Ask Dr. Brinkman

‘Meetings’ Category

What are the top 5 mistakes managers make?

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

I was recently asked what the top 5 mistakes managers make. I think they all relate to meetings.

I ask you, how much of your time in meetings is really well used given the other priorities. My brother-in-law told me recently he spends the whole Monday in meetings and does absolutely nothing that brings revenue to the company or serves the customer.

So I would say the top 5 mistakes managers make all relate to letting meetings run them, instead of them running meetings.

1- Questioning the necessity of meetings that have been around forever. When people are at a meeting they are not doing a million other things. Time/Benefit of bringing people together must always be questioned.

2- No speaking order at a meeting. You need a speaking order otherwise the assertive personalities will dominate and the passive people drop out. Your eyes see from two different points of view and when your brain puts them together you see there dimensions. To have holographic thinking at a meeting requires everyone’s participation.

3- No time limit for speaking at a meeting. A time limit needs to be established for any one moment addressing the group. Two minutes at the most. Otherwise some people will go on and on and on saying what they already said.

4- No visual recording of people’s thoughts. Visual means you can see it. Everyone’s point when speaking should be recorded on a flip chart or computer hooked up to a monitor. The difference between visual communication and auditory is visual remains over time and you can see totality.

5- No agenda. Everyone needs to know the agenda and each agenda item should tell the participant what is expected of them.

For more on this subscribe to my articles and the first two you will immediately receive are: “The Meeting Magic Process” and “The Art of the Agenda”. You can get those here:

Also for tips specifically related to conference calls I refer you here:

The Unhidden Agenda

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

And speaking of meetings. Every meeting should have an agenda which all participants receive a few days before the meeting. The more prepared the attendees, the more focused and effective the meeting.

Here are some important  elements to include on the agenda.

1. “Weird times.” (See last post on Killer Conference Call Tips)

2. “Purpose.” Why does this item warrant valuable human interactive time. Remember that people at a meeting are essentially saying “no” to many other important things in their life while they spend their time meeting. The purpose should explain to them why it’s worthwhile.

3. “Process.” What process will be used with each agenda item, i.e. presentation, question answer, voting. How much time will be allotted to each process?
“What is needed from the group.” This orients people at a meeting to focus on the item in the right way. You don’t want one person focusing on criticizing an idea while the real agenda item is just to understand the next step since the idea is already moving forward.

4. “Prior to the meeting.” What does the participant need to do to prepare themselves for the meeting. (Thank you Dr. Doni Wilson, president of the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians for this one.)

Here is a sample agenda item from Dr. Wilson.

9:14 – 9:34 Project reports
Purpose: Update board on the following projects: Licensure effort
Process: Presentation by Erin Waterhouse followed by Q & A (10 min)
Needed from group: Attention, familiarity with written report (below), questions and ideas.
Prior to meeting: Read monthly updates report below.

As a Conscious Communicator always remember the meeting formula: E = P * F

Effectiveness of a meeting is equal to how Prepared participants are before the meeting times how Focused they are at the meeting.

If you want more meeting information, sign up for my enews articles.

Killer Conference Call Tips

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I teach seminars and consult on how to run effective meetings. Many of my clients must attend conference call meetings because the participants are so geographically diverse. Here are some killer conference call tips.

1. Establish a call-in and start time.
Make the call-in time about five to seven minutes before the meeting starts. For example, “Call between 8:53 am to 8:57 am. The meeting will start promptly at 9:02 am.”

Make your times weird; it causes people to remember and it is more likely they will arrive on time. It also shows you are paying attention to and respecting time. Stick to the times. Start exactly on time whether or not “the right” people are there. Even better, block late-comers from the call. You will only have to do this once or twice before everyone arrives on time. (This is true for in person meetings too.)

2.  Allow some cacophony at the beginning of the meeting. Have everyone say hello simultaneously before you master mute them and ask them to mute themselves. This gives people a feeling of being in a virtual room together.

3. Establish a speaking order.
You can’t see people raise their hand if you are on the phone. It’s too easy for people to either talk over each other, or be too polite and say nothing. Print the speaking order on the agenda. When you do a round and it’s a person’s turn, they can either speak, pass, or say “come back to me.”

4. Have an agenda.
All meetings must have one. It should be well thought out with realistic time frames so that items are not cut short, but the meeting ends on time. Each participant should receive the agenda before the meeting.

5. Keep group notes of people’s contributions.
As people speak, someone who is designated as the flight recorder should write the essence of the point each person makes (in a couple of sentences or less). After each speaking round, the flight recorder summarizes to the group what she recorded and asks the group if that correctly summarizes the points people made.  Another option is to have the flight recorder summarize the point right after each person makes it. Each participant should also write down the flight recorder’s summary so they can see it in front of them. By keeping notes visually as opposed to just listening, it allows the group to more easily understand and integrate different points of view. Continue to do speaking rounds as the agenda time permits. (After the call, the flight recorder should email her notes to all the participants.)

6.  At the end of the call have everyone un-mute themselves and say good bye together. Again a little cacophony gives people the feeling that they have been together.