3.5 Department Meetings
One frequent complaint from faculty members when they take-on a leadership role is that they spend too much time in meetings. Department Chairs are no exceptions. Because you will spend so much time in meetings, it is essential for you to be proficient at running them.
Meetings are unproductive because:
- They don’t start on time
- Organizers spend time bringing latecomers up to speed
- The purpose of meeting not clear
- There is no agenda
- People have hidden agendas
- People are unprepared
- Critical players don’t show up or cancel at the last minute
- One or two individuals dominate
- Meeting gets off-track because of unplanned topics
- Closed mindedness leading to disruptive conflict
- Storytellers, nay-sayers and whiners take over
- Individuals build roadblocks to get their own way
- They don’t end on time
Large meetings, e.g., departmental assemblies, should only be used when appropriate and required – often individual meetings or smaller group meetings are more suitable. However, the department wide meetings do need to occur and it’s your chance to show your competent leadership, and show that such meetings can be productive and efficient rather than a waste of time. Bylaws and regulations may already exist for your departement to help govern meetings and assemblies; you should refer to them and ensure you respect them. Some key points:
- Set a start and end time for the meeting.
- Have a very clear objective and expectation for the meeting, keep it realistic. This will facilitate your outcomes.
- Have set meeting norms, this will ensure support for you process and your outcomes.
- Set parameters for the meeting process: collaborative (participative), conclusive (task/action focused), controlled (deliberation), exploratory (surfacing and exploring issues).
- Have an agenda – send it along with the meeting invitation, at least 3-4 days ahead of the meeting.
- Set times for all discussion points – useful to close the discussion and make a decision.
- Respect the points on the agenda – don’t let someone hijack the meeting.
- Deal with the difficult audience.
- Have in mind the relationship between faculty, this influences the meeting process and the outcomes of it.
- Help faculty develop their responsabilities and to engage with others.
- Ensure an opportunity for everyone to participate.
- Minutes – send them out within a couple of days of the meeting.
- Follow through – your colleagues will remember what you promised to do, make sure you do what you promised. Your credibility depends on it.
- Keep to the schedule of the agenda – easier to do if you respect the time allocated for each discussion point.
- Have a developed action plan by the end of the meeting to assure action post-meeting (assign tasks publicly).
Remember that if you have a clear understanding of the meeting’s objective, the right people around the table and the right agenda, you will have a successful meeting; and never forget the three cardinal rules of success: plan the meeting, manage the meeting, and follow up after the meeting.
Here are a few suggested resources for you:
- An essay titled “Making meeting Less Miserable” in Inside Higher Ed
- A self-scoring test on effective meeting management in Woman of Science
- Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has a great meeting toolkit (agenda template, meeting norms, tips for participants and a checklist for the meeting facilitator).