Family meetings are a great way to ensure that everyone is on the same page and anything from the daily routine to special events like vacations or birthday parties go off without a hitch. It’s also a useful forum for having more serious, challenging conversations, such as discussing a family member’s illness and care. Follow these 10 rules for successful family meetings:
- All parties involved in the situations being discussed must attend the meeting. Everyone needs to be there to hear what’s going on and have their say, so that the family can be united when moving forward.
- Provide food. Food is one of the best incentives to guarantee attendance. Plan your family meeting around a meal or offer a special snack. For more than three decades, my grandpa has made us these special pancakes for dessert. If he calls a meeting and says he’ll be making pancakes, you can be sure that everyone will be there.
- Set a meeting agenda and timeframe that is agreed upon by everyone and stick to them. Do not go over time. Going over time is a meeting killer. People will be less likely to show up to the next meeting if the previous meeting went on too long.
- Have one family member run the meeting.
- Have one family member take notes of all decisions and action items.
- One person should speak at a time.
- Speak with respect. Because we can be informal with our families, sometimes we are more likely to interrupt them when in conversation or blurt out a criticism without a second thought. To preserve the sanctity of family meetings (and your relationships), be extra cautious with your tone and words.
- Encourage everyone to participate by sharing their opinions. Even the youngest family members should contribute. Sometimes they have the most profound things to say. Remember that participation increases buy-in and follow through with individuals of all ages.
- For meetings that involve sensitive topics, agree to keep the discussions private and confidential.
- Send a follow-up email to all attendees that summarizes decisions, action items, events scheduled, etc. If not everyone has email, post this summary on the family bulletin board or send them a hard copy. Written summaries give everyone a chance to review meeting outcomes, and importantly, correct any points that may have been misinterpreted.
Note that rules 1, 5, and 10 are in place so that there is no disension or complaining after the meeting.
Family meetings help keep the “business” side of family life in order. The hidden jewel in having these meetings is that most times they are fun! It feels good to come together (with yummy food), be organized, work toward an objective, and solve it as a group. And, once you accomplish the item at hand, your unit is stronger and ready to take on the next family project. If you have additional rules that have worked well for your family meetings, share them with us in the comments below. We would love to hear them, and we may even share your tips on our Facebook page.