We’ve all been in meetings that drag on, without clear purpose or outcomes. As leader or facilitator, you’re responsible for making sure everyone’s time is well-spent, and that you’re successfully solving problems, while also improving the team’s ability to work well together.
Meetings are most productive:
- when there’s a clear agenda
- when the desired outcomes are clear
- when people feel safe to speak up
- when the decision making process is clear
- when the group invites multiple perspectives
- when people engage in inquiry, asking questions of each other
- when people understand the decision that has been made.
- Clarify the desired outcomes: When you create the agenda, for each agenda item you should have a desired outcome. For example: Item 1: New work-from-home policy. Desired Outcomes: Shared understanding and agreement on the new policy.
- Create a safe space: Make sure that everyone has a change to participate. If you notice that the same people are speaking a lot, pause and ask: is there anyone who hasn’t had a chance to speak who’d like to say something?
- Explain the decision making process up front: Who’s going to make the decision: the team or department leader? If so, how will the team’s input be used? Will the team make the decision? Will they vote, or work towards consensus? What do you mean by consensus?
- Invite multiple perspectives: Actively ask for other opinions. You can ask: What perspective might we be mission? How would someone from another department look at this issue? How would our customers look at it? Ask: Is there anyone else we should invite to meet with us who might have valuable information or a different perspective?
- Engage in Inquiry: Invite people to ask questions to clarify their thinking or to understand the assumptions that people are using. Sometimes people reach conclusions but we’re not sure about their reasoning. We can ask nicely: I’m not clear how you reached that conclusion. Would you mind explaining it to us?
- Clarify the decision that has been made: Sometimes we each walk away with a different conception of what we’ve agreed to. Ask if there are any questions about the decision. Look over the list at the end of the meeting and check again for agreement. Someone who hesitated to speak up earlier might take advantage of this last opportunity to voice their concern.
People will feel energized and more committed to implementing the action plan when you have an engaging, productive meeting. You can get coaching on meeting management, or you might want to hire a facilitator so you can participate in the content of the meeting.
Here’s to your meeting success!