There was a meeting I used to attend that consistently went over its designated time. It was frustrating, and I found myself resenting the leader. I was not alone, so we addressed them. They had not been aware of the issue and were thankful for the feedback. That very next meeting … we still went over.
Running a meeting is difficult because of the amount of pressure people put on you for using their time. If you waste it, people are not going to be happy. To avoid wasting people’s time and energy in a meeting, you need the right steps to run it effectively.
Here are five steps I use to make sure tasks are accomplished and people feel like I’ve used their time wisely:
STEP 1: Set an Agenda
Meetings that have no direction are the most painful ones to sit through. By creating an agenda, you give people a framework of what to expect. If the conversation goes off on a tangent, you have a path to get people back on task. Before your next meeting:
- Take a few minutes to develop one.
- Share it ahead of the meeting with the attendees.
- Ask for their feedback (i.e., what they would like to add).
STEP 2: Stay True to the Time
If a meeting starts late, you will rush through important material. To make sure you maximize your time, start when promised (even if everyone isn’t there) and be prepared. If you promise people an end time, then keep to it. If you start to go over, make a plan to continue at another time or ask people if it’s OK to go over. When people see that you use their time wisely, they’ll trust your leadership.
STEP 3: Allow Conflict
In order for a meeting to be productive, there needs to be conflict. That does not mean fighting and yelling; however, tension can be good. It allows people to express their thoughts, which could lead to better ideas and outcomes. If someone disagrees with you and holds that back, they are doing you a disservice. Also, unaddressed conflict can turn into resentment. In the end, it might feel uncomfortable, but it will allow everyone to be honest and authentic.
STEP 4: Conclude With a Plan
Your team needs to know what’s next at the end of a meeting. If you do not develop action steps to take care of the topics of discussion, your meetings will become repetitive and redundant. Delegate responsibilities with tangible steps. Write them down and review them at the conclusion of your meeting.
STEP 5: Follow Up
Doesn’t matter if it’s in an email or with another meeting, follow-up is important. It’s a way of holding others accountable and making sure deadlines are reached. If your team accomplishes the goals that you have set forth, then morale will increase. Everyone loves being set up for success.
Make meetings worth it by putting effort and energy into the preparation. Communicate the meeting’s expectations and allow feedback. When people see that you care about their time, they’ll give you grace when you mess up. They’ll also honor the time and energy you pour into becoming a leader.
What other steps would add to creating a highly effective meeting?