is to record decisions, actions, owners and due dates. It is that simple. A behavioural change is for everyone to stop, pause and endure that actions are recorded before moving the conversation on. The note taker can get real clarity on what has been agreed and what the outcome is.
This takes discipline as we have become untrained in this simple technique. Conversations roll on, evolve and sometimes go off course. By focusing on actions and outcomes, it not only makes everyone super focused on being action and results focused, but it ensures that key points are underlined and there is a full stop at the end of a discussion.
At the end of the meeting the note taker reads all action points, answering the following questions:
These can be read out, written on a flip chart or projected onto the screen. What is key is the visibility.
All members of the team have the opportunity to see further clarity by asking questions, but the outcome should be that everyone is clear, committed and accountable.
If there are lots of actions, a great tip is to ask everyone to prioritise. Individually everyone ranks each item by priority then shares their thoughts. This will really help create clarity and understanding within the team about what needs to be done and why.
And one extra tip…
Agree on how to communicate the decisions and actions. The last thing you want is for some members to communicate directly, whilst others email after a few days. One message, one approach. It builds the unified team message and stops gossip, doubt and uncertainty.
So the key message is to get clear on who is doing what by when at the end of each meeting. Agree priorities and communication approach. This 5 minutes will save you hours and even weeks I promise.