Two weeks ago, we talked about Creating Effective Meetings  and last week we shared the contributions of one of our readers in Beyond Effective Meetings.  We trust that you are starting to think more deeply about the meetings that you initiate and the meetings you are in.  It is critical to ensure that your meetings are moving your teams forward so that they can create success vs. impeding success. 

Once you have paused to reflect on the meetings you are having and you have determined that they are the right meetings, you then need to consider your plan of action for when your meetings derail.  And, they will.

There are a variety of ways meetings derail – participants get stuck in one groove and can’t move on; emotions flare and disrupt progress; people are frustrated to be recreating the wheel on a decision that has already been made; etc. We’re sure you can all think of a number of times when a meeting has derailed. 

When a meeting does derail, there are a few things to do that can get you back on track pretty quickly:

  • Restate the reason for the meeting.  It’s simple, we know, but identifying the goal of the meeting can help you move the discussion or concerns that derailed the meeting into another forum that is specific to addressing those issues.
  • Remind people of the agenda for the day and create a list of other issues that need to be covered elsewhere.  It’s important that people, who are pressing for discussions that don’t belong in this particular meeting, feel that their need for a forum to address the issue is respected.  Before the end of the meeting, determine where those issues will get addressed.
  • Wrap up each discussion with a summary of agreements and action items. Every meeting, every time.  It’s amazing the number of times teams have great discussions, make thoughtful decisions, and plan out actions to move forward and yet, don’t find a way to track and utilize their success.
  • If emotions flare, PAUSE and then ask everyone to approach the discussion with curiosity and respect.  Emotions are not problematic until they are used to hold others hostage to an idea or outcome.  Pausing is usually a good way to give people the opportunity to steady their emotions.  A brief break can also defuse an emotional situation.

Creating effective meetings and getting them back on track when they are derailed is a critical key to organizational success.  If you have 10 people in four hours of meetings each week, you have spent one full workweek of time in meetings therefore, they most definitely need to be furthering your agenda.