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  • Writer's pictureBarb Bickford

Evaluate your meetings

Two men and three women sitting at a conference table.

It started out like any other meeting.

Robbie* briskly called the leadership team meeting to order and asked Orlando to cover the first topic.

Orlando read a lengthy report describing how his strategy would raise the hospital's patient satisfaction scores.

Without pausing to allow for discussion, Robbie thanked Orlando, then turned and asked Dot to report on another one of the hospital's declining scores. Those scores weren't even on the agenda, but Robbie thought the topic was relevant.

That's when things went off the rails. Dot squirmed, not knowing what to do. People who disagreed with Orlando's strategy challenged Robbie to go back to discussing patient satisfaction. You can imagine the outcome. Let's just say the meeting became a chaotic and unproductive mess, complete with personal attacks. And it ran overtime, AGAIN.

After the meeting, Robbie felt discouraged and unsure about how to proceed. He felt embarrassed about how he had let the meeting go off the rails.

That's when his colleague Nora approached him to discuss what had happened in the meeting. She suspected the conflict was more about how the meeting was conducted than about the topics, as controversial as those were.

"You're a teacher at heart, Robbie, and a good one. How about applying what you know about learning to this?" she asked kindly.

"Evaluation and reflection are an important part of learning. What if we reviewed how the meeting went each week and asked for suggestions for improvement?"

How can you evaluate meetings?

Plan Do Check Act cycle written on a whiteboard, with caption “Evaluation is the ‘check’ in the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle”

If you want to change your meetings for good, a great first step is to ask your meeting participants what they think.

There are several ways you can do this.

At the end of each meeting, you might ask simple open-ended questions like these:

-- What worked? -- What didn't? -- How might we improve? -- What could we do differently next time? Or, you might ask about particular things that you care about, such as how well you stayed on task, whether the meeting ended on time, how many interruptions there were, and so on. You can ask people privately or you can ask participants to fill out an anonymous survey. David Paquette, a board leadership consultant, recommends asking each board member to complete a brief questionnaire within 24 hours of a board meeting. He asks for honest feedback using a simple survey tool with a rating system. What do you evaluate? David suggests focusing on key meeting metrics such as: -- Was there a clear agenda? -- Was adequate information provided to support the meeting discussion? -- How well did board members participate? -- Was there adequate discussion? -- Did we focus on governance and making decisions? -- Was the meeting productive? -- What do we need to get better at?

Meeting expert J. Elise Keith suggests other criteria for evaluating meetings, such as: -- Time spent in meetings -- Percentage of action items completed -- Number of people actively participating in meetings -- Effectiveness of the meeting

-- Importance of the meeting It's really up to you. First decide what you care about and then ask about those things periodically. If what's important changes, choose something else.

The point is: have the intention of continuously improving your meetings by asking for feedback and acting on it. Strive for progress, not perfection.

What happened with Robbie?

To his credit, Robbie got past his embarrassment and implemented Nora's suggestion of evaluating his meetings.

When he curiously asked for suggestions, his team offered them. They started by adding time on the agenda to discuss each topic, and they learned to put unrelated topics in a "parking lot." The weekly post-meeting evaluations proved to be a success. Robbie and the leadership team have been able to identify and address the problems and improve their meetings. For one thing, they can disagree without attacking one another personally.

Robbie no longer feels discouraged -- he feels empowered!

Do you evaluate your meetings?

If not, what keeps you from learning about what could change for the better? Or, if you have implemented changes, have you checked to see how effective they are? How could iterating evaluation and action improve your leadership?

* * *

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*Names have been changed to protect anonymity. The situation, however, is both real and all too common in many sectors, not just healthcare.

Sources: 1. David Paquette. Linked In post 2. J. Elise Keith. Where the Action Is: Meetings that Make or Break Your Organization. Second Rise, 2018.

Photo credits:

1. Rido on Canva Pro

2. Canbedone from Getty Images on Canva Pro

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