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Conversations are NOT meetings

Conversations are NOT Meetings

 

Recently, I had a meeting with a client about communications. It was my contention that nearly every problem, issue or misunderstanding comes about as a result of a lack of effective communication.

In this particular case, he resisted, saying that this could not possibly be the case, as he talked with his operations manager each and every morning. This is a good thing of course, but it cannot possibly take the place of a meeting.

Let’s look at the differences.

A daily conversation, by its nature can address a variety of subjects from family and personal interests to what is happening on a daily – and sometimes, hourly – basis within the business. These conversations are vital on a number of fronts; they demonstrate interest and empathy on the one hand, and on the other, perform a vital role in ensuring the business operates efficiently in dealing with the detail.

A meeting however, should be different. Here, there should be some form of structure involved. For example, in the case of the Daily Huddle (Stand-up or whatever terminology is preferred) there will not be an agenda, but there will be a set structure with the purpose of keeping all of the team on the same page.

On the other hand, weekly meetings with operational, sales and accounts people should have set agendas. These will include items that need to be addressed and reported on regularly. Not only are reports provided, but reasons for objectives not being met detailed at the same time. They will include any resources that are required to complete tasks, the respective personnel that will be involved in the completion of those tasks and the timeframe in which they should be completed.

So, meetings have varying degrees of structure, conversations do not. Both are vital: conversations for engagement with people; meetings to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of what is to be achieved by whom, why and within what timeframes.

My client made another point with which I took issue – and it is one that we often hear. “We don’t really need daily meetings, because we’re a small business and we talk all the time.” It’s amazing how much conversation we have without managing to communicate. (We only have to think about our home environment as an example of that!) And in any event “being small” does not cut it, especially assuming there are plans to grow. Is it not best to begin to act today as if we had already grown?

It is a common problem with “small” business where business owners somehow think that what might apply to “big” business, does not apply in their case. Maybe one of the very reasons that businesses have become “big” (and maybe we should be substituting the word “successful” here, because they are not necessarily the same) is because they adopted efficient business practices from an early stage.

 

Daily meetings provide a forum for people to share their planned activities for the day, invariably elicit items that impact on other people and allow for hurdles to be addressed easily, quickly and effectively. The alternative is that cross-purpose communications (often involving customers or clients) and that inefficiency, and even conflict, can be the outcome.

Every meeting should have a structure, a purpose, engage all of the people involved and have a clear outcome. Furthermore, the subject of meetings are all part of the bigger picture. Verne Harnish in “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” talks about a “rhythm of meetings” whereby each meeting is a cog in the wheel of the business, each relying on the other for the wheel to turn smoothly, effectively and along the track towards to the envisioned destination.

 

Conversations and meetings should be a part of the structure of every business and, as such, each should be planned. Engagement with people is a powerful instrument of management; effective communications (via a structure of meetings) is an essential element of business foundations.

If this is occurring in your workplace, how effective are your meetings? Do you need to take time out to improve their effectiveness? If there is no structured meeting process (and no regular engagement with people) is now the time to introduce processes for improved communications?

I would suggest, “yes”.