In Pursuit of a Better Meeting
Groans and sighs often greet the ping of a meeting invite hitting an inbox. While it may be impossible to make meetings more fun than the office holiday party, it is possible to lessen the dread, increase morale, and improve the results of a meeting.
Complaints about meetings are often justified, including wasted time, the same voices dominating the conversation time after time, and no follow up or action plan after the meeting. Another issue, according to the Harvard Business Review, is that managers often rank the effectiveness of their own meetings much higher than attendees do, 90 percent of whom report daydreaming and nearly three-quarters of whom use the time to do other work.
Despite the challenges, meetings do have benefits beyond getting the to-dos done! They can bring people together for a change of pace, improve communication overall, and create a more cohesive team.
Want to empower your leadership and avoid being one of the almost 8 in 10 who think their meetings are going great when attendees beg to differ? Here are some things to consider.
Be sure to set attendance, an agenda, and the tone for your meeting. Consider who is essential and get the meeting on their calendar but spare other people. If you want many opinions, open it up to more people after that. A leaner meeting may be more productive and allow critical voices and ideas to have the time and space to collaborate and percolate.
Sending out an agenda ahead of time not only shows you’re prepared, it helps everyone prepare. Prime the problem-solving pump by putting the topics up for discussion into everyone’s minds ahead of time. Plus, once the meeting is started, an agenda helps keep things on track. In an article on the power of a well-run meeting, the New York Times calls a great agenda a compass for the conversation, helping guide a drifting discussion back on course.
If you are calling the meeting, be sure to make the agenda yourself and take the time to plan for a successful gathering. Don’t delegate crafting an agenda but, maybe, says The Balance Careers, ask for input. A call for ideas or dedicated time to brainstorm helps set a positive, inclusive tone for the meeting. Culture starts from the top, so show you value both the time you’ll spend together and everyone’s potential contributions.
Meetings that are a routine part of the schedule can become too routine. Ask everyone to pick a different seat, bring in an outside expert or unexpected snack to mix things up. Try a brainstorming activity, an ice breaker, or a walking meeting outside instead of the conference room. There’s no need to get gimmicky, but a little variety can go a long way.
Consider the pacing of your meeting and always allow for silence. Introverts or team members who prefer to fully process an idea before sharing will be more likely to contribute if some thinking time is offered before diving into the sharing. Remember that agenda? Don’t cram it so full that it removes any time for serendipity. And if no lightning strikes, the team will enjoy a meeting that ends early instead of runs late.
As the leader of a meeting, once you’ve shared the agenda, then it’s time to share the air. If you lead with your ideas, they may be the ones that win even if better ones exist. Rather than dominate the discussion, set some ground rules and let others talk. Facilitation is an art form the best leaders work to master.
Follow up with a recap and next steps once the meeting has wrapped. Employees will be understandably frustrated if they feel like their time or ideas met a dead end. Knowing their contributions were valuable and that there is an action plan helps employees invest in the next meeting.
Meeting leaders shouldn’t fear feedback. Sending an anonymous survey, asking for suggestions, and keeping an open mind about ways to improve can help your leadership and your team’s attitude toward meetings.
A regular audit of your meetings and meeting schedule is a smart tip. How much do you talk versus other team members? Were attendees focused? What meetings really need to stay in 2019? What can you cancel and bring back if needed? Trimming the schedule can be a great start, but experts caution against assuming no meetings is the way to go.
Additionally, one coach recommends via an article in Forbes that one meeting always stay on the schedule, especially for new managers. A weekly one-on-one with direct reports is an essential way to hear what they need to succeed and take some time to plan. Face time is important for employees, certainly, but it’s also a chance for meeting leaders to solicit genuine feedback about meetings. That’s one way to make meetings come full circle!