Are your meetings effective?
‘Mum, I went to my first Student Representative Council meeting today,” said my friend’s 16-year old daughter. “I didn’t really understand anything that people were saying, and then we all left.”
“Ah! Welcome to the world of meetings, love!” said her mother, chuckling to herself while thinking of the recent Utopia episode she watched on Netflix.
Effective meetings are supposed to be the source of great decision-making. The place where intelligent minds meet to conduct important business, inspire each other and move initiatives forward at pace. How long is it since you’ve been in a meeting like that?
As managers, meetings are where we spend the majority of our day and therefore should be valuable, idea and action-generating powerhouses. Yet, too often, they have become a source of tedium and disengagement. People are distracted by their imminent deadlines, emails, digital trivia or simply thoughts of what’s for lunch. This is a waste and it is time we clever folk put an end to it!
Today: 7 top tips to hold effective meetings
1. Does it need to be a meeting at all?
First rule of the effective meeting: ask yourself – does it need to be a meeting at all? In our business if there is no strict agenda and no time limit, there is no meeting. Get your team to create a specific and defined purpose for every meeting, including an expectation of what they want to get out of it. Miraculously you’ll find when your team has to put actual thinking effort into creating the ‘meeting brief’ to begin with, one of two things will happen: 1. They’ll find another way, winning you back an hour of your time, or 2. They’ll answer their own question through the process of actually sitting and planning out what they need. We contend that 50% of meetings are unnecessary, cosmetic and symbolic. Ask the same question of anyone who books in your time too, you’ll soon find your calendar looking relatively light-on!
2. Who is in the room?
Once the purpose of a meeting is outlined carefully, it is very easy to see who needs to be there – and more importantly – who doesn’t. The less people, the better in our experience. More bodies does not equal better meetings, in fact, the opposite is true. Teach your team to include only those who are accountable for next steps, or need to be consulted for direction. Anyone who needs to be informed can hear about it after the fact. This way your team will get through their agenda in a snap, and senior people will appreciate the respect for their time!
3. Can you make a no-tech rule?
In a full-day session with Macquarie Bank last month, there was no technology allowed in the room – no phones, tablets or computers. The energy in the room was MUCH more engaged and productive as a result. No tech keeps everyone present (more or less) and shortens meeting time. Obviously it depends on the kind of meeting it is, however, next time you go to brainstorm or workshop something important, just try and leave the tech out and see what happens.
4. Start with the rules of the game
Meetings can be hijacked by a number of bird-like humans who you’ll notice fall into the following categories:
- Roosters – constantly puffing out their chests
- Chickens – constantly negating (yes, but…)
- Peacocks – creating distraction
Rules on contribution need to be set up at the beginning and ‘refereed’ diligently to avoid your meeting starting to resemble the menagerie you visited on your farm-stay at Easter.
5. Respect the time and the people in the room
In my 20’s I worked for a radio station in Adelaide. The weekly Management Ops Meeting started at 10am on the dot, when the CEO, Paul Thompson, promptly locked the meeting room door. The meeting finished at 11:00am, when he unlocked it again. Every week, we had to be there before the bell, and be prepared enough to make the meeting efficient and relevant. I learned to respect the time of the people around me through that process, and now demand the same of my people. Your time, as a manager is precious. Your organisation wants increasingly more productivity from you, so the least your team can do is respect the time you’re offering. So why not create some rules of your own, and some consequences for not following them.
6. Pay Attention
Be Present. Take your own notes and actions. Do not leave the meeting with any misunderstanding.
An obvious point, but still, rare.
Make sure someone is tasked with documenting and sharing decisions, responsibilities, tasks and deadlines. Send minutes within an hour of the meetings close and ask for clarification if there is anything that has been misread. It is the ONLY way discussions turn into meaningful outcomes.
As managers, it is our responsibility to make sure our teams are firing on all cylinders, prepared, informed and making the most of every minute. But, we often forget how valuable our own time is as well. With so much of our time spent in meetings every day, isn’t it time you turned your miserable meetings into effective ones instead?
To make your meetings hit home and really engage those present, watch our FREE online training video – How To Influence With Confidence And Impact. Learn 6 secrets to immediately increase your impact at your next meeting or presentation.
The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their leadership skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.