It's Friday afternoon, and your team is filing into the conference room, mumbling and grumbling as they take their seats for yet another meeting. An hour passes and the meeting comes to a much-anticipated end, leaving everyone involved wondering why the meeting was held in the first place. After all, the usual suspects dominated the discussion, and the same ideas that came up in last week's meeting were once again batted around. No one seemed to write anything down, and no one agreed to put anything discussed into action. If this kind of ineffective meeting sounds familiar, you're not alone, says Kimberly Douglas, author of The Firefly Effect: Build Teams That Capture Creativity and Catapult Results. It's a problem that plagues many organizations -- but it's also one, she adds, that can be remedied. What's The Point? A common problem with many meetings is that they're scheduled with seemingly no clear objective in mind. Douglas suggests that you run through a pre-meeting checklist before putting it on everyone's schedule. First, ask yourself whether the meeting is even necessary. Could the information you want to provide be just as easily presented in an email? What do you want to accomplish with the meeting? Will reaching that accomplishment really require a group decision? If you ask yourself these questions and decide that you do need to have the meeting, next consider who should attend. "Simply answering, 'So why are we meeting?' before everyone is gathered in the conference room will help you ensure meetings are productive for everyone and will also help you avoid lost opportunity cost and draining employee motivation," Douglas says. Where's The Agenda? Once you know who will be attending the meeting, you need to design an agenda, and clearly communicate any prep work that needs to be done by the participants beforehand. A quality meeting agenda includes: · The date, time, and location of the meeting · The meeting's objectives · Three to six agenda items, accompanied by how long they'll take to discuss and who the discussion leaders will be · A clear explanation of the prep work that should be completed before the meeting Note that it is okay to use standing agenda items from meeting to meeting -- such as "Industry Trends," "Strategy Discussion," "Review of Metrics," "Results," and "Problem Solving"-as long as you also include the length of time allotted for each item and who will be leading the discussion. Send the agenda out as far in advance of the meeting as possible, and then re-distribute an agenda/meeting reminder 48 hours prior to the meeting. "When people come into a meeting knowing what is going to be discussed, they see exactly how their time will be spent," says Douglas. "They have time in advance to plan their own participation and can thus participate more effectively. By simply creating an agenda, you are already significantly upping your chances of having a successful meeting." Source: Kimberly Douglas, SPHR, is president of FireFly Facilitation, Inc., a firm specializing in the design and facilitation of high-impact initiatives, including leadership team effectiveness and strategic planning. She has facilitated results for over 25 years in a broad cross-section of industries and organizations, including Coca-Cola, AT&T, Home Depot, UPS, and the U.S. Marine Corps. Douglas is the author of The Firefly Effect published last year.

Worst Joke Ever

WARNING... THIS IS S - I - C - K! A man goes into a cafe and sits down. A waitress comes to take his order, and he asks her, "What's the special of the day?" "Chili," she says, "but the gentleman next to you got the last bowl." The man says he'll just have coffee, and the waitress goes to fetch it. As he waited, he noticed the man next to him was eating a full lunch and the bowl of chili remained uneaten. "Are you going to eat your chili?" he asked. "No, help yourself," replied his neighbor. The man picked up a spoon and eagerly began devouring the chili. When he got halfway through the bowl, e noticed the body of a dead mouse in the bottom of the bowl. Sickened, he puked the chili he had just eaten back into the bowl. "Yeah, that's as far as I got, too," said the man sitting next to him.