Creating a culture where you are leading meetings that are productive instead of something to be avoided at all costs takes patience, diligence and a fair amount of strategy. You likely have colleagues who dominate the conversation, or those who are so checked out that they spend all of their time playing games on their phone or multi-tasking.
Not only is that disorienting for those who are genuinely trying to get things done, but it also breeds a culture that lacks respect for others — and their time. See how you can help redirect your meetings to a more productive format that will truly help move the organization forward.
Define Your Preferred End State
If you walk into a meeting without a clear idea of the outcome that you desire, you should cancel the meeting immediately. The true purpose of the majority of meetings is to build consensus. It’s best to spend some time either individually or with others to define your end-game before calling together a group.
Reduce the Group Size When Leading Meetings
Gallup’s Q12 engagement surveys repeatedly show that small companies have the most engaged employees, while larger companies have much lower engagement levels. The same holds true for meetings – the more the merrier doesn’t work for meetings! Having a smaller number of attendees leads to people feeling personally accountable for the meeting’s progress and outcomes. Additionally, it’s easier to come to a consensus and make decisions, leading to greater productivity. Small meetings are easier to schedule, keep attendees motivated and engaged too – win, win, win!
Protect Your Conversation Topics
Once you have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish, you need to take steps to guard against individuals who may attempt to hijack the conversation. Some colleagues take every opportunity to bring up old grievances or attempt to head towards negativity — neither of which lead to a path forward.
One tool that effective leaders use is to create a parking lot or a holding spot for conversations that truly aren’t going anywhere. People need to feel heard and validated, and when you take the time to record their concerns in writing, they are often willing to let them go, at least for the moment.
Stick to Your Time
If you set a meeting for an hour, it’s a safe bet that your conversation will expand to fill the entire time. Try creating meetings for an uneven or unexpected amount of time. If you think the agenda could potentially take an hour, try scheduling for 45 minutes instead. You can book your conference room for an hour, but only book the individual or team for the shorter period of time.
If your agenda is a bit shorter, try a 15-minute stand-up meeting instead. That way, you’re signaling to your teams that you are dedicated to being productive — and being a diligent steward of everyone’s time!
Consider Networking First
This final tip is truly the most important one of all. Before you set a meeting, be sure a 5-minute conversation between a few key people wouldn’t suffice. If you can make a phone call or take a quick stroll to someone’s desk instead of calling a meeting or sending an email — do it! You’ll not only move your project along, but you’ll be taking steps to build a better relationship with the individual, too.
Here are some quick takeaways that you can share with your team or other leaders:
- Create an agenda beforehand (and stick to it!) — sending deliverables and timelines to the group as a followup after the meeting.
- Set meetings for an uneven amount of time: 15 minutes instead of 30, 45 minutes instead of an hour (even if you cheat and book the room a little longer!).
- Drop your attendee list to the bare minimum if you want to keep projects moving.
- Create a “parking lot” where you can store off-topic ideas and rigorously train staff to utilize it.
- Leaders speak last: this gives you an opportunity to hear everyone else’s good ideas and wrap up the conversation with clear steps forward.
What do you do to create productive meetings? Share your thoughts below or drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I also offer complimentary 30-minute consultations to see if we would be a good coaching fit. Give me a call at 206-393-2392 today or fill out my quick online form to get started!