Effective meetings are important to our working life; after all, no one wants to waste time, engage in unhealthy dissent or increase workloads.
If you’re holding a meeting to share ideas, solve problems, build team morale or train your team members, establishing meeting ground rules (or house rules) can help ensure your time is well spent.
Just like the rules of a sporting match, meeting ground rules ensure all team members are aware of –
- the parameters in which the meeting will operate
- what they can expect of others
- what is expected of them
Meetings that have ground rules are more likely to –
- run on time
- achieve their purpose
- deliver value
- nurture positive connections
- foster a collaborative environment
Of course, some conventions may already exist within your workplace (having phones switched to silent at all times), so meeting ground rules are in addition to those understandings.
At GroupMap there’s nothing we like more than coming together to share, create and inspire each other.
Here are the five great ground rules we use to help us get the most out of our meetings.
We agree to –
1. Hit the Ground Running!
To kick off a productive momentum, show up to the meeting on time, and be prepared to get cracking!
Read through the agenda and supporting documents, and make sure you have delivered any action items assigned to you.
2. Stay on Task and Start on Time!
Keep one eye on the timer and another eye on the agenda.
Adhere to the time allocated to a topic, and if a decision, action item, or consensus has been recorded there’s no need for further discussion.
Don’t assume that if you are happy for the meeting to go over time, everyone else is too.
3. Be Critical of Problems, not People!
Everyone should feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, opinions, and ideas.
A great way of achieving this is to unpack ideas. Importantly, if people stick to this rule everyone should feel comfortable enough to tackle difficult topics, safe in the knowledge that –
- healthy dissent is an exploration of ideas not an exercise in judgment
- differing opinions are to be embraced as they can foster creativity and positive change
4. Listen then Speak!
Sticking to this rule may be more difficult than you think as most people ‘listen to speak’ rather than ‘listen then speak’.
Adhering to this rule helps meeting participants maintain an open mind, and actively listen to what is being said. It also gives them time to think before they offer feedback.
Lastly, but by no means least, this rule is a wonderful mechanism with which participants can demonstrate respect for each other.
5. Use a Common Language!
Words really do have power. They can be inclusive, positive, and empowering, and they can also be the opposite.
Sayings, idioms, and other figures of speech that are usually culturally or generationally based have the potential to be confusing, or even divisive. The use of acronyms can be isolating. Management speak has a reputation for being unnecessarily convoluted.
Keep it positive and simple, while avoiding colloquialisms and corporate jargon.
Supercharge your Ground Rules
Buy-in is the secret ingredient that will supercharge your ground rules and keep your meetings focussed and efficient. That’s because the greater a participants’ sense of ownership of the rules, the more likely they are to stick to them. There are some simple ways to achieve this.
1. Have the Meeting Participants Shape the Rules
Put some time aside to brainstorm, explore and talk through potential ground rules with the people who will be using them. You will discover what they think is important in the meeting space.
GroupMap has made this easy; our House Rules template has been designed to guide you through the process. It helps you capture, discuss, and then decide upon your rules as a group.
2. Remind People of the Ground Rules
It may seem obvious, but referencing the rules in the meeting is the best way to help people remember them. Include the rules in the agenda itself and have the facilitator start each meeting by running through the rules. Putting aside some time at the start of your meeting to discuss the rules will help people remember what they have agreed to.
3. Meeting Observer
If meeting participants agree, appoint someone as a meeting observer who can give feedback on how well the rules are being followed, and how they help the meeting flow. This can act as a reminder as to why you set the rules in the first place.
When the rules are followed during the meeting in order to support the meeting experience, the observer can highlight what happened and the positive consequences that resulted. Similarly, if people are not sticking to the rules, the observer can outline what happened, and suggest what could be done better next time.
It’s important the meeting attendees are comfortable with this and see it as a mechanism for continuous improvement rather than judgment.
An alternative to appointing an observer is to have an anonymous feedback mechanism such as a survey designed to help gauge how well people feel the rules have been applied.
4. Regularly Review the Ground Rules
Effective rules make effective meetings. To ensure the ground rules are doing what they are meant to do, put aside time to revisit the rules with the participants and update them if necessary.