“Effective meetings don’t happen by accident, the happen by design.” (author unknown)
In 1975 I was appointed Administrator of Mount Sinai Services at City Hospital at Elmhurst, a public hospital where Mount Sinai School of Medicine contractually provided professional services. We had a quarterly Dean’s Committee meeting with the Dean of the Medical School. After our first Dean’s Committee meeting I was proud of my contributions only to be chastised by our Clinical Director of Medicine who said: “Dr. Metsch, this is our meeting with the Dean not yours, you can meet with the Dean (your boss) whenever necessary, we only get to talk to him four times a year. It’s our agenda, not yours!”
A painful but important Lesson Learned which led me to constantly monitor committee work for the rest of my career. Here are some more Committee Lessons Learned.
When I was an SVP (Office of the President) at Mount Sinai I had to remember that my role was different at every meeting. Meeting with the same people on different topics my role might range from full participant to minute taker.
Parenthetically I once had a staff member who always thought he was as important as the most important person in the room and spoke up accordingly. If he was in a meeting with the President of our organization, he acted presidential too.
I remember a meeting with a Board member who was a senior state legislator. I introduced several important issues and asked his assistance on them. He said: “Jonathan, there are ten people outside waiting to see me after our meeting. They all have important issues. So which one issue do you want me to help you with, and after we finish that please come back and raise the next most important one then.”
Parenthetically I once asked another Board member, also a senior state legislator why he had signed on to a bill that was not good for our hospital. He said: “Jonathan, I am part of the Leadership. Sometimes I can vote how I want but there are other times the Senate President directs the caucus on an issue. At the end of the day you should want me to be in the leadership group more than you are upset about one bill.”
Lesson Learned: when you are asking an influential to step in on an issue, make sure you understand the “demands” on that person and request support accordingly. Otherwise you may wind up with no gain.
If you raise ten great ideas at a meeting, no one will remember any of them. Be prepared by doing your homework and raise one sensational idea at a meeting, and everyone will remember.
I have served on numerous industry and community Boards. It is always easy to go to a few Committee meetings and quickly identify some “best practices” that would make a committee more effective. Share those ideas privately with the chairperson; never embarrass the chairperson publicly.
Parenthetically, when I was the CEO I once made a colossal mistake at a SVP/ VP staff meeting. One SVP caught it but he walked out of the meeting with the others at the end of the meeting, then circled back, explained my mistake which I quickly corrected.
Every project management committee meeting should end with scheduling the next meeting and clarifying individual assignments. Meeting notes should be produced quickly. And anyone with an assignment for the next meeting should send out reading material at least two days before the next meeting.
Parenthetically, always volunteer to write to write the Meeting Notes if the opportunity is there. This gives you a strategic role and earns you appreciation from the chairperson (particularly if the chairperson is higher up in the organization).
Never hijack someone else’s meeting because you would do things differently.
When someone makes a point that adds value never say “I was going to say that” when you didn’t speak up first.
When you chair a committee your job is to facilitate not dominate.
And at any meeting you learn more by listening than by talking. So pick your spots strategically.
“When in doubt, don’t call a meeting.” (source unknown)
“Meetings without an agenda are like a restaurant without a menu.” (Susan B. Wilson)
(A) Arthur Goldberg