Run productive team meetings
Meetings offer the opportunity for every member of the team to reach a common understanding on any situation. There is often minimal time set aside for meetings on some farms.
Short meetings, or briefings, on a weekly basis are useful to ensure each team member understands what needs to be done and what their role is.
More involved planning meetings should be held at least once a month (or more often if major changes are underway). Prepare for meetings in advance by knowing what you want to accomplish from the meeting, deciding on the items you want to discuss and who will lead the discussion. Choose people that have the facts or an interesting perspective around the issue and invite members of the off-farm team when appropriate such as your farm consultant, financial adviser or vet.
Plan to keep the meeting time efficient and to the point (preferably 30-60 minutes).
Set up and distribute an agenda to all participants ahead of time. The agenda should include the date, time and location of the meeting, purpose of the meeting, agenda items, who is invited and any preparation that is required.
Getting everyone along to a meeting
On a busy farm it can be difficult to get everyone to a meeting. Meetings need to be scheduled as part of paid time to encourage everyone to come and to encourage a culture of valuing time spent at meetings.
Start and end your meetings on time (don’t wait for latecomers).
At the start of the meeting set some ground rules (e.g. as a courtesy to others switch off mobile phones) and arrange for someone to take notes, or minutes.
Open the meeting with an overview of what is to be accomplished and provide good background information on each agenda item (always give an overview of the situation to ensure everyone starts from the same base).
Throughout the meeting encourage everyone to have a say. Guide the discussion to keep on specific issues and avoid distraction. This can be done by acknowledging important non-core issues (for example, make a note of the issue at one side of the whiteboard and deal with it later).
At the end of a meeting clearly restate the important points and agreed actions, get a decision, and establish individual responsibilities for action. To make sure that what was decided actually happens make an action sheet and display it somewhere accessible to everyone. The action sheet should include what is to be done, by whom and when.
At the start of the next meeting use the action sheet to sign off on what’s been done and what needs further effort.
Spend a couple of minutes at the end of each meeting discussing what aspects of the meeting worked well and what didn’t (it’s not working if people walk out saying “this is what happened in the last meeting”).
Use a facilitator for important meetings
When the outcomes of a meeting are particularly important, consider using an independent facilitator (this allows you to focus on the content of the meeting while the facilitator handles the processes for communication, problem-solving and decision-making).
Barriers to communication
Poor communication can lead to demotivated staff and frustrated employers.
Among the top reasons for failed communication are:
- Preconceptions and bias – this is where one or both parties have strong opposing opinions or make assumptions about the other person without taking the opportunity to listen with an open mind.
- Personality issues – personality clashes can make it difficult for people to converse. Such issues need to be dealt with as soon as they become apparent, otherwise the rest of the workplace will suffer.
- Environment – the environment in which we communicate influences the quality of the communication. Talking in a noisy dairy or beside a running tractor is likely to mean people find it difficult to listen. Other distractions such as pens or mobile phones also detract from effective communication.