Meeting Bill of Rights

24 February 2005 Written by  Robert Sher
Published in CEO Think: Blog

Leaders at all levels in growing companies need to make every minute count.  Meetings can be a great way to make decisions and draw upon the collective wisdom of a team.  They can also be colossal time wasters if run poorly.  If you are concerned that your company’s meetings are not as productive as they should be, try to adopt this bill of rights for meetings.  Feel free to adapt it to the needs of your organization.

Meeting Bill of Rights: For meetings of Three People or More

Leader Prepares.  The leader of the meeting should come prepared with a proposal or guidelines, so that the team can get right to work, focusing on the problem.  This should include an agenda circulated well in advance, if others are expected to prepare too.  At a company where staying focused is an issue, hand out an agenda with the time that each subject is to be discussed, so everyone can see (and help) the meeting stay on track.

Facilitator Controls.  At the start of each meeting, the person who called the meeting, or their appointee will be the facilitator, and everyone at the meeting will respect the directives of the facilitator as how the meeting is run, and how attendees participate.  The facilitator should be active and firm with everyone at the table—including the CEO.  No diversions, side conversations, or getting off point.  No one person should dominate the talking—balance is best.

Stated Purpose.  The facilitator shall state the purpose and goal of the meeting at the start, and all discussion will be focused on the achievement of that purpose.  Other ideas and topics that may arise will be listed on an escalation roster, but not discussed.

Timely Start and Finish.  The meeting will start on time, and end on time (or early).  No wasting of time for those that arrive early, and no destruction of other meetings that follow.  The discipline of getting the work of the meeting done in a fixed time frame helps the group stay focused.

No Hijacking.  No one has the right to hijack a meeting, creating a fuss and insisting that the focus of the meeting should change.  The facilitator should end a meeting that is out of control.  Attendees who have a habit of hijacking meetings must be counseled.

Conclusions Written and Circulated.  Meetings are for the purpose of getting things done, or assigning actions.  Any meeting with no clear written conclusion is a waste.  It might only be a short e-mail, but it must be written.  This should be done by the facilitator, or perhaps the person that called the meeting.

Small is Beautiful.  Only essential, active participants should attend a meeting.  The bigger the meeting, the more likely time will be wasted.  Six people is big.  Eight is really big.

No Multi-Tasking.  All participants should be focused at all times on the meeting.  If a participant feels like they are wasting their time, or that the meeting is not impactful, then most likely the meeting is not being well-run (re-read this Bill of Rights) or they should not be in the meeting.

They feel good, and fast.  If surveyed, a good meeting is one that everyone felt was fast paced, where a lot was learned and accomplished, and where the results are clear and actionable.

If you follow this bill of rights, your meetings will be productive and useful, and you’ll probably be able to spend a lot more time in the field, in 1:1’s with key employees, or otherwise getting work done.

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About Robert Sher


Robert Sher

Robert Sher is founding principal of CEO to CEO, a consulting firm of former chief executives that improves the leadership infrastructure of midsized companies seeking to accelerate their performance. He was chief executive of Bentley Publishing Group from 1984 to 2006 and steered the firm to become a leading player in its industry (decorative art publishing).

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Forbes.com columnist, author and CEO coach Robert Sher delivers keynotes and workshops, including combining content with facilitation of peer discussions on business topics.

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