How to Run Better Finance Meetings

According to this article from The Wall Street Journal, CEOs spend, on average, 18 hours a week in meetings.  And while you may not be a CEO, chances are you’re attending weekly or monthly finance meetings.  If done well, finance meetings are an opportunity for teams to connect, discuss what’s working and what isn’t and course correct if necessary.  Ineffective meetings, however, waste time and can be a source of frustration.  Here’s how to ensure that your finance meetings hit the productivity mark every time.

The Objective
Be clear about your objective for the meeting and what you’re trying to accomplish.  Nothing drives people crazier than having to leave a pile of work on their desk to attend a meeting that lacks purpose.  According to Anthony K. Tjan of the Harvard Business Review there are 3 broad objectives for any meeting:

  • Inform people and bring them up to speed
  • Seek input
  • Request approval

The specifics get fleshed out from there – whether it’s about strategy or budget allocation, a meeting without an objective is as pointless as a bottomless boat (and not the fun, glass ones that you see fish through on a trip to the Caribbean – we mean bottomless).

Are you a new finance manager?  Then read this post to find out what leadership skills you need to succeed.

The Guest List
Consider who you are inviting to the finance meeting.  Invite those whose input you need, or whose approval you require.  If people have been pulled away from their daily duties to attend a meeting that they lack the skills or expertise to contribute to, the end result is frustration.

The Agenda
Set an agenda and stick to it.  If you’re feeling really organized you can assign a certain amount of time to cover each point.  Email the agenda to those attending the meeting so that they have time to review it.  Once you’re in the meeting put the agenda on the screen or whiteboard so people can see it.

Set Ground Rules
As the manager, you’ll likely lead the meetings.  Consider, however, that for leadership development purposes, having one of your team take the lead can be a good step.  Set ground rules regarding the use of technology.  You may find that if you allow people to bring their phone or tablet into the room you risk losing their attention.  You may also want to set a time limit for how long people can speak on a particular issue and then enforce it politely.  Setting ground rules keeps the meeting efficient and productive.

Read this post to learn how to develop leadership on your finance team.

The Red Herring
Nothing derails a meeting faster than that one individual who always finds a way to segue into their time in the jungles of Borneo.  It’s important to ensure that the meeting stays on track, so redirect individuals who stray too far from the item of interest.

Timing
Start your finance meetings on time and finish on time.  You’ll be surprised how much your colleagues will appreciate it.  Try and keep your meetings to no more than an hour.  This is typically the amount of time the average person can stay truly engaged, so it’s worth the effort to finish within 60 minutes.

Follow-up
Someone should take notes during the meeting.  This is important as it allows effective follow-up afterwards.  It’s not unusual for people to walk away from finance meetings with different understandings about issues and direction.  Having a written record that outlines deliverables, deadlines and responsibilities is key to establishing accountability and keeping everyone on the same page.  Send the minutes out, and consider reviewing them at the start of your next finance meeting to take stock of what was accomplished and what still needs to be done.

Key Takeaways
Well-run finance meetings don’t happen by chance.  They are a product of careful preparation and an established objective.  Try to start on time and finish on time.  Keep meetings to under an hour and have someone take notes.  Don’t allow the meeting to get derailed, and send out the minutes to ensure everyone understands what’s expected.  Your finance meetings will be productive and will help, rather than limit, your team’s ability to deliver.

Your Next Step
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