Extreme understatement: Meetings can be improved

In a recent staff meeting, we were asked to sort ourselves into 4 basic orientations: action, emotion, details, or big picture. Our staff is a healthy mix of all 4, but my people are the let’s-get-going types. Make a plan, and immediately start taking steps to implement it. Sometimes my attitude makes me feel impatient, so, I volunteered to be the recorder for our District Leadership Team, or DLT. Another reason I wanted that position is because I already had some ideas on how to make our meetings efficient and collaborative. Char Shryock, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Bay Village, had written an article on eAgendas in NEOTIE‘s first magazine that I read before our first meeting, and it has a lot of great advice.

If you feel that meetings can be run in a more efficient and collaborative way, here are some steps you can take to get on track. (If you do not feel that way, there is a 99.9% chance that you’re wrong. Fun fact: Another personality trait is not being 100% sure about anything).

  1. Set up (or have your IT people set up) an email group that includes all members. This enables easier communication. For example, for the DLT, there are around 20 people. I would never be able to remember all of them, and it would take too much time to type all of their email addresses in every time, even with the auto-finish feature on our Gmail. And continuing to reply all to the first email sent out to a group is messy. So, dlt@cardinalschools.org was born and has proven useful to many already.
  2. Set up a shared folder in Google Drive. You can share the folder through your new group email! Then, everyone can access and add documents as needed. Save the trees and stop making copies. Post it all in there.
  3. Put the Google Document agenda in that folder.
  4. Create a process for using the eAgenda. Ours is thiscollaborative agenda process Google Docs
  5. Share and follow the process

Some additional notes:

  • Having one document that includes all agendas (in reverse chronological order, so that the newest is at the top, and the oldest is available by scrolling) makes continuity easier to achieve. You won’t have to open 5 documents to see what you talked about the past few times.
  • Making the last column Next Steps, or Actionable Items, or Homework is a good way to make certain that the group (or part of it) has something to actually accomplish before the next meeting. Being action-oriented, coming out of meetings where there is no clear goal to achieve feels like a waste of time. Hardly anything frustrates me more than an all talk-no action situation. We all have a lot to do, so whiling away the hours in poorly run meetings is not what’s best for kids. On the other hand, a meeting in which important progress is made is well-worth the time. I highlight the Next Steps in our agenda. (See below).
  • Using the Email Collaborators option in Google Docs is an easy way to re-send the agenda as needed. A couple of days before and immediately after the meeting keeps everyone in the loop. It gives all members a chance to think about and comment on the agenda. This is where I remind people of the Next Steps.
  • Using the chat feature is something we haven’t tried yet. But, I want to bring it up soon as an option for back-channel chatter. Instead of side conversation between a few, a temporary chat log appears on the agenda so that people don’t forget what they want to bring up next, or counterpoints.
  • Adding hyperlinks is something I do as a recorder to make the agenda more useful. Again, instead of needing to find many documents, just opening the agenda gives access to all the relevant information. Here’s what our linked agenda looked like today. Cardinal DLT Agendas Google Docs

Please take any or all of the ideas presented here to make meetings more effective and collaborative. If this post has sparked more ideas, share them in the comments! There’s always room for improvement.

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