We’ve all walked out of a meeting and thought “Wow, that was a waste of time.” Perhaps the meeting had no clear purpose, the participants strayed off topic or the issues weren’t adequately resolved. Regardless, you left the meeting feeling frustrated. This time-wasting experience could have been avoided if the person preparing for the meeting knew how to write an agenda that kept the meeting on target and productive.
An agenda serves as the meeting’s blue print. It reveals the overall objective of the event and provides structure in the form of topics, goals and timing. An effective agenda offers a logical flow that keeps participants motivated and focused. Whether formal or casual, all business meetings of three or more people should be run using a solid agenda. By following a simple template, you can learn how to write an agenda that brings harmony and efficiency to your next event.
Create a heading that includes information such as:
- Organization name
- Department name
- Name of the meeting
- Start and end times
- List of invitees
Provide a meeting objective. State the overall goal in one to three sentences.
For formal meetings, include this beginning protocol:
- Call to order
- Roll call
- Approval of last meeting’s minutes
Now list the topics to be discussed. All topics should support the meeting’s overall objective and occur in logical order. Sometimes it helps to start with the most important or time-consuming issues first. For formal meetings, address old business before new business. Include the following information:
- First topic. Describe the topic using an action word such as decide, discuss, assign, review and finish. Include a brief reason why this topic is included in the agenda. List the main person responsible for the topic. To keep the meeting moving forward, assign a start time and the number of minutes allocated for the issue. Allow time to wrap up the discussion with a list of next steps, delegated tasks and due dates.
- Second topic.
- Third topic and so on.
- Open discussion. If time permits, allow time at the end of the meeting for discussing related topics, answering questions and handling problems. Schedule additional meetings for unrelated topics.
End formal meetings with the following protocol:
- Announcements, including date and time of the next meeting
Now that you know how to write an agenda, what upcoming events on your calendar will run more smoothly with proper planning and agendas?
About the author: Dot Lyon is a freelance writer for organizations including Briefings Media Group. She previously wrote and edited for the Center for Chemistry Education at Miami University.
During the hiring process, it often feels like you need to have the position filled by yesterday. Don’t wait until your team has an opening to start thinking about whom to recruit. Being reactive will leave you scrambling to fill the position and probably won’t result in the strongest new hires. Develop relationships early on with these four groups to make the recruitment and hiring processes smoother:
- Current employees. It pays to develop strong professional relationships with your employees for a multitude of reasons, not the least being that employees who respect and trust their managers are more open with them. Talk to your people about their goals and the steps needed to reach them. Some goals may require that the employee leave your organization eventually, and that’s OK. Be supportive of your people’s endeavors. When employees know you want what’s best for them, they’ll be more open with you about issues that may lead them to resign, whether those issues are educational pursuits, a spouse’s out-of-state job offer, an opportunity with another organization, retirement or anything else. Knowing those plans early will allow you to recruit for future needs. Note: New hires especially can be a great resource for improving your recruitment and hiring strategies.
- Former employees. Don’t allow the strong relationships you build with your staff to disappear when people leave your organization. Former employees can be one of your best resources for recruiting and hiring. In addition to being great advocates for your organization, they also can recommend strong potential hires to you. After all, they understand your organization’s needs and team’s dynamics. What’s more, as opportunities evolve, a former employee may want to return to your organization.
- HR personnel. Develop close relationships with your organization’s human resources employees, so they will understand your staffing needs and what an ideal candidate looks like.
- Upper-level management. If your team’s workload is expanding, don’t wait until you’re in over your heads to talk to your boss about adding staff members. Give your upper-level managers plenty of time to plan and budget for more workers.
What relationships have been most beneficial to you for recruiting and hiring?
You can hire the right employees for your business, but if your managers don’t manage them well, those good employees may wind up messing up, rather than stepping up.
Jen and Tim are managers of two totally different functions within Mid-Road Company, but they share the same frustrations about their employees.
“You won’t believe it!” Jen grumbles over her morning coffee in the company cafe. “We’ve got to rework the entire proposal that Ronald turned in! I paid for his overtime last week to get it finished, and today I find he didn’t follow the prescribed format. I’m so mad at him for making us miss this deadline!”
Tim nods and snorts, “Yeah, my employees are worthless, too. They all start out so upbeat and sunny, but it doesn’t take long before they’re upset and slacking.”
Quick to blame their employees for mistakes, these two managers seem blind to their own failure to give needed direction and encouragement to their employees. They don’t see how much their poor management skills are contributing to their employees’ low performance.
Bad managers are everywhere. Like Jen, they may be new to managing others or, like Tim, may have been promoted reluctantly into management. Good technical managers can be bad at managing others when they have not received management training or mentoring by a good manager.
What to do about it:
Three decades of field research with 100 mid-large size U.S. organizations across a broad industry cross-section give us seven key behaviors of managers that encourage good employees and help them become top performers.
Jen and Tim became better managers when they learned to:
- Challenge employees with new opportunities. Jen pigeon-holed her employees into routine tasks and offered little chance for them to learn new skills. Jen is applying this better management skill when she identifies which employees are ready for cross-training, are excited to take on additional tasks or show interest in growth opportunities.
- Recognize results in real time. Tim was so immersed in his own work that he ignored the daily accomplishments of his staff members. With management training, Tim knows to observe employees’ on-the-job performance and praise an employee’s good results at the time of achievement. Employees feel appreciated for their efforts and want to achieve even more.
- Ensure a healthy rate of change. Prior to coaching by her experienced manager, Jen regularly changed directions to her employees several times a day. Her manager taught her how to avoid passing down knee-jerk reactions that confused employees and drained their confidence. She now holds short “huddles” every morning with staff to clarify goals and direction for the day.
- Adopt an open climate. Before getting valuable guidance from his boss, Tim would spout the company statement of “open-door policy,” then sputter when no employee would approach him about issues or concerns. His boss encouraged him to set specific times to meet with each employee each week. Tim is now more accessible, and his employees feel empowered to list their questions and issues to cover in their weekly 30-minute individual meetings.
- Transcend the goal of making a profit. Previously, Jen hammered cost-savings so much that her employees began taking short-cuts on time and quality. She saw a bigger picture once she read and discussed the company’s annual report with her director. Jen now heightens employees’ awareness of their role in customer perception and long-term satisfaction. Employees respond readily to meeting and beating customer expectations. They are more committed to accuracy, completeness, and timeliness.
- Encourage flexibility and innovation. Before his “field trip” to key client sites, Tim demanded that his employees follow the same pattern of processing orders established years ago. Seeing and hearing client problems in real-time opened Tim’s eyes to the need for his department to change. Tim now regularly initiates problem-solving discussions with employees. They are energized by the opportunity to contribute and often surprise him with practical solutions that he never would have thought of on his own.
- Strengthen employee strengths. A significant step forward into good management for Jen and Tim was learning to set individual goals for employee development. Complaining in public about faults previously dominated their interactions with employees. Private discussions on performance strengths now have Jen and Tim working positively with each employee. Building a strength-development plan offers more insight into each employee than either of them imagined.
“Haven’t seen you around the café for quite a while,” exclaims Tim when he sees Jen. “Would you believe my employees just presented to our director the new processing system they designed? I never thought they had it in them, but my extra attention has sure increased their productivity.”
“Yeah, who knew?” exclaimed Jen. “We’re seeing some real improvements in my area, too, since I’ve been communicating more with my employees. They’re actually a good bunch, some with potential that I didn’t see when I used to complain about them,” she admits.
How about you?
Think about yourself as a manager. Do you use the kind of management skills that will help your employees be the best they can be?
Now more than ever, ALL employees and managers need to be the best at their jobs, becoming highly productive problem-solvers who help grow the business. Businesses can no longer afford to let managers get by with bad, or even average, management skills.
Focus on applying the tips above and you will upgrade your management skills for today’s world. You’ll create better employees, get better results and have less rework and frustration for yourself.
About the author: Charlyne Meinhard is a speaker, trainer and Chief Results Officer of Next Level Consulting, a consulting firm specializing in change leadership, talent development and innovation. With more than 20 years of experience, Charlyne inspires and teaches managers to lead successful changes in organizations like Verizon and SunTrust. She is also the author of Change Agentsto the Rescue! and Ahead of Change. To find out more about Charlyne’s speaking and consulting, please visit www.NextLevelForYou.com, email Charlyne@NextLevelForYou.com or call 804-382-5054.
Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/76029035@N02
As the weather heats up and skimpier clothing options abound, I’m reminded of one of my least favorite kinds of email: the “This is just a reminder” email. Many organizations like to send messages like this:
This is just a reminder that we have a dress code. Please review it in your handbook. Men, you should be wearing a shirt and tie or a polo in a school color. Ladies, your clothing should be comparable. Please no exposed shoulders, flip-flops, jeans or other inappropriate attire."
“This is just a reminder” emails don’t work for any issue where infractions are visible to the whole staff: parking lot violations, messy desks, body piercings and so on. Those emails can became a bit of a joke. Most people know who is not following the rules because it often is the same few people, and yet the “This is just a reminder” email goes to everyone. Instead of speaking directly with the individuals who breaks the rules, the powers that be send vague reminders to the whole staff. The approach is ineffective for the following reasons:
- It makes the boss look weak. Employees know that no one is speaking directly to the rule breakers and that the boss is avoiding an uncomfortable discussion. That's understandable, however, when you’re the boss, it’s your job. You don’t want your employees to think you can’t handle the unsavory aspects of your position.
- Staff-wide emails are easy to ignore. Such emails might alert one or two people that they are unknowingly breaking a policy and prompt them to change their behavior. Yet many people believe that their managers should address them directly if they have a problem with their actions. It is easy to delete an email, however, if you speak to employees directly about their behavior, they are more likely to change their ways.
- Some people really don’t get it. Some people honestly don't realize that they are breaking the rules—and a nonspecific email will do nothing to clear that up for them. Like it or not, as a boss, sometimes you’ll have to explain what you think is common sense to your employees.
If you have a rule about something like that—and people are breaking it—don’t send an email to your whole staff or department. Talk to the people directly. It’ll be worth it.
Have a good “This is just a reminder” email story? Please share it in the Comments section!
[Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/wiertz.]
After years of hard work, you’ve made your way through your organization’s ranks and have finally received the recognition you deserve by getting the promotion you’ve been dreaming of. And after many years of being overworked and under-appreciated by managers, you vow, “When I become the boss, I am not going to make the same mistakes my supervisors made and treat my employees the way I’ve been treated.”
So, how’s that working for you now that you are in charge?
Fifteen years ago, Sheila was hired as one of many receptionists at a huge firm. She went from receptionist to secretary, and now, she has just been promoted to office manager, where she will supervise those she used to work with. Through the years, Sheila has had to take on duties that were outside of her job description, often serving as a personal assistant instead of a business associate. Having to perform and deliver under unreasonable deadlines and conditions, and often not receiving credit for the successful outcomes, Sheila now understands how the skills of lower level employees are under-utilized and undervalued in her organization.
Sheila wants to be the kind of manager that recognizes employees’ strengths and potential, applying them to benefit the organization. She doesn’t want to blindly follow her predecessor’s examples, yet she doesn’t want to reject them entirely simply to be different. She is determined to apply her own leadership strategies—techniques that will work for her entire team and the organization as a whole.
Of course, we all want to avoid the managerial and professional mistakes of our predecessors, but sometimes that’s hard to do when organizational culture is entrenched. That would be especially difficult for someone like Sheila who has been with an organization for a long time and is now the manager of her former peers.
Making those changes are important to Sheila, but can someone who is in this situation gain the respect of her coworkers—some of whom have been with the organization as long as she has and have become her close friends in the process? How can she do that without resorting to the old style of leadership her predecessors exercised? Can she balance the two, being an effective and impartial professional supervisor while maintaining friendship with her staff?
To gain change, change must be made
What Sheila must keep in mind during her transition from employee to supervisor is that in order to gain change, change must be made. In her efforts, she has to lead by example and grow a thick skin. Sheila will have to accept that some of her former peers will understand these changes, while others will try to hold on to the old ways. She has to be fully aware that her old friends will now look at her differently and possibly resent her, but she can’t allow this to deter her from her new managerial goals. Instituting a new office culture—where everyone is treated fairly and where managers do what is in the best interest of the whole organization—will be a trying undertaking for her. Sheila will have to be forceful, yet considerate in making her desired changes.
One common mistake that many new bosses make is trying to be friends with their subordinates. They believe that if everyone likes each other, the office will be more cooperative and run more smoothly. However, it has the opposite effect. Friends are on the same level as one another, while managers and employees have a hierarchical relationship. Sheila will have to put aside many of her friendships since friends do not order each other around; therefore this method of management rarely works.
Sheila must set the foundation of her new relationship with her staff on day one, addressing the new situation in a staff meeting, openly sharing her vision and expectations, and outlining the new direction and policies she wants to establish moving forward. Sheila must maintain her new focus and disposition no matter what.
Transparency and respect
At first these new changes might cause tension because there will be some who will test her new authority. Sheila must stay resolute and not falter in achieving her goals, while always remaining respectful. If she continues to behave fairly and openly with all her staff, insisting on being treated with the same respect and professionalism she demonstrates, her workforce will come to support her endeavors. They will realize that the changes she’s advocating are also in their best interests.
Employees should trust their bosses and know that they can come to them for help, but as an authority figure and not a pal. Employees need to know that bosses are the ones who set the rules and standards and administer disciplinary measures. Both supervisors and employees need to set and abide by professional boundaries.
Times have changed and so must the way businesses are run. Those in positions of authority need to be prudent. New managers should take the best of what they’ve learned along the way and reject what no longer works while injecting their own style and values, in an effort to create a respectful and harmonious work environment that achieves the organization’s mission.
About the Author: Esther Francis Joseph is a personal and family coach and author of, Memories of Hell, Visions of Heaven: A Story of Survival, Transformation, and Hope, her personal story of survival and perseverance, despite a violent childhood. Growing up on the picturesque island of St. Lucia, Esther molded her literary talents with her childhood experiences as she continues down her path to leading a joyous and fulfilled adult life. To learn more or contact Esther, please visit www.estherfrancisjoseph.com.