Stop Meeting Madness!!! The Meeting Manager

 

“Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking.”

Clement Atlee

Tools

If you’ve followed our recommendations included in the last several articles you now have important tools in place that can dramatically improve group meeting performance:

It is now time to put into place possibly the most important piece of the puzzle to improve group meetings – the “Meeting Manager.”

The “Meeting Manager” is the most critical person in regards to how well group meetings operate.

Role of the Meeting ManagerMeeting Manager

A Meeting Manager is the person in charge of running the meeting. He or she has the authority to regulate the meeting and is responsible for:

  • Enforcing the ground rules.
  • Keeping order.
  • Ensuring that any discussion is relevant to the points on a meeting’s agenda and preventing irrelevant debate.
  • Repeating any motion proposed by those attending to ensure that everyone has heard and understood it.
  • The successful completion of business.
  • Summing up the discussion at the end of the meeting.

In addition, it often falls to the Meeting Manager to remind the Board members to make their decisions based on what is best for the entire organization as defined in the group’s mission statement, vision, values and strategic plan (we will discuss development of these items in later articles).

The ideal Meeting Manager should have a wide range of personal skills, such as:

  • Firmness in running the meetings on time and dealing with problems.
  • Ability to summarize points succinctly.
  • Flexibility when dealing with the different tones and styles of attendees.
  • Openness and receptiveness when listening to the opinions that they do not share.
  • Fair-mindedness in ensuring that all views are aired and given equal consideration.

In some cases, groups expect the Meeting Manager to appear unbiased and not fully join in the discussion.  In these cases, the Meeting Manager does not vote unless it is needed for the deciding vote.

Who Should Serve as the Meeting Manager?

The Meeting Manager is often the Chairman or President of a group, but does not have to be. For example, several years ago I worked with a  radiology group that had a great President. He was excellent in regards to most of the functions required of him. However, he couldn’t manage his group’s meetings.  He was unable to keep the discussion on track and moving forward.  This group kept him as President and elected another physician to be the Meeting Manager.

I believe that it is best for a physician to serve in this role rather than the group’s administrative manager. I know there will be those who disagree with me about this, but sometimes the Meeting Manager must confront a Board member about their meeting behavior – that can be a career limiting move for a group administrator.

Implementing a Meeting Manager

Many groups find it difficult implement the use of a Meeting Manager. Some practices don’t want one.  In other groups no one wants to take on this role, because they are unsure if they will be supported doing this job.

Here’s how I suggest you approach it:

  1. First, ask the group members if they believe that their group meetings are ineffective.
  2. Then, ask group members if they think that group meetings will be more effective is they have someone serve as a Meeting Manager.
  3. If they say yes to #2, ask them if they are personally willing to be managed. For example, are they willing to be told, from time to time, that they have spoken on the issues multiple times and it is time to let others speak?  Now you have to be careful here – many physicians will say “yes” meaning they are happy to have a Meeting Manager manage someone else in the group, but they themselves don’t need to be managed (because, of course, they think they are never a part of the problem) – so you need to make sure that they are personally willing be subject to the Meeting Manager also.
  4. If the answers to all of the above questions are “yes,” then, and only then, is it time to ask someone if they would be willing to sever as Meeting Manager.

Tips for a Meeting Manager

Pacing the meeting correctly is an important part of the role of the Meeting Manager.

The Meeting Manager should always make sure that an agenda is provided and followed, and that the speakers have enough time to make their points without allowing the meeting to overrun its schedule.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Always make a point of starting the meetings on time…if some participants are late, start the meeting without them.
  • Do not waste time recapping for late arrivals unless it is vital that they possess information to make a quick decision.
  • Keep things moving briskly by adhering strictly to the agenda and enforcing a strict time limit for each topic. This establishes and maintains a sense of urgency and momentum.
  • Do not allow participants to waste time by wandering from the point.  If the discussion does begin to stray, bring back to the main issue by saying, for example, “We are not here to discuss that today – let’s get back to the point.”
  • Keep tight control over proceedings, direct any debate and encourage attendees to participate.
  • When people take divergent positions, remind the participants that the purpose of the meeting is to reach agreement.
  • It is the responsibility of the Meeting Manager to ensure that individual participants appreciate the interests of the whole group, personal interests are set aside when necessary, and that everyone is working toward the same aim.
  • The Meeting Manager should close the meetings by:
    • Summarizing discussions and recap agreements.
    • Informing participants of the time, date and location of next meeting.
    • Ensuring that outstanding items are noted for inclusion at the next meeting.

 

Please contact me if you’d like to discuss this post.

Will Latham
wlatham@lathamconsulting.com

 

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