Photo Courtesy of Adobe StockI met with a client yesterday who had attended a particular meeting for the first time at his company. I asked him how it went. His response was less than positive and included a distinct eye-roll. I asked him what the purpose of the meeting was. He couldn’t answer that question. I inquired about what he felt was accomplished during the meeting. Again, no substantive answer. I’m sure you’re familiar with the sickening feeling that was welling up in my gut as I continued my line of questioning. You’ve been in those meetings, probably more times than you care to remember and certainly more times than you wish to admit. You’ve probably led some of them. Meetings are certainly not at the top of most people’s wish lists. However the answer isn’t to eliminate meetings altogether, or even, necessarily, to have less meetings. The important thing is to only have meetings that matter and make a real difference in the life of your organization and in the experience of your customers. As a leader, the ability to lead productive, effective meetings is an incredibly important skill that you need to learn, and can master. Here are three quick keys to leading great meetings that people will actually look forward to.
How To Lead Effectively1. Start and end on time. Do this one thing and you will raise the level of your meetings immediately. Why? Starting late or ending late is simply disrespectful and leads to an enormous waste of time.
Photo Courtesy of Adobe StockWhile the money wasted is probably astronomical over time, the larger damage to your leadership brand is caused by the disrespect people feel when their time is disregarded. Most people today are extremely busy, overloaded with tremendous demands on their time and talents. Many of those people have carefully planned out their day and have planned around the meeting time you set. When you fail to start and end on time, you are telling them that their time is not important to you, or that you think your time is more important. Neither message is the message you want to send, if you’re interested in being a person of significant influence. At your next meeting give your team fair warning that, going forward, your meetings will begin and end on time. I encourage you to apologize for your past missteps and for being disrespectful of their time. Tell them it’s time that you start a new chapter. End the meeting on time and remind them of the new practice. When you send out the next meeting invite, tell them one more time and follow through on your commitment. Start on time and end on time. Make it a sacred habit in your organization. People will respect you for it, and likely will begin to follow your example. 2. Be clear on the purpose and desired outcome(s) for your meeting. It’s important that we all know why we’re here, where we’re headed, and what success looks like. This eliminates confusion and enables everyone to bring their most valuable contribution. Too often we get sucked into the minutia and can easily lose our way. By clearly establishing the target, you and others are able to keep the meeting on track, or make necessary course corrections along the way, so you reach the intended destination by the end of the meeting. This step is especially important for keeping your intuitive, big picture thinkers fully engaged. If the purpose isn’t clear, you’re going to lose them and their energy quickly. It’s also important for recurring meetings. When you meet week after week or month after month, it’s easy for things to become mundane unless you keep a meaningful target clearly in view. One useful tool to minimize distractions and “rabbit trails” is the Parking Lot. Whenever someone brings up something that is off-topic, put it onto a list called the Parking Lot. This allows you to come back to it in a later meeting without derailing the current one or devaluing the person’s contribution. 3. End the meeting with clarity of action. Start the meeting with clarity of purpose. End the meeting with clarity around clearly defined next actions. I talk about “next actions” more in my e-book, “10 Ways to Live on Purpose.” Because of a variety of deficiencies, some which I’ve already mentioned, people often lose interest or steam by the end of the meeting. Everyone heads for the exits and very few, if any, have a clear idea about what’s been accomplished or agreed upon. This will literally kill the productivity of your meetings. Regardless of how well you’ve led the meeting up to this point, it’s essential to the bottom-line effectiveness of your meeting that you end by clearly identifying Who will do What by When. Execution of the plans made or solutions identified rarely happens during the meeting. That’s not what meetings are for. So, it’s critical that people leave knowing exactly what each person is responsible for and when it must be completed. Ensure there is full agreement on this.
Leading productive meetings will strengthen your leadership brand.