I’ve had the pleasure to serve on a few different boards of directors for both non-profit and for-profit organizations. All the meetings start the same. Someone will call the meeting to order, take a roll call, and then ask for approval of last month’s minutes.
At this point everyone reaches for the minutes that were printed and laid out on the table. Some of us had printed a copy of the minutes we got in our email the night before. We quickly scan those minutes for errors and corrections, while trying to remember what was discussed and assigned at the last meeting.
I’ve read these last-second minutes on occasion only to find I had agreed at the previous meeting to do something but never wrote myself a note. Talk about embarrassing.
I don’t blame the secretaries of these boards. As I said, I’ve served on several boards that work this way. They all would have the secretary send out an agenda and the minutes from the previous meeting the night before the next meeting. Everyone did it this way so it must be the right way, right?
Unfortunately it is the wrong way.
We’ve already discussed the three reasons for having a meeting …
- To share information with the team
- To collect information from the team
- To teach the team something new
There is one more critical element for making your meeting a true success. It is what you do immediately after the meeting has ended.
You can call it the Minutes or the Summary or the Recap or the Assignment Page or the To Do List. The most important thing you can do after your meeting ends is type up everything that was discussed including all the assignments everyone was given and all the action steps everyone is to take and immediately post it and send it to your team.
While it is still fresh.
Before there are any questions about who said what or who agreed to do what.
Before anyone starts doing something wrong because they heard it wrong in the meeting.
Before anyone forgets what was just discussed.
Before anyone sinks back into the bad habits you just tried to correct.
Before you look at your own email or return that phone call that came in while you were meeting.
You need to think of this step as being a part of the meeting. Even though the assembly is gone, the meeting hasn’t ended until you’ve posted these notes.
This is a revelation I came to later in life. I wish I had thought of this earlier. It would have saved some embarrassing moments for several members on the boards I served (including myself). It would have reinforced lessons I was teaching in our meetings. It would have given those who learn better by reading than by seeing or hearing, another opportunity to fully understand the lesson. It would hold people accountable for the tasks they were assigned to do.
When you plan your next meeting, plan an extra fifteen uninterrupted minutes after you have dismissed the team to write and post your recap. Include in your recap:
- What was learned
- Why it was important
- When and where it happens
- How it applies to the job
- Who is responsible for what
Heck, if you plan your meetings well, you can write up half of this beforehand.
Do this one thing and you’ll see the effectiveness of your meetings increase exponentially.
PS I only served on one team where the minutes were distributed immediately after the meeting. Looking back, that team was one of the more fun and functioning teams on which I have served. Everyone was involved. Everyone was prepared. Everything else worked roughly the same as any other board or team. The difference was the follow-through. We were all on the same page, the printed page that we got about an hour after the meeting.
PPS Here is the Staff Meeting Planner I used for creating our meetings. When you look at the check box of things to do on the right, that last box says “Action List Completed”. Make that your favorite box to check and you’ll turn your team into rock stars.