The Three Most Important Things to do at the End of a Meeting
So many meetings begin in the same way, with a bit of a lost “let’s see if we can figure out where we were when we last met” memory contest. This issue is really not about memory or about how meetings begin, it is about how meetings end and it is deadly to getting anything done in your organization.
If people are unsure what was decided at the last meeting, or what needed to be done, what are the chances that they have spent the intervening time doing the things that were decided? The chances are very, very low. To maximize the effectiveness of a meeting, these should be your last three agenda items.
Confirm key decision and action steps. Oftentimes as discussion happens in meetings, a decision gets made and some people miss it, or someone thinks a decision was made and there really was no decision. Rather than leave these things to chance or interpretation, spell it out — make sure everyone is on the same page. My favorite strategy to keep these things visible is to keep minutes for the meeting on a shared document so people can see decisions in real time and the review is simply going back and highlighting them.
Develop communication points. Meetings generally don’t involve everyone that will be affected by the contents. Other people will need to know what is happening. A communication plan is always a good thing. Communication could be as simple as making the minutes public, or as involved as an organization wide communications campaign regarding the topic. Either way, it is important that all team members know what the messaging is, if there are key phrases to use or avoid, or if there are things that were discussed that are confidential and not to be disclosed.
The last agenda item should always be the seeking of feedback. How did the meeting go? Did we use our time well? Did everyone have the opportunity to be heard? Was the decision making process clear and effective? This might seem awkward the first couple of times you do it, but when it becomes a routine part of meeting culture, people will begin to help improve the effectiveness of meeting structures and processes.
These three things seem like simple and easy things to add, but I have found that leaders routinely sacrifice them in the name of efficiency. These three items will take five to ten minutes of time, and if you have not managed your time well, it can feel like these items are keeping people later than is necessary. Don’t rush these activities. Manage your time so that these are unhurried agenda items. Giving them their due time and attention will send the message that you value clear communication and the opinions of your teammates. Doing so will significantly improve the effectiveness of not only your meetings, but also the work between meetings.
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.
-Bryant H. McGill