Many studies have shown that according to people who attend meetings, the majority of meetings are considered to be a waste of time. This view is even more prevalent when regular staff meetings or review meetings are considered. However with some thought, and use of the techniques below, you can hold effective meetings that will meet your business objectives as well as energize and strengthen your team.
Use the top ten below to make your meetings more effective for everyone, while still having fun.
1. Define the purpose of your meeting. Take a step back and think about why you need to have the meeting. A clear definition of purpose will lead you to a clear structure for the meeting. Some common purposes are; communication of information, problem solving, decision making, strengthening relationships, building alignment, and sharing of best practice. Make sure that all participants understand and buy-in to the purpose of the meeting.
2. Set a clear agenda. Once you have defined your purpose you can create an agenda to achieve it. List the subjects that need to be covered each with an allotted time, and an indication of outcome. Distribute the meeting agenda well in advance of the meeting together with any background information that people need to read.
3. Set the tone. As the leader of the meeting you set the tone and model the desired behavior. Are you formal or informal, light hearted or serious? Each of these styles will set a different tone. The leader needs to show each participant that they are being listened to and respected. A warm genuine approach will facilitate cooperation and collaboration.
4. Start and end your meetings on time. Practice good time keeping habits by starting on time, keeping to time limits for agenda topics and ending on time. This means that sometimes you will need to begin your meetings before all the participants are present. If you get into the habit of waiting for people to arrive, you will encourage regulars to start to come late as they know the meeting will not start on time. Ending on time is respectful to all participants of the meeting.
5. Have fun. Encourage people to communicate in an appropriate but playful way. A serious idea does not have to be heavy hearted and morose. Laughter is an energizing force. Contrary to old school beliefs, time is not necessarily wasted by adding levity and humor.
6. Balance control and flexibility. Run the meeting, but do it with balance. Your role is to keep the meeting on track, moving towards achieving its purpose and agenda. But be flexible enough to explore a new idea or approach even if at first it does not seem to move towards achieving your objectives.
7. Allow for some creativity and spontaneity. In planning the meeting agenda allow time for creativity and spontaneity. Ask questions of the team to get feedback on issues and ideas. Listen closely to what is being discussed as this will create an atmosphere conducive to idea generation and creativity.
8. Review understandings and actions. At the end of the meeting review the agreed actions and agreements. Actions need to be specific and include who is responsible, what other resources are needed to accomplish the tasks and the timeline for completion. One of the most discouraging situations is when there is a lack of good follow through and many of the good ideas generated appear to have fallen into a black hole.
9. Hold other meetings. Sometimes meetings get bogged down with important issues that would be better addressed outside the current meeting. This often happens when you need one or all of the following: other people, more information, more time or a different environment. When you see the meeting getting bogged down, bring the discussion to a close and take an action to address the issue in a separate forum.
10. Review and evaluate. On a regular basis review and seek feedback on how well the meeting is being receiving and if it is achieving its purpose. If it is not, try a different approach using the techniques above. Alternatively consider bringing in a professional coach/facilitator to intervene.
Doris Kovic is the Business and Executive Coach of Leading Insight in San Clemente, CA. Leading Insight is a management consulting company, based in San Clemente, California. Its purpose is to provide services that help companies increase the effectiveness of their people, resulting in greater productivity and revenues. We provide a range of services from leadership coaching and team development, to visioning, business planning, and a variety of workshops on leadership and management.