Some people love them and some people hate them, but meetings seem to be an inescapable part of our work lives.
The only thing worse than attending a bad meeting is leading one. However, have no fear, below are six components to leading an effective meeting. Use these in leading your next meeting and watch the results – you’ll be the next office hero!
- Have a common purpose and be clear about it.
Here’s the deal, most meetings that fail do so because people have different expectations about why they are meeting. Think about the last time you were sitting in a meeting and thought to yourself, “What the in the world are we talking about?” I bet it wasn’t that long ago, and you’re not the only one. I once observed a meeting for three hours that was nothing more than a complaining session because those in the meeting had no idea (or agreement) what they were there to accomplish.
- Invite all of those, and only those, who need to be present.
Another common problem with meetings is that there aren’t the right people in the room. There can be people present who don’t need to be or people who need to be there who aren’t. I cannot count the times I have seen decisions made in meetings about other peoples’ jobs without any discussion, input from, or communication with those people. You set your group up for failure when you don’t include them, or give voice to others who don’t have skin in the game.
- Have clear expectations about how to interact in the group.
Sometimes it can be unclear how the meeting is to be formatted. In fact, sometimes meetings need to run differently than others, and it usually depends on the purpose of that particular meeting. For example, a meeting with the purpose of communicating an organizational policy might require the participants to mostly listen and ask questions only at the end for clarification. However, other times when the purpose is quality improvement, the participants might be expected to contribute their own ideas to help find a solution. It is important to be clear at every meeting what expectations you have regarding how the participants are to engage during the meeting.
Some people lead great informational sessions when they really need to be facilitating discussion. Don’t be that person. LISTEN to the other members of your group. You have a responsibility as the meeting leader to do so. Listening includes asking clarifying questions, making sure you understand what the other members are saying, and not just think about you are going to say next. Good listening is an active process. Make sure everyone’s voice is heard and understood.
- Review what was discussed, decided, and next steps.
Sometimes meetings cover so many topics and present so many alternatives that determining the conclusion can be difficult. I used to work for someone who had a lot of passion and excitement, and meetings felt really productive. However, after the meeting, most of us would just look at each other wondering what we actually accomplished. Don’t let a meeting that feels positive and has good engagement fool you – you need results and action. At the end of your meetings, it is important to review what was discussed, repeat what was decided, and clarify what everyone’s next steps are.
A good meeting doesn’t end just because the conversation is over. Many good ideas have died on the conference table. A productive meeting requires follow-up. If there were results (which there should be because your purpose was clear), then a change or action is required. Make sure the information is being clearly implemented and followed-up on. Only then can you check the office hero box.
Here is a resource to use as you lead your team meetings – give it a run. I’d love you hear how this helps you and your team.
Prior to leading your meeting, answer these questions:
- What is the purpose of this meeting? (What needs to get accomplished?)
- Who needs to be present at this meeting?
- What level of involvement do I expect/require of the attendees?
During your meeting, follow these steps:
- Make sure you have everyone present who needs to be there and no extra attendees.
- Clearly state the purpose and desired outcome of the meeting.
Example: “We are meeting today to decide on an office supply vendor.”
- Clearly state your expectations of the attendees.
Example: “I would like each of you to be candid in our discussion. I expect that you all have experiences, ideas, and opinions that will help us make the best decision.”
- LISTEN as you cover your agenda items.
Example: As you facilitate your vendor discussion, make sure everyone has an opportunity to contribute, that you are clarifying what people say when there are questions, and you are engaged in eliciting information.
- Review the agenda items, decisions made, and next steps.
Example: “During our meeting, we discussed (1) our level of satisfaction with our current office supply vendor, (2) reviewed three proposals from potential new vendors, and (3) decided that we will cancel our current contract and accept the proposal from New Vendor B. Donna, you will need to call our current vendor today and provide 30-day notice of intent to cancel the contract. Steve, you will need to inform Vendor A and C that we will not be entering contract with them, and then call New Vendor B to begin service in 30 days. I will follow up with you both tomorrow and again in three weeks.”
- Follow up.
Example: Follow up the next day with Donna and Steve to make sure the tasks were accomplished and if there are any updates. Follow up again in three weeks to make sure the current vendor is ready to end service and New Vendor B is prepared to begin servicing your account. Lastly, once the transition occurs, make sure Donna and Steve are good to go with the new vendor and contract.