Dec 21, 2017
Maximizing Meetings: Part 1
Timothy Neal

Athletic trainers participate in many meetings. They meet with student-athletes, coaches, administrators, parents, and staff or faculty as part of their responsibilities. These gatherings take a great deal of time in the day, and many athletic trainers complain that they are “time thieves.” What seems to be the cause of meeting complaints? Consider the two quotes below:

“The fewer the meetings, the better.” –Peter Drucker, management consultant, educator, and author

“The majority of meetings should be discussions that lead to decisions.” –Patrick Lencioni, business management expert

Both Drucker and Lencioni suggest that meetings are usually non-productive, never lead to a decision, and can inhibit the productivity of the day, week, month, and year. What is the athletic trainer to do given the non-productivity of meetings?

One option is to start making them more productive. I have seen many an effective meeting go awry when someone droned on and on, overstated the obvious, or talked just to be heard. It has been my experience and observation that these tips can lead to successful meetings:

• Have a reason or goal for the meeting.

• Use effective listening and paraphrasing skills.

• Anticipate reactions and follow-up questions.

• Practice succinct articulation.

• Clearly articulate the points received, as well as the points made. To paraphrase retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Henry Brady from his book, Dead Men Flying, information should not only be clear enough to understand it, it must also be clear enough so as not to misunderstand it.

This philosophy served Brady and his wounded soldiers well when landing his medevac helicopter into hot landing zones during the Vietnam War. This way, instructions from the ground on where to land and the number of wounded were clear to and from Brady as he was coming in for an immediate landing, ensuring the safety of the helicopter crew and those wounded he was rescuing.

• Control the controllable. If the information can be delivered via e-mail, then setting up a daily informational e-mail could be arranged instead of a meeting.

• Give the full information. No matter how disappointing or upsetting information given in a meeting may be, the athletic trainer is ethically bound to fully inform not only the patient/athlete of an injury, but the coach and parent, as well. Whenever interacting with an emotional moment in a meeting, it is helpful to acknowledge the emotion displayed by the person (e.g., “I can see you are disappointed, angry, upset, etc.”). Then, try to move the discussion from the emotive to the cognitive as appropriate in order to come up with effective action to address the issue being discussed.

.• Use humor when possible. I’ve found that a little humor during a tense situation can be helpful in normalizing the situation. However, it must be artfully applied to be effective, so use care when employing it.

• Employ mini-meetings. I found that interacting with students, staff, faculty, coaches, and administrators daily in short meetings to discuss a particular topic is a great way to develop relationships and trust. These short, numerous meetings in the athletic training room, classroom, hallway, or field are important in the effectiveness of accomplishing action plans and achieving success for the athletic trainer.

Click here for part 2.

Timothy Neal, MS, AT, ATC, CCISM, is Assistant Professor and Program Director of Athletic Training Education at Concordia University Ann Arbor. Previously, he spent more than 30 years at Syracuse University, serving in a variety of sports medicine roles. Neal is also a member of the Ohio University Alumni Association Board of Directors. He can be reached at: [email protected].

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