A department chair came to our office complaining about their faculty meetings and asking for some help. The chair felt like they would discuss a topic in one meeting and be done with the issue only to have someone bring it up again in the next meeting as if the conversation was still open and on-going. This seemed to happen month after month making the chair wonder if creating meeting agendas was a waste of time. The meetings always ran over time, and they failed to address important new issues because they would get stuck rehashing the old ones. 

The chair and I spent some time talking about their meeting process – what the conversation looks like and how it is structured. Eventually, we identified the conversations, and meetings themselves, lacked closure. One conversation would bleed into another without any form of closure. 

For many, closure might sound like something people need at the end of a relationship or other significant life event, not something that is needed in every meeting or topic. You might think t to be over the top. 

I’m here to tell you that it is necessary. It is not enough to schedule a meeting and support the conversation. Conversations also need closure. Otherwise, the issues, topics or feelings feel unresolved and will show up again and again, meeting after meeting. 

Here are three tips for closing your discussions: 

  • Ask a question to determine whether it is time to close the conversation. 
    • Is there anything we missed in this discussion?
    • Does anyone have anything to add?
    • What else do we need to cover on this topic?
  • Summarize the discussion. 
    • Rename the underlying issue,problem or topic
    • Rephrase the main points of the discussion
    • State the end result,  next steps or action items. 
  • Plan for closure. If there is an agenda, be sure to start the closure process at least 5-10 minutes before the end of the allotted time for that topic. 

Not sure about this? Try it out in all of your meetings for a month. Assess the impact it has on your team and outcomes. I’m going to guess you won’t be disappointed!

By: Teresa Ralicki, Ombuds, University of Colorado Denver