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Back to school means back to meeting schedules

Apple near a stack of business paperwork.

In many communities, it seems life revolves around the school year. With school back in session, so are meetings for community groups and organizations that often plan work around summer and vacation schedules.

If your committees are reconvening — or even if the work is ongoing — this could be a good time to think about the health of your group.

How would you rate the health of your committees? What is your role in helping them be healthy and productive?

Perhaps you haven’t given much thought to the health of the committee(s) you serve on, but you might have found yourself or your group caught in one of the seven common traps as described in Committees That Work: Common Traps and Creative Solutions. Ask yourself the following questions and see if any sound familiar.

Seven common committee traps

  1. Can you think of a time when someone on a committee showed favoritism to family, friends or neighbors? If yes, your committee is “Letting Private Interests Influence Public Decisions.”

  2. Have you ever been in a meeting and wondered, “What are we trying to accomplish here”? If yes, your group is likely “Lacking Direction and Purpose.”

  3. Have you ever felt that you’re starting to see committee members more than you’ve been seeing your own family? If yes, you need to move beyond “Filling Seats with the Usual Suspects.”

  4. Have you ever discovered that over an hour has gone by and you’re still on the first agenda item? If yes, you are suffering from “Going Off Track.”

  5. Have you ever experienced having a decision that you thought had been made is back “on the table” at the next meeting?  If yes, your group has experienced “Making Decisions Outside of the Meetings.”

  6. Have you ever dreaded going to a meeting because you knew that things would erupt into conflict at some point?  If yes, you could be “Getting Stuck in Conflict.”

  7. Have you ever been in an online meeting and felt like you could have watched a recording of it since you never got to speak or share your thoughts? If yes, you’ve been “Lost in Virtual Space.”

Healthy committees seek solutions to common traps.

Each of the above seven traps has solutions and practical guidelines for helping your committee get out of them … or better yet, to avoid them in the first place.

For example, if conflict or challenging personalities are a problem for your group, then taking time to understand the source of the conflict or learning the general guidelines for dealing with difficult behaviors is important.

Or if meetings keep going off track, then the solution could be using basic meeting facilitation skills to keep the group focused. Another solution is to invite committee members to provide feedback on meetings by doing a short evaluation to identify specific areas where you may need to make changes to make meetings more productive.

Healthy committees are most likely to be productive when the members are informed, engaged, and committed to the work of the group.

Learning strategies for effective leadership, management and facilitation of meetings will help you do your part in contributing to the health and ultimate success of your committees.

For more information, check out tips for leading online meetings, planning an effective meeting agenda, best methods for making group decisions, or one of the other topics in University of Minnesota Extension’s public engagement strategies series.

Author: Jody Horntvedt, Extension educator

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