Meetings are often thought of as the bane of a business person’s existence, but meetings are an important means to communicate information and serve a useful role in any business enterprise.Â The reason that meetings often get a bad rap is that they can seem endlessly boring when the person calling the meeting has not taken the time to define its purpose or established ground rules for its conduct.
Meetings can serve a number of useful purposes.Â They can be used to disseminate information and keep different areas of the business informed about projects, progress, decisions, changes, or new initiatives.Â They can be used to brainstorm and solve problems.Â They can be used to coordinate the activities and efforts of different parts of the organization.Â They can also foster good two-way communications between managers and staff.Â But in all cases it’s up to the person who called the meeting to define its purpose and rules of conduct and to control the meeting.
In our business there are four basic types of meetings that serve the need of improved communications:
- The Update Meeting â€“ this meeting is used by management to allow managers to update their peers on their initiatives and progress.Â The primary example of an update meeting is the General Manager’s weekly meeting.Â Its purpose is to allow the club department heads and the GM to bring other members of the management team up to speed on various projects, issues, and efforts of general importance.Â Its purpose is general in nature and it should not to be used to solve complex problems or address controversial issues that cannot be resolved quickly or easily.Â Each department head should take a few minutes to tell the other managers what is going on in his or her area.Â It’s an excellent opportunity for the Controller and Personnel Administrator to cover any issues of concern with accounting or human resources.Â The GM will usually use the opportunity to bring up issues of general concern that affect multiple departments.Â Should discussion lead to disagreement or controversy on any subject, the matter should be tabled for discussion at another meeting called solely to resolve the issue.Â The central elements of the update meeting are brevity and generality.Â The valuable time of a lot of very busy people is being used in this meeting and everyone has a responsibility to arrive on time, be brief in their presentation, and cover information that is general and broad-based in nature.
- The Employee Meeting â€“ this meeting is used by managers to communicate information of importance to his or her staff. Such information can include new or changed policies and procedures, discussion of new initiatives, ongoing or refresher training material, and anything else of importance to the department.Â As with the Update Meeting, should controversial issues or issues affecting only a small number of employees come up, the matter should be tabled and dealt with in another meeting called solely to deal with that issue or with the few employees involved.Â Ideally, department heads should call employee meetings on a monthly basis.Â The meeting time should be set when the greatest number of employees are available to attend.Â Off duty employees are expected to attend, but may be excused by the department head.Â Every employee meeting should include ample time for employee questions.Â Allowing employees this opportunity will allow the manager to get the pulse of his or her department’s attitude and morale, may uncover previously unknown issues, defuse potential blowups, and foster better understanding and teamwork in the department.
- Issue Resolution Meeting â€“ this type of meeting is called specifically to resolve an issue.Â Only those individuals who have a direct bearing on the issue are invited to the meeting and its sole purpose is to solve the problem.Â In some cases the problem cannot be solved in one session and may have to be continued to a further meeting with the possibility of others being included.
- Coordination Meeting â€“ this type of meeting should be held whenever there is the need for close coordination between various club departments.Â A good example of a coordination meeting would be a weekly food and beverage meeting with the front and back of house supervisors that covers all catering events for the coming period.Â Another example would be a meeting called to cover the particulars of a large or important club event such as the member-member tournament or a wedding.
As with anything else in business, the quality and efficiency of the meeting is only as good as the effort put into it by the person leading the meeting.Â As mentioned before, the success of any meeting can be attributed to the prior preparation of the person responsible for calling or running the meeting.Â Various methods for running effective meetings are discussed below.
Establishing the Purpose of a Meeting
When calling a meeting, the person responsible should, in addition to setting the date, time and place, make it clear what the meeting is about, who will be attending, and the type of meeting to be held (update, informational, issue resolution, or coordination).Â Participants should also be told of any information, research, presentation, or materials they are responsible for bringing to the meeting.
For example, a meeting called by the general manager with the kitchen and dining room managers to address slow food service would be described as an issue resolution meeting including the executive chef and the food service manager.Â The food service manager may be asked to bring member comment cards complaining of slow service and the chef might be asked to bring an analysis of printed guest orders to confirm actual prep times.
Setting an Agenda for a Meeting
Given that every meeting should have a purpose, the person calling the meeting will prepare an outline of the discussion points to serve as an agenda for the meeting.Â The agenda should then be provided to each participant so they may better prepare for the meeting.Â The format for an agenda is simply a listing of the topics to be covered or addressed.
Regularly scheduled update meetings of standard format usually do not need an agenda so long as all participants are familiar with the format and requirements of the meeting.Â If in doubt, prepare an agenda.Â It never hurts to make participants aware of matters to be discussed.
Meeting Time Management
Long, pointless meetings are detested by everyone.Â Setting an agenda will hopefully focus the meeting on a particular topic or issue, but unless the person calling the meeting exercises leadership and control, the meeting can easily be sidetracked into ancillary or tangential issues.Â This is where a strong leader is required to keep the meeting on track and on topic.
While always sensitive to participant’s input and feelings, the leader should intervene when discussions get off topic or wander into the wasteland of irrelevancy.Â By gently urging the participants back to topic or to quickly get to the point, the leader manages the meeting.Â In some cases such as update meetings, participants should be given time limits to update their areas.Â Time limits may inhibit issue resolution meetings and should be used with care in that setting.
Preparing Meeting Minutes
Minutes are required anytime an important meeting is held where committee decisions are made.Â The prime example of this would be in member-owned clubs where various committee meetings make decisions regarding how the club operates.Â The minutes serve as a record of discussion and voting and may be used to inform the membership of important decisions.
Meetings are not usually required in managers’ update meetings, employee meetings, coordination meetings, and issue resolution meetings unless a higher authority desires that minutes be prepared.Â For instance, a general manager planning a vacation may direct subordinate managers to solve a particular issue while he or she is gone and provide a record of the meeting.
In the absence of minutes, all participants are expected to bring pen and paper and to take notes on any important matters covered.Â For instance, all department heads attending the GM’s weekly update meeting are expected to brief their staffs on any important issues or information discussed in the meeting.Â Without keeping notes they are unable to fulfill this requirement.
Summarizing Decisions and Action Items
In any type of meeting where decisions are made, the meeting leader should summarize what decisions have been made.Â This is important because often the discussions leading to a decision are far-ranging.Â Without a clear statement of what course of action has been determined, some participants may leave without an understanding of what was decided.
Similarly, if participants are assigned action items (that is, are assigned specific tasks to complete), they also must have a clear understanding of what they are to do and when it must be accomplished.
Most of the foregoing material regarding meetings is plain common sense.Â Once again, the most important factor in productive meetings is the preparation and leadership of the person calling and running the meeting.Â While preparing an agenda and setting the ground rules for the meeting may seem like a nuisance, the productivity of a large number of very busy people can be enhanced dramatically by this simple discipline.
Thanks and have a great day!
This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers â€” those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.
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