Whatever their purpose, most meetings end with an action plan, sometimes elaborately spelled-out, other times little more than an enthusiastic "Go forth and make it happen!"
I advise meeting leaders and organizers to add another, equally crucial, item to the post-meeting mix: feedback.
I'm talking about far more than the typical what-did-you-think-of-the-meeting evaluation sheets left on participants' chairs. Those provide grades and impressions, which have their purpose. But we want to dig a little deeper for actionable feedback aimed toward improvement.
What I've found invaluable after meetings is to convene a formal, scheduled feedback session whose focus is the meeting itself.
Such a session provides the opportunity to discover:
• What your team members found valuable about the meeting
• What aspects of the meeting went off the tracks (you'll know in advance, of course, if any did)
• What could be improved in the next meeting
• What, if anything, the participants found missing or lacking in the meeting
Just like the meeting in question, the feedback session also requires some planning and preparation on your part.
Based on my own experience, and the experiences of those I spoke with when writing my book Feedback Revolution, the three critical elements of an effective post-meeting feedback session are:
1. Find Your Feedback Zone
Don't rush to have a feedback session. Schedule the debrief meeting when emotions (good or not-so-good) have cooled a bit. Choose a time and place when everyone feels comfortable and rested.
Remember that feedback zones are positive zones. This is especially true if there was a problem with the meeting. Your feedback session will use your team's collective energy and spirit to create an environment of learning, not blame.
2. Clarify Your Intent
Make sure your team understands the purpose of the feedback session. If your people know that you've convened the session to learn, so that you have deeper expertise that will enable you to provide more effective leadership, they will be motivated to look for areas of improvement for both themselves and for the overall team.
The WIIFT (What's In It For Them) approach is a powerful motivator, and a good reminder that as their leader, you're motivated to help improve performance. Guiding your team with WIIFT puts everyone in a mindset to focus on their contributions and how to lift those contributions to the next level.
3. Express Your Appreciation for the Team
This is always important, but especially so if the meeting had problems. It's all too easy to dwell on current mistakes, and that's a mistake in itself. By thanking the team for its accomplishments and commitment to your organization, you're guiding them to look at the big picture, the larger goals and ambitions, not just a current slip-up.
You're the leader -- of the feedback session, as well as the meeting being reviewed. An important part of your leadership is to show the team that you recall and can give voice to their accomplishments and virtues, not just their errors or deficiencies.
With these three guideposts shaping your post-meeting feedback session, you will show your team that you're ready to dive deep into the details of the meeting, to address both positive and negative issues, and to learn from each.
Together with your team, you'll learn how to put the knowledge and understanding acquired during the feedback session to work as part of your leadership arsenal.
Marjorie (Margie) M. Mauldin is the founder and president of Denver-based Executive Forum, a leadership training and development company, founded in 1986. For more than three decades, she has worked with Fortune 100 companies, government agencies and municipalities on leadership and feedback training, helping them improve their results, outcomes and business relationships. Executive Forum delivers training to more than 5,000 national business leaders each year through award-winning training programs, including iLoveFeedback, and implements a proven process for repeatable success. Mauldin can be found on LinkedIn, Twitter, and at iLoveFeedback.com.