Making Meetings Matter

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

By Peter Schwab
AFL Director of Coaching

As a player we had very few meetings and it worked well. As a coach I found I needed more meetings to achieve the outcomes we were striving for. In today’s AFL environment a large part of the player’s week is being taken up by meetings.

I recall one funny incident from my coaching days, when we were in a meeting and discussing kick ins at the end of a long meeting, when clearly players were losing concentration. A particular player when asked by the defensive coach Kelvin Moore what position he took up in the zone, had obviously not been paying attention. When prompted for an answer he quipped, “Can I phone a friend?”

On a serious note when it comes to meetings there are a few basic approaches that need to be taken. Before you even decide to hold a meeting, figure out exactly what you want to accomplish by having the meeting. The next step is then figure out who you need to attend and help. Once you have the what and who the rest will fall into place with a little planning.

In general terms call a meeting when you:

  1. Need everyone to provide information or advice on an issue
  2. When you want the team to participate in making a decision or solving a problem
  3. When you need to clear up an issue
  4. When you want to share with the group either information, success or a concern that any other method of communication wouldn’t work

Be mindful that the more people in the meeting the harder it can be to come to some consensus on an issue if that is the purpose of the meeting.

Don’t call a group meeting if the issue is a personal one, if you don’t prepare or have time to prepare, or there is an easier or better method of communicating what you need to.

There are many ways to analyse your meetings but consider the following:

1. A clear objective

  • Usually as stated you need to meet to make a decision, or you need to disseminate information face to face
  • Make sure you invite the right people and let them know in advance why they are being invited and give them time and materials to prepare

2. Prepare important people or key decision makers

  • There is nothing wrong with briefing key people about the agenda prior to the meeting. You may need their “buy in”, more than likely you will need their support to make a decision, or they may provide insights you had not thought of, and these could change the way in which the agenda is formulated and how the meeting is conducted.

3. Expect full participation

  • As long as you provide the relevant information prior to the meeting then you should expect attendees will have done their homework, come up with relevant material and are ready to contribute.

4. Set a time limit

  • We all have limited concentration so don’t drag the meetings out, and make sure you stick to the agenda and keep focused on the important issues. Begin with the end in mind and keep reminding yourself why you have called the meeting. What outcome are you after?

If you do the above it is a fair chance the players and your staff will respect meetings more.

As a junior coach it may be important at the start of a year to meet with your players and parents. It is a chance to introduce them to yourself, staff and each other and provide relevant details such as training times, game day, phone numbers, other organisational matters and you may wish to touch on your own basic philosophy, expectations and values.

Always allow time for questions and answers from the parents. They will surely ask you things which will reflect your position on issues which may arise.

A final tip re-meeting is always start on time, late comers may have excuses but in the future they will realise you won’t wait for them to start, nor will you re-cap during the meeting as it rewards their tardiness. They can always be brought up to speed with the information afterwards.

I’d also stick to the end time just as stringently. If it means some decisions were not made or some information could not be covered within the timeframe then that’s fine. If you need to disseminate the information another way or set another meeting time to make a decision then do what you think is best to get a result. 

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