Now I’ve never personally been in a bad meeting that I led, how about you? I have sat in a few bad meetings, and honestly, I may have led a bad one or two :). Over the years I have learned a lot about meetings and assisted many in leading better meetings. Below I’ve listed five simple ways we can lead more effective meetings:
Clarify the primary purpose of the meeting.
Why are we here? There only five purposes of meetings:
5. Cheering One Another On
What is the primary purpose? State it up front so everyone knows. Patrick Lencioni, in his book Death By Meeting says that the worst kind of meetings is where we try to get everything done in one meeting. In general, it’s best to have more frequent but shorter meetings that tackle one primary purpose at a time. Otherwise we cause everyone to die a slow “death” in our meetings!
Plan the meeting.
We would never take the big stage without preparation, but we often do this when it comes to meetings. The more we prepare the better the performance. Plan what you want to say and how you want to say it. Have an agenda. What needs to be discussed? Communicated? Decided? Suggest time increments in advance for each portion so you don’t get to the last ten minutes of the meeting with most of the agenda on it! Have fun with this. I had counseled teams to put a countdown timer on the table or on the wall and call “Time’s Up” when we need to move on to the next subject.
Stay focused on the purpose of the meeting.
It’s never easy to stay on track. However, if we are the leader of the meeting, we are the facilitator. It is our responsibility to stay on task, steward the time well, and keep the meeting on task. If a subject or discussion comes up that’s important, but not on task, or can be handled off-line, or in another meeting...then speak up and say so! Everyone else will appreciate it more than you know!
Take minutes with an eye on execution.
Take minutes but take minutes differently. It doesn’t really matter what he said and she said. However, we will not execute what we’ve talked about at the last meeting if there’s no record of the decisions we’ve made! What matters is what we decided, who is accountable for it, and when they’re responsible for it. The minutes should simply have the date, names of the people present, and for each decision or action, the minutes should look something like this:
Decision or Action:
Report Back By:
Review the minutes from previous meetings.
Guess how we should start each meeting? We look back over the minutes of the previous meetings and allow team members to report back on items they were due to report back on today. You can’t imagine the morale this brings to the team to know that their leader is holding their team members accountable to do what they said they would do! We actually do what we say we’re going to do!
Start on time and end on time.
If the meeting starts at 8:30 then that means the meeting STARTS at 8:30. Everyone should not only be present but ready to go! This allows us to more easily end on time. Sure there are exceptions, but of this becomes the rule, we can lose credibility as the leader of the meeting! If another meeting needs to be scheduled, great. In the meantime, stewarding everyone’s time effectively lends credibility to the leader over time!
Shawn Lovejoy is Founder & CEO of CourageToLead.com. He loves coaching leaders through what keeps them up at night. He's been doing so since 2003. He's been married for 24 years to the most beautiful girl he's ever seen, and has three teenage kids that are his world.