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Ground rules are an effective tool to help you get the most from your meetings. Ground rules allow every participant to know the established conduct and culture of your meetings. I'd like to suggest several ground rules you can use for your meetings. The first ground rule is the most critical and it is, no multitasking during meetings. Not only will multitasking make meetings slower, increase mistakes, and raise stress levels; it'll also cause other participants to feel they aren't valued.
As a group, commit to being 100% focused on the meeting and not performing any other tasks during the scheduled time. The second ground rule builds on the first and it is, used only an agreed upon technology. Can people take notes on cell phones? Can they take notes on laptops? Is any technology permitted? Not surprisingly, this is a somewhat controversial subject. Some companies find that they have to remove technology completely from the meeting. There's no right or wrong answer though.
Find a guideline that works for the group, so that everyone's expectations are the same. The next suggested ground rule is, one person speaks at a time and everyone else listens. This means that while someone else is expressing their opinion we sit respectfully, listen thoughtfully, and allow others to complete their sentence without finishing what they're saying. It's a simple rule, yet I'd offer one word of caution. Often I find the most common violator of his rule is the meeting leader.
They sometimes feel that that is their prerogative to jump in and interrupt what other people are saying. The leader should take care to set an example for this and any other ground rules you adopt. The fourth suggested ground rule is, speak openly without fear. Meetings are most productive when they're conducted in a safe environment, where people feel that they can express their opinion even if sometimes those opinions are controversial or unpopular.
By establishing a ground rule that says we can speak openly without fear, you'll get the best results. And the fifth and final rule I suggest is simply begin on time and end on time. If everyone is committed to this, participants will be more respectful of the time of others, and people will enjoy the meeting more. As a group, decide which rules you want to adopt and then formalize them in a written document afterward. Of course over time you may add ground rules to the list or adapt them to your situation.
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