“Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee,
and just as hard to sleep after.”
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh
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ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: A few years ago I participated in a four-person conference call with (i) the CEO of a publicly-held telecommunications-infrastructure company, (ii) the company’s General Counsel, (iii) my client – the soon-to-be Chief Operating Officer – and (iv) myself. Our task was to finalize the terms of my client’s Employment Contract.
Our discussion topics included (a) setting parameters for my client’s authority, (b) identifying objectives for my client’s first year, and (c) finalizing compensation targets. At the request of the CEO my client and I prepared and shared the Agenda about a week before the call, and invited requests for further clarity and additions or deletions of the Agenda items. It included a one-hour time allotment for completion.
Within the allotted one hour, we completed the tasks at hand. Entirely spontaneously, the CEO blurted out, “This was great. This is going to be a great working relationship.” And, yes, over time, it proved to be just that.
LESSON TO LEARN: Agendas are simple, yet powerful. They are available to everyone. In my view, they are “leadership in motion.” Yet, not many people use them on a regular basis.
You are strongly encouraged to set and distribute simple Agendas for each and every meeting and phone call you plan. Make it a habit. If you do so, you will demonstrate to all those you work with that (a) you respect their time and efforts, (b) how very effective, productive and efficient a person you are, and (c) that you embody the attributes of a natural leader.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consider these 10 significant advantages of using Agendas at work:
1. Agendas Align Expectations and Encourage Preparation: Agendas serve to align expectations of group efforts. They also provide meeting and call participants an opportunity to prepare themselves for what is ahead, and a chance to “shine.” Conversely, an agreed Agenda reduces the chances of participants wasting their valuable time preparing for a subject that is not going to be a meeting topic.
2. Prior Distribution presents Opportunity For Prior Input: Presenting and distributing an Agenda before a meeting or call gives participants the opportunity to suggest additions, deletions, clarifications or modifications to the Agenda, thus enhancing their likely engagement. Conversely, identification of topics can serve to avoid holding two meetings when, with forethought, one would be sufficient.
3. Nothing Encourages Efficiency of Discussion like an Agenda: The presence of an Agenda permits the meeting leader(s) to promote efficiency by denying introduction of unrelated and distracting topics and subjects by use of words like “I’m sorry; that is not on the Agenda.” Conversely, if the “new” topic would insert substantial value into the meeting, the meeting leader can say, “That’s a great point . . . let’s hold off discussing it now, as it is very much related to upcoming Agenda Item 4.”
4. Agendas Permit Participants to Arrive Late or Leave Early, If Needed. If your Agenda has seven items on it, and one Participant is interested only in Agenda Item 2, if he wishes he can leave early, after that item is addressed. Likewise, if a Participant is engaged with respect only to Agenda item 7, she can call into the meeting a bit after it begins.
5. Use of an Agenda Permits Participants to Best Accommodate their own Priorities and Availabilities: Depending on what items are on the meeting’s Agenda, participants may see this meeting as a “Must Attend” or, alternatively, a “Meeting to Pass Up,” or something in between.
6. Agendas Prevent “Meeting-Meandering” and “Conversation Creep.” In a meeting whose goal it is to discuss purchase of HR software, there really is no reason to permit discussion, as examples, of Microsoft’s stock price, IBM’s foray into Artificial Intelligence, or Dell’s latest laptop. Though perhaps fun to banter about, they are surely wasteful and clearly “Off-Agenda” and, thus, “out of order.”
7. Meeting Momentum can be Exhilarating: There’s nothing like the feeling of a group meeting or call that thoughtfully, graciously, cooperatively and productively makes six good decisions based on a 6-Item Agenda in an orderly fashion and within an allotted 60 minutes. It’s a positive experience like few others, and make many look forward to the next.
8. Agendas Promote Clarity regarding Precisely What Decisions were Actually Made: It is of extreme value that, after a productive meeting, there be no confusion as to what was decided, and why those decisions were made. Agendas – numbered, lettered or otherwise simply organized – lend themselves to such clarity. Appointment of a “meeting recorder” can only help make that objective a reality.
9. What’s the “Icing on the Cake” of Using an Agenda? A Follow-Up Summary: Delivering to meeting participants a simple note that says something like, “Thanks for attending. (i) Here’s the Agenda we followed, along with (ii) the decisions and progress made. (iii) Let me know if you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts. (iv) Hope you feel, as I do, that it was time well spent.” Now that is a follow-up note to be proud of!
10. For these reasons and others, Agendas Identify You as a Leader: Use of Agendas for meetings and calls will identify you to others as a “Mover, Shaker and Progress Maker,” that is, a natural-born leader. When colleagues, clients and others literally enjoy their meeting experiences with you, chances are you will be asked to lead future meetings, and eventually, organizations, too.
Please Note: A FREE copy of the MODEL MEETING AGENDA we have used for calls and meetings for many years is available for you to adapt, or to share with others, by [ clicking here and then scrolling down. ] We hope it brings you the success it has brought us!
In Summary . . .
To consistently achieve effective group communication, enhanced group effectiveness, and unusual group solidarity at work, develop the habit of using Agendas for meetings and calls. Doing so surely pay you back. For those who do, promotions are nearly certainly to follow.
Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad, let’s stay together.
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SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation and navigation of work and career issues requires that you think “out of the box,” and build value and avoid risks at every point in your career. We strive to help you understand what is commonly before you – traps and pitfalls, included – and to avoid all likely bumps in the road. Using Agendas at work for group meetings, calls and discussions is one of the best ways to do just that.
Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. Always be vigilant. Always be resilient. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about.
*A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.
Please Note: This Email Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale.
Sklover Working Wisdom™ is a trademarked newsletter publication of Alan L. Sklover, of Sklover & Company, LLC, a law firm dedicated to the counsel and representation of employees in matters of their employment, compensation and severance. Nothing expressed in this material constitutes legal advice. Please note that Mr. Sklover is admitted to practice in the State of New York, only. When assisting clients in other jurisdictions, he retains the assistance of local counsel and/or obtains permission of local Courts to appear. Results obtained by some clients have no bearing on results obtained by other clients. Copying, use and/or reproduction of this material in any form or media without prior written permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. For further information, contact Sklover & Company, LLC, 45 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 2000, New York, New York 10111 (212) 757-5000.
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