The prospect of a day filled with meetings can fill us with dread. We have all had the experience of sitting in a meeting and asking ourselves, “Why am I here?”
The feeling of wasted time in unproductive meetings is a drain on any organization. It is also sucks the energy and motivation out of just about each and every person I know. And yet, meetings are one of the most valuable and important ways that we get stuff done… if they are planned and led well! Without meetings, alignment, buy in, forward progress and vision can be virtually impossible to achieve.
So why do we often feel meetings are a waste of time? My hypothesis, is that all to often, we don’t prepare for meetings in a way that makes clear that expect it to be ground breaking and catalytic in our organization. And before we jump on the leaders of meetings, I am referring to every person who is invited to the meeting, and not just the leader. We all endorse poorly planned meetings when we don’t ask about the agenda ahead of time, or give feedback when they are not efficient. We also all devalue meetings when we don’t come prepare to contribute in meaningful ways.
Don’t get me wrong; I have led my share of poor meetings. However, over the years I have learn a few tips that can make meetings energizing and highly productive. In fact, I have found that meetings can be catalytic if we all expect and demand a few habits of one another.
10 Habits That Make Meetings Catalytic:
- Define the Objective – Ensure the goal of every meeting is clear. If you are the leader, put the goal in the invite or at the top of the agenda. If you aren’t the leader, ask what the goal is before the meeting starts.
- Prepare an Agenda – Make sure there is a clear, bulleted agenda to guide the meeting. If possible send it out ahead of time.
- Hold Pre-Meetings – If there is anything that might be controversial or difficult for people to hear, talk with them ahead of time. I have heard is said that a lawyer never asks a question of a witness on the stand, that they don’t know the answer to already. Avoid surprise contributions by meeting ahead of time with key participants.
- Ensure Everyone Knows Expectations – Let people know ahead of time why they are invited to the meeting and what they are to expected to contribute. If you aren’t the leader, ask what you should be prepared to contribute.
- Use a Timer – Have someone assigned to keep track of time, and ensure you stay on topic.
- Schedule Hard Stop – Don’t schedule open ended meetings. Just as you schedule a starting time, ensure everyone knows the ending time… and stick to it if at all possible.
- Take Notes – Make sure someone takes notes and shares them with everyone afterwards. This ensures a record of what was discussed and committed.
- Determine Next Steps – End each meeting by declaring and writing down what each person is doing as a result of commitments made.
- Define Ownership – If there is significant work to be done, define who owns further development, research or communication.
- Ask Your Team for Meeting Feedback – Periodically ask people that participate in meetings with you for feedback. This is true for both those who lead and those who participate. We all get better when we have a culture of feedback.
When I implement these habits, my meetings become immeasurably more effective. Try adopting one or two of these strategize as you prepare for your next meeting. I promise you that your meetings will be a little bit better. If you are the leader, the meeting will be a lot better!