Tuesday, November 24, 2009

First Time - Part 6: The Daily Meeting

This part 6 of in a series of short essays on fundamentals of leadership. While it is drafted for those who have just moved into their first leadership position, I hope there is a little something in here for the most practiced of leaders, a ‘getting back to basics’ that everyone needs every now and then.

Most organizations have one: a daily meeting to make sure everyone is ready to go, to share information, and pass out any new directives. Some organizations have them first thing in the morning, others late in the afternoon, etc. But, all share a common goal: to make sure information is passed both down and up and that everyone is ready to go for the day ahead.

There are many ways to hold these meetings, but a few simple rules will help you, no matter how or when you choose to hold this meeting.

Keep it brief: aim for 15 minutes, and don’t let it go beyond 30 minutes (You will miss this mark often, but keep trying to contain it). The meeting is not designed to settle anything; it is quick information to make sure everyone is ready. If you need more details, or you need to discuss something, save it for another meeting.

Have an agenda, and try to keep it the same every day. Tweak this until you get it right, then simply post it and pass it out. Again, keep it simple. For example: what is due today, what is due tomorrow, what meetings are you attending, who is not here today, safety notes if there is a holiday approaching, and then ‘around the room.’ One helpful process is to have the folks speak in the same order every day. Any protocol works: designate chairs and work around the room counter-clockwise, by position, whatever you want, but pick a process and stick with it.

Have a process that makes sense: if you keep changing things you will confuse and frustrate everyone, so tell them what you are going to do, and why. If someone thinks they have a good reason to change it, ask him for it and, if it makes sense, change it. This isn’t a religious ceremony; you are just trying to keep folks informed and stay informed yourself.

Inform your people. Don’t keep secrets. The daily meeting is to inform folks, use it accordingly. In particular, use it to squelch rumors. Tell them what you know, and if there are nasty or stupid rumors running about, this is where you can start to kill them.

Let them speak. Make sure everyone has a chance to talk. Easiest step is finish with an “Around the horn. What do you have for me?” And then make eye contact which each person.

If there are issues – redirect after the meeting. Remember, this is for sharing information; it’s not the Lincoln - Douglas debates. If there are issues, move them to another meeting with just the involved parties. Keep it simple.

No personal attacks, no personnel issues that might embarrass anyone. This goes without saying. Don’t let anyone attack anyone – present or not. And if there are personal issues involved, those are not to be shared with everyone. If there is something that will ‘get out,’ such as a sickness or an accident, etc., keep it simple and generic: ‘Joe is ill and will be on sick leave for several days.’ Keep it professional.

No gossip. Use the meeting to kill rumors. Don’t start them and don’t let others start them.

Keep it positive. Use the meeting to pass along news about the organization, and don’t withhold bad news – Never withhold bad news – but emphasize the positive. Leaders face difficulties, accept them as challenges and push through them. They don’t get depressed and they don’t let their people get depressed.

Thank and praise and encourage. The daily meeting is a good place to say thanks or pass out praise to anyone who did something of note the day before. A simple word handed out expeditiously is worth a great deal more than flowery words presented after everyone has forgotten the event.

Once again: Keep it Brief.


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