Workplace meetings often get a bad name, regardless as to the department within the business. Endless meetings are unproductive, time-wasting and less than engaging.
The Finance Team is no exception where meetings can have a reputation for being heavy on analysis and complex presentations, hard to understand figures that don’t always translate into real-world, day to day goals and business objectives.
However, if designed and managed correctly, regular staff meetings are a great way to increase productivity and efficiency and to identify potential problems before they arise or become a significant issue.
Meetings are also a great way to help staff manage workloads, demonstrate successes, learn and build morale.
They are also a key channel for the communication of critical, company-wide messages across teams.
Common issues with meetings
For regular meetings to be welcomed instead of dreaded, there are several hurdles that finance management may need to overcome.
One key issue routinely expressed by employees concerning workplace meetings is the fact that they are so often rescheduled or cancelled at the drop of a hat. Not only is this frustrating for members of staff trying to arrange their diaries, but it also sends the wrong message at many levels.
A weekly or fortnightly Finance Team meeting should be seen as a vitally important part of work-life. Changing the timings to fit in with senior team members’ other commitments can be seen as sending a message that their time is more important than that of more junior members, which is hardly good for morale.
In the same vein, everyone taking part in meetings must make sure that they are on time and that they put away all phones and laptops, concentrating entirely on the matter at hand.
Another popular gripe with meetings is that they take too long and are all about reporting the same things each week, rather than being a vehicle used to share ideas, problem solve and brainstorm.
While reporting on progress is essential, it should not be the full focus of any meeting. It is also vital that senior staff use these meetings as teaching opportunities and that more junior members regard them as learning and training time.
So, with these issues in mind, in this article, I discuss seven ways in which CFOs and Financial Management or Leaders can help to make Finance Team meetings more effective, efficient and successful.
#1 Planning is Key
Set out a clear agenda ahead of each Finance Team meeting and ensure that the time and date is set in stone in everyone’s calendars.
Define clear expectations from each Finance Team member for the meeting. Ensure that they know what is expected of them and that they understand what they will need to prepare and bring to each session.
Outline the objectives for the meeting and demonstrate why they are essential to the team and the business as a whole.
Make sure everyone understands the meeting structure, how long it will last and that they appreciate why the meeting is vital to both the business in terms of meeting its overall goals and for them as individuals.
#2 Pictures Are Worth a Thousand Words
If you routinely present at the Finance Team meetings, then remember the power of images.
Financial data can be somewhat dry and uninspiring, but by using video, animation or good quality images, you can be far more engaging.
This will not only engender improved concentration in the attendees, but it will also help fellow team members to understand important messages better.
#3 Tell a Story
Everyone in the business world can be guilty of using jargon from time to time, and this is undoubtedly true in the Finance Department.
However, to firmly get messages across and bring figures to life, it is crucial to tell a story.
Make it clear precisely how the figures your team are dealing with day in and day out make an impact on the wider business.
Grab peoples’ attention by showing what a significant effect their work is having on the organisation as a whole.
#4 Include Everyone
While, of course, regular Finance Team meetings are an excellent way for the Senior Leadership Team to demonstrate vision and share broader corporate messages, it should not all be about them.
Make sure each team member has an opportunity to take part by sharing a success or a challenge or by adding an idea or suggesting a way to solve a problem.
Ask questions of the team, or introduce a regular game to help people become more engaged and interact with each other.
This is especially key for very junior members of the team who may otherwise feel put on the spot.
Ensure the focus is on supporting team members and that any meeting is viewed as a safe place to share challenges, rather than an environment in which criticism and judgement are manifest.
On the subject of inclusion, communications technology should ensure that no one should feel left out, as remote workers can dial in via a video call.
#5 Be Goal-Oriented
While it is essential to avoid Finance Team meetings becoming just about reporting, they must have a clear objective and focus.
Opt for clearly identifiable and measurable goals or figures that can be tracked each meeting, to avoid over-reporting.
These can be invaluable in illustrating the degree to which specific projects are on track and in celebrating successes.
Conversely, attention can be directed to any goals that are not currently being met, with the rest of the team helping in problem-solving and sharing ideas to improve matters.
Don’t just talk about getting financial projects back on track or ideas to help meet goals.
Use the meetings to identify specific problems, look at what isn’t on track and why this might be (in a non-confrontational and non-judgemental manner).
Once everyone has pulled together to problem solve by brainstorming and offering ideas, set out clear, measurable actions and make sure that they are assigned to specific team members.
Then, at the next meeting, review the actions and the degree to which the agreed objectives were achieved.
Identify successes and challenges and appropriate further action and refinement.
#7 Make it Personal
While most Finance Teams in organisations are busy and have fairly full diaries, it can help to include some non-traditional work-related elements in regular meetings.
These don’t have to take long, but just adding a personal element, for example sharing exciting news such as engagements, weddings, charity projects or holidays, can help teams bond and keep them more engaged, thereby improving morale.
Finance Team meetings can also be a great time to recognise the colleague’s successes with appropriate rewards.
This requires a degree of creativity; any such recognition should be motivational and should not repeatedly centre on ‘star’ performers to the detriment of others.
Meetings are an integral part of business life, regardless as to how busy an organisation may be.
Taking the time to design and actively manage team meetings will ensure that they become a productive and positive element of workplace life.