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How to be good at meetings

Meetings are vital to the functioning modern organizations. They provide a form for making key decisions and a vehicle for coordinating the activities of people and departments. Theoretically, the interaction of the participants should lead to good decisions based on the combined intelligence of the group.

Whether the meeting is held to solve a problem or to share information, the participants gain a sense of involvement and importance from their attendance. Because they share in the decision, they accept it and are committed to seeing it succeed.

In this unit you will study the process of conducting a productive meeting, the role of the participants, chair person and the secretary of the meeting, and types of meeting.

9.2. Unit Objectives

After completing this unit, you should be able to:
ü  Define business meeting
ü   Run a successful meeting
ü  Describe the process of conducting a meeting
ü  Explain the role of the chairperson
ü  Explain the role of the secretary
ü Prepare a minute
ü  identify and explain the procedures and guidelines for taking a minute

9.3. Concept of conducting Business Meetings

A business meeting  would be fruitful when both participants and chairpersons are well aware of the procedures, communication structures and working knowledge of chairing a meeting. Therefore, in this section of the unit you will study the role of groups in a meeting.

1.     What is meeting?

Dear Learners, have you attended a meeting before? So what do you know about a meeting? Explain.

Business Meeting can be defined as a group discussion called for some purpose, and this purpose gives form to the meeting. It is method of bringing a group of people together to solve problems or make decisions related business activities. In addition, however, the interactions and processes that take place in a meeting, the group dynamics, also affect the outcome. On the level, people are assembled to achieve a work-related task; but on another level, each individual has private motives that affect the group’s interaction. The “hidden agendas” of the individual members may either contribute to or detract from the group’s ability its task.
2.     Role Playing, group norms and group decision making

i.       Role Playing
Participants of the meeting are expected to play a certain role in a meeting. We assume different roles to suit different occasions, playing the part that is expected of us in a particular context. The roles we assume are all consistent with our self-concept, but we vary the image we project depending on the demands of the situation and the cause we receive from other people.  The roles people play in meetings can be classified in to three categories.

i)       Self Oriented Roles
v  Controlling: dominating others by exhibiting superiority or authority
v  Withdrawing: retiring from the group either by becoming silent or by refusing to deal with a particular aspect of the group’s work.
v  Attention seeking: calling
ii)     Group Maintenance Roles
v  Encouraging: Drawing out other members by showing verbal and non-verbal support, praise or agreement.
v  Harmonizing: reconciling differences among group members through mediation or by using humor to relieve tension.
v  Compromising: offering to yield on a point in the interest of reaching a mutually acceptable decision.

iii)   Task Facilitating Roles
v  Initiating: getting the group started on a line of inquiry.
v  Information giving or seeking: offering (or seeking) information relevant to questions facing the group
v  Coordinating: showing relationships among ideas, clarifying issues, summarizing what the group has done.
v  Procedures setting: suggesting decision-making procedures that will move the group toward a goal.

Self-oriented group members, who are motivated mainly to fulfill personal needs, tend to be less productive than the other two types who are far more likely to contribute to group goals. Those who assume group maintenance roles help members work well together. Those who focus on the task facilitate the problem-solving or decision making process. To a great extent, the role we assume in a group depends on our status relative to other members. The most status play dominant roles; those with less status play more passive parts. Status depends on many variables, such as personal attractiveness, competence in a particular field, past success, education, age, social background, and organizational position.

ii.     Group Norms
A group that meets regularly develops unwritten rules governing the behavior of the members. To one degree or another, people are expected to conform to these norms. For example, there may an unspoken agreement that it’s okay to be 10 minutes late for meetings but not 50 minutes.

Some groups are more cohesive than others. When the group has a strong identity, the members all observe the norms religiously. They are upset in any deviation, and individuals feel a great deal of pressure to conform.

This sense group loyalty has both positive and negative implications. On the positive side, the members generally have a very strong commitment to one another; they are highly motivated to see that the group succeeds.

However, they are also susceptible to “group think”. Because belonging to the group is very important to them, individual members are willing to set aside their personal opinions and go along with everyone else, even if everyone else is wrong.

iii.              Group Decision Making
Groups usually reach their decisions in a predictable pattern. The  apttern  has the following process:
i.        Orientation phase: group members socialize, establish their roles, and agree on their reason for meeting.
ii.      Conflict phase: group members begin to discuss their positions on the problem. If group members have been carefully selected to represent a variety of viewpoints and expertise, disagreements are a natural part of this phase. The point is to air all the pros and cons fully. At the end of this phase, group members begin to settle on a single solution to the problem.

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