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How Can You Improve Your Meeting Management?

Many team cultures use meetings as ongoing discussion channels or inclusion panels. Some leaders meet with teams to have face time or to divvy out work. Whether any of these is a welcomed and productive part of a work day tends to be highly subjective. Effective meeting management will improve productivity and employee engagement.

Too many meetings feel like lost time. There are the common tales of recurring meetings with no action items or where one discussion or one person’s project details consume most of the meeting. Meanwhile many meetings last too long and end with no clear action items. All this dooms people to attend follow-up meetings that revisit the same material.

What prevents effective meeting management? It is usually a lack of preparation. Often, it’s poor time management that prevents preparation. Sometimes there could be a  knowledge gap about how to conduct meetings or facilitate group dialogue. Many meetings are called out of habit rather than necessity. Attitudes and practices like these lead to meetings that don’t really matter.

You can change that. Think of a meeting–every meeting you do–as a platform to make decisions and share capabilities, ideas and resources. Prepare in advance to use that time to learn and to facilitate an opportunity for everyone to walk away with value. It’s as simple as protecting the value of your time and everyone else who participates.

Try these suggestions:

TOP TIPS FOR ANY TYPE OF MEETING

Start promptly. Stay on track. End on time.

Effective meeting management begins here. Doing these simple things is a matter of respecting others’ time. I know of a manager who runs consistently late to almost every internal meeting. She is booked solid, and leaves no buffer in her calendar. On top of that, she allows meetings to run long and loses more time.  These habits create stressful days for her. They also perpetuate an image that she has little control over her time and responsibilities.

People who keep others waiting do not set a professional image or conjure admiration from those whittling away time in their midst. They are often seen as unorganized. They appear overwhelmed–or worse–condescending. The same negative impressions are left by perpetually running meetings too long or letting meetings wander off topic with no discipline. Be respectful of others’ time and value. Start when you say you will. Take only the time you’ve asked. And keep the meeting on track.

Have a purpose, agenda and outcome goals 

Force yourself to have a reason for the meeting, a flow of conversation and outcomes you desire for every type of meeting. First, doing this will help you gain more time and get better results. Second, it will help you show respect for your colleagues. An agenda keeps the conversation in motion and on the topic. Goals clarify the end game (to make decisions? To assign owners? To learn details from experts in the room?).

Have a Conclusion

End with a clear stopping point. Don’t drift and linger. Wrap-up discussion and summarize key points. First, identify action items and accountable parties. Second, name the next steps and adjourn. Bonus tip: No matter how rote or informal the meeting, if you cannot imagine any form of action items or reason for anyone to be responsible for something, you may be coordinating an unnecessary meeting.

TOP TIPS FOR SPECIFIC MEETING TYPES:

1:1 Meetings

1:1 meetings are critical because the relationship between supervisor and employee is the most important relationship within a company. This is the relationship by which every employee measures both the health of the organization and their ability to do their jobs well. As result, the supervisor to employee meeting matters as both a relationship builder and a communication channel that fosters greater employee commitment, competence, and performance. 

I offer these three tips as the most important keys for every supervisor conducting this meeting:

  1. Show up. Do not delay or cancel this meeting unless absolutely necessary. Remember that your most important role centers on your team;
  2. Ask more than you tell and listen more than you talk;
  3. Expect to genuinely learn something.

Leadership Meetings (Executive Meetings)

In the book American Icon, the author describes how Allan Mulally used leadership meetings effectively to help turn around profitability and performance at Ford.  The one habit he needed most to change was that division leaders used the meeting only as a place to share their successes. They did not bring challenges or requests for help. He needed to create a culture of working together honestly and collaboratively.

This represents what may be the most important element of leadership team meetings. There must be an ability to convey big picture information on general progress balanced with enough trust to get specific on the areas where help is needed. This kind of meeting culture requires a cohesive leadership team, all working as a team on the same vision, mission, strategy and priority. Further, executive meetings should center on strategic purposes and critical issues that affect long-term success.

Team Meetings and Project or Topical Meetings

A team is a group of people working together on shared goals and under common values–and whom we respect as individuals providing unique contribution and service. Weekly team meetings should center on tactical progress and resolving tactical obstacles. Topical an project meetings will focus on problem resolution, gathering resources or brainstorming, and decisions. 

When meeting with teams, apply these tips:

1.) Foster an environment of sharing challenges and needs that affect the group and its shared goals,

2.) Learn each member’s communication style and build a meeting culture that encourages contribution from all; and

3.) Make eye contact with everyone and acknowledge their presence.

How to Plan Team and Project Meetings

Identify the meeting’s purpose. Send agendas in advance of the meeting. Seek questions or input from others before the preparing the agenda. These are the types of meetings for which every person needs to come prepared and have some work completed. At the meeting, cover only the necessary highlights and focus forward on deadlines, action items, and needed resources or collaboration. Put side conversations or topics in the parking lot and name sub-groups where relevant parties can handle the details. Set the number and frequency of meetings with discipline.  Be consistent about measuring your progress.

Conclusion

You can see the common threads for effective meeting management practices: Have a purpose. Plan for value. Respect time. Respect others. Keep the pace moving and end without lingering.

These are simple concepts that can be difficult to do. Start with the first step. Try changing the one factor affecting your meetings.

Learning effective meeting management is a great goal for leadership coaching. If you want to learn more about coaching or connect to discuss specific goals you have, I invite you to book time on my calendar for a complimentary consultation.

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