Why Your Meetings May Not Get Results

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People complain a lot about nothing happens after the meeting.  That means that people do not follow up to actions assigned to them.  Or worse, no actions are assigned to anyone.  I am guilty of not getting to next steps often in meetings also.

I am going to address it from two angles:

1. How can you be personally more successful in getting to next steps after meetings?
2. How do you help the groups/teams to be more successful in assigning and achieving next steps?

Let’s talk about what gets in people’s way of doing follow-up and then I have some “cool secret little tricks” I am happy to share that help you and others do it easily.

I have been attending a lot of virtual meetings lately. I admit, before every meeting, I fervently (and secretly) wish not only that nothing is assigned to me but worse, that I will NOT volunteer to do anything.  I suspect a lot of people feel this way too, because we get requests to include this in our facilitation courses.

Why doesn’t follow-up occur if it will make the next meeting go really well and improve everyone’s spirit about being part of a reliable collaborative team?

  • Partly because in this industrialized world, our brains are full. We cannot hold onto anything else in our heads, plus the new tasks assigned.
  • We internalize that we won’t get it done and we feel ashamed even before we try, that something will get in our way and make us unsuccessful at doing it. Maybe it involves calling someone you are afraid of.. or, maybe  you just don’t have the time to think it through to get the task done expediently.
  • We feel guilty asking other people to take on more than they already have “to do” list. So we do not ask for volunteers at the meeting to take on obvious next steps…
  • Then we feel alone and resentful because it is all left to us and everyone should have realized that it would all be left to us and “they should have volunteered”.
  • There may be no joy for you in doing the follow-up tasks that seem to be required.
  • We may not feel appreciated  when we do get things done because no one takes the time to notice or appreciate what we did.

Makes me depressed thinking about it!!

My secret cool little tricks to help you personally be more successful in follow-up:

1. Do it right away – even if not completely perfect – just do it!! It feels so good to get it off your plate. Your brain has all the fresh information stored at its fingertips to get the job done very quickly. If you wait, you have to reengage your brain, find the information,  and rethink it. Result: it does not get done or, it likely takes three times longer.

2. Create great fun and comfort around the task:  How do I do this? – I put on my favorite BTO music (Bachman Tuner Overdrive Rock and Roll 80’s band from one of my Canadian hometowns – Winnipeg, Manitoba), particularly their  song Taking care of business is so cool – it just makes me happy and I sing along as I do the task.

3. Record the task beautifully.   For example, you can write down the task using different  colored pens in a beautiful notebook or decorated page on your computer. My colleague Marem Flores does this all the time now. She looks so happy when she looks at her book!  Make the place you record your follow-up tasks so visually attractive that you want to go back and savor the moment when you can check it off as done.

follow-upSometimes when I have a big project with many follow-up tasks, I will create a big space on my office wall with post-its or pages of different colors and post them right next to a calendar. I can then go over to that spot at any point in the day and  ponder  the tasks and their order and feel good about which ones I do. See my current project space here! –>

4. Get a colleague or friend to support you and help you do the parts of the task you dislike or in which you do not feel competent. Literally DO the task with them the first few times until it feels easy.  I know it seems strange or unfamiliar to some of you to ask for help with what seems a routine or simple task. Here is how you could make the request to your colleague or friend: “I have this task I really hate doing. I know it is simple but I just cannot seem to get it started. Would you be willing to take 5-10 minutes with me just to help me get it started?”  Think through the steps out loud with them, and then have them watch you do it. If you are brave you can EVEN ask them to be encouraging for every small success you make. Offer to do the same for them sometime.

My simple cool little tricks to help you lead others to do follow-up from meetings:

So now transfer this knowledge to meetings where you want others to do better follow-up. Here are some initial thoughts on how you might do this.

1. Have a frank discussion about why follow-up is so hard for everyone. Say: “I’ve noticed we all seem to not get to our tasks and I am wondering what is getting in the way. Let’s go around the table and confidentially talk about what we notice happening in ourselves around the challenge of doing follow-up items form our meetings.” Let each person speak say for a minute and then move on to item #2 below without comment.

2. Each brainstorm what would help them get their job done. Ask; “where have you been successful before in getting task done? What are the factors that helped you?”  Review any of the following 4 ways above that might help them do their follow-up

3. Use the action chart we laid out for you in the last blog on “Be Known For Your Razor Sharp Meetings”. Assign buddies for every task so no one person feels alone with it. This also increases a sense of accountability to each other. Put the buddy name on the action chart too.  Encourage the buddies to review the task together during the meeting (allow five minutes at end to do so) and sort out how they can assist one another to get it done especially when the turnaround time is tight.

4. Celebrate with each other every time anyone succeeds in completing a task. Vary how you celebrate. Make it fun.  Make up a team song or action or sound that represents a “victory cheer” and do it each time someone reports a task is completed. Hand out “kudos” awards.  Take each other to lunch. Brag about each other to others in the office. Handout stickers to put on their laptops for work done!

What others ideas have worked for you? I’d love to know as I am committing to do better follow-up for myself and other work this year. I need help too!  Pretty soon maybe I’ll be blogging about loving follow-up and how good our teams are at follow-up.

Warmly and humbly, Barbara

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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