6 things I learned about meetings from the Ag Committee

Yesterday, I had the live stream of the House Committee on Agriculture proceedings on my computer as I worked. What struck me was how fast and efficiently the committee did their work. I was fascinated and kept thinking, these guys are great at this! Chairman Frank Lucas (above) moved with authority as my dad always says. It was a thing of beauty and as someone who has attended a fair amount of meetings both in support and leading, I made some notes.

  • Purpose-The best meetings have a reason, a purpose, and focus, focus, focus!
    • No part of the meeting was dedicated to anything other than the topic at hand.
    • Don’t try to kill all birds with one stone, or with all people.
    • The people present should be directly related to the purpose of the meeting.
  • Plan & Prepare-Set date and time ahead, notify so there is preparation time, and expect preparation!
    • Think ahead, prepare for the meeting, bring notes, do reading and research, be ready to speak to the topics at hand. I noticed that even if someone was called upon they were ready to speak, knew the topic, expressed themselves consisely.
    • Be on time. Be prepared to sit in a meeting, take care of personal business ahead, and take care of personal needs personally.
    • Have your meeting handouts prepared. I noticed that the Chairman had a copy of every amendment and every exhibit. Make sure your chair has your stuff.
  • Pay attention-if you don’t have the floor, listen.
    • There was not one time when a row of representatives decided to talk about something else, take a call, or derail the topic at hand altogether.
    • There was no interrupting. Period. Hands were raised to get the floor and after being recognized, members spoke, then yielded the floor back to the Chair, or the next speaker.
    • Listen like’s it’s your business, or your dang job as my sister would say. Listen for the topic, listen for the opinion, listen for the attitudes and style, listen for the history and for who has the history, who knows the most, who is prepared, who you can learn from. Listen because it’s the right thing to do, and because you’ll miss something if you don’t.
  • Turn off your technology-or don’t bring it with you.
    • Turn off your cell phone, laptops, pagers, iPads, whatever. Turn them off, shut them down. Meetings are facetime. It’s just rude to divert your attention or cause an interruption with your technology. No text sounds, no phone buzzes, no calendar dings, shut it down. During the 3 hours I watched the live feed, there was not one technology interruption. If they can do it, we can.
  • Encouragement is always in good form.
    • I think this small but important thing is a major factor in whether a meeting is considered productive and whether people want to attend a meeting. During the meeting Chairman Lucas recongized by name and appreciated the Representatives that had drafted or prepared certain amendments. This does two things doesn’t it? It gets the work noted in the record, and it affirms the people doing the work. I know that I appreciate when my work is appreciated, especially with my peers. It’s also a source of pride to hear of others who do good work, and right in your midst. It sets a higher bar.
  • Summaries are a good thing.

“Today marked an important step forward in the development of the next farm bill. I appreciate the efforts of my colleagues and the bipartisan nature in which this legislation was written and approved. This is a balanced, reform-minded, fiscally responsible bill that underscores our commitment to production agriculture and rural America, achieves real savings, and improves program efficiency.”

More than anything I thought the live stream was a terrific example of how a productive meeting looks. We here in the real world often take classes or even have meetings about meetings, or worse, decide meetings aren’t worth it or a waste of time–which is a mistake in leadership more than anything. We can learn a thing or two from those whose business IS meetings. Really, who better to learn from than a group that’s been at it for more than 200 years!



About Robin Arnold

Reader, writer, gardener, geek, maker of homes in several states, now settled in Virginia with husband Bob, and Hazel and Wilson the tabby cats.
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