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Making the Most of Meetings

Originally published: 10.01.08 by Greg McAfee

Regularly sharing information guarantees everyone is on the same page and moving in the same direction.

You’ve owned and operated your business for several years, but find that keeping your management team informed, up-to-date and on track are difficult tasks.

You’re not alone, but you are behind the curve in making sure that your internal communications are contributing to the high standards of performance you expect from your people and your company.

Last year while speaking to over 100 hvacr dealers, I asked the question, “How many of you have company meetings on a regular basis with your team?” Believe it or not, out of the 100, only 10 hands went up. The next question to the remaining 90 was, “why not?”

The Top Six Reasons:

1. I can’t afford it
2. I don’t want to hear the complaints
3. I don’t know what to talk about
4. I can’t make people attend
5. I don’t have the time
6. I don’t see the value

Frankly, all of those reasons simply are justifications for not seeing the value of a top manager as a top communicator. Meetings are an essential, if not one of the most important ways in which companies stay on track and

execute a plan. It’s a bit like going into the huddle after every play and making sure everyone knows what to do next. The simple fact is that informed people make better decisions.

Communication is required for a smooth operation, and the sooner you make minor adjustments to keep everyone in alignment, the better! Having a meeting is not always easy. It costs time and money when everyone could be doing something else. At McAfee, we schedule monthly leadership and company meetings a year in advance to ensure everyone knows when and where meetings are to be held. The ability to plan ahead makes it easier for everyone to clear their schedules for those days. Also, we have found success in scheduling the meetings on the same day each month (the second Tuesday, for example). Additionally, we make our team aware that meetings are important and mandatory — and we pay our hourly team members for attending meetings.

Having an agenda for every meeting makes the meeting much more productive. There is no sense in meeting if there is not enough information to discuss. So don’t have a meeting just to have a meeting. Your co-workers will start to resent them and won’t take them seriously. Meetings are meant for educating, team building, and keeping proper alignment of the company.

While working with other hvacr businesses and by owning one, I have found through having meetings and communicating that there are three things that owners expect most from their management team and three things the management team expects most from the owner.

1. They expect their managers to think for themselves.

Managers should not need their hands to be held. They are paid to think and make decisions for themselves and the company. If they do require hand holding, then they are not effective. When a challenge arises or a decision needs to be made, they should be required to think it through and make the best decision.

2. To be able to trust their managers.

When leaders are not around, they expect to be able to trust managers with running their departments and making the best decisions. Also, owners should know without a doubt that everything is running just as they expect. A company can’t and won’t grow without this kind of trust.

3. For managers to be dependable.

No owner should have a manager that is not dependable. Leadership starts at the top and trickles down. If they are not dependable and reliable, then the team they manage won’t be either. Show me a manager that is always running late, and I’ll show you a team that will be running late too. Showing up on time, finishing what is started, and keeping your promises are all ways of being dependable.

1. For the owner to lead by example.

As I mentioned earlier, your team will only do what they see you do. If you expect them to be on time, be concerned with safety, show respect to customers and have integrity, then you should do all of these. Like it or not, you are the leader, and the example you set is being watched and copied by everyone in your company.

2. For the owner to do what he said he will do.

Now this seems simple, but for some owners, it’s not. When we do what we say we will do, we build trust and confidence. A manager of a new company told me she was promised an increase in pay after her 90-day probationary period. Her 90 days came and went, and she has yet to see her increase. If you tell someone you are going to do something, then you should do everything in your power to make it happen. Your word should be as good as gold.

3. To be trusted and make decisions without being micromanaged.

All leaders have been guilty of micromanaging. The great leaders realize that they have not hired robots, but rather managers, and they let them manage. Managers will make mistakes just as leaders do. And they will also learn from them and become better managers. However, they must be given the chance to fail and learn, or risk becoming discouraged and unproductive. Some leaders think they are the only ones who can do it right. Unfortunately, most of them have very high turnover, or remain a one- or two-man shop forever.

When there is a breakdown in communication, the whole team suffers. Trust is lost, and people get frustrated. Know what your team expects, let them know what you expect, and your company will experience much success.

8 Ways To Have A Great Meeting

1. Gather Information. There is never a shortage of useful information. Decide what information is most important to the success of your company (sales stats, marketing stats, tickler file updates, productivity by employee, etc.). To help you gather the information, ask your management team to get involved and make them responsible for their departments. This will instill ownership in their work.

2. Create A Schedule. Once you have created a master calendar of scheduled meetings, make sure you send out a reminder a day or two before each meeting. If you know that someone will be unable to attend the meeting, make special arrangements to advise them of the relevant details. Also, designate someone to take notes at the meeting.

3. Provide Materials In Advance. Send out the agenda and all necessary supporting documents before the meeting so people can be informed and can offer thoughtful insight. Put the agenda in order of topics. However, if you get on a good team topic, be flexible enough to know what is most important and stick with it if it has value. Just decrease time spent on the next segment. This makes your meetings flow better and creates interest.

4. Location, Location, Location. Like everything, location is important. We have our McAfee meetings in a variety of locations. Lets face it, meetings can get boring if the same format is used every time. Mix it up have a meeting outside in warm weather, or rent out a private meeting room in a restaurant and buy everyone breakfast before the meeting. This builds camaraderie and improves teamwork.

5. Insist On Action and Ideas. The very best meetings generate new and exciting ideas and are action oriented. Start out with an icebreaker such as a game or questionnaire. These tend to motivate and stimulate the mind prior to the meeting. At McAfee, our meetings last an average of two to three hours. If you have more information, save it for another meeting or risk losing peoples attention. The average sitcom is 22 minutes without commercials. That is how long each segment of a meeting should last. We have about five segments and allow two 10-minute breaks. At McAfee anyone can ask a question or comment during a meeting. We encourage participation and accept ideas from the bottom up its amazing what you find out by asking.

6. Start And End On Time. If we say our meeting will go from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., that is exactly when we start and stop.

7. Bring In Guest Speakers. A local consultant or motivational speaker will add interest. At McAfee, I realize my team can become tired of listening just to me, and they enjoy a new face and a different style. Its a good idea if the speaker is familiar with your company. If not, take an hour or so and inform them about your business. A good friend, customer and business consultant of mine speaks to the McAfee team at least once or twice a year. My team loves it, and they are challenged by the speaker.

8. Come To A Conclusion. Summarize what has been achieved or agreed upon and thank everyone for their contributions and support. Carry out your action points, do a quick review and ask if there are any more questions. Encourage the management team to review with the team often throughout the next few weeks and to file notes in a special meeting folder for future use.

Greg McAfee founded McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning Co. Inc. in 1990 when he was 27 years old. Today, in addition to running his business, Greg consults and teachers others about successful business management. For more information, visit his Website at www.gregmcafee.com

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