I often hear leaders lament how much they hate meetings, those time-sucking events that take us away from our real work to sit in a room, or on the telephone, with others who would also prefer to be doing something else.
Wait a minute. By definition, leadership is guiding, inspiring, and working with others to move an idea, project, or enterprise forward. Since meetings are the primary vehicle through which we come together to plan, communicate, and work with other people, isn’t saying that you hate meetings a little like saying you hate leadership?
The problem isn’t that meetings in themselves are bad. It’s that, as leaders, we hold bad meetings.
Avoid these five meeting blunders and you’ll start getting more done in meetings. You might even find that you – and others in your organization – don’t mind meetings so much.
- Not being clear about the purpose of the meeting. Are we here to share quick status reports or to have meaningful discussion about next year’s top strategies? Knowing and communicating this is essential to setting expectations so participants know how to prepare, how long to allow, and what is expected of them.
- Pressing strategy meetings into tight time frames. Who said that all meetings should be short? Indeed status and tactical meetings usually should be timed and controlled. But if you want people to really dig deep, think creatively, and challenge ideas, you’ve got to create the space and the time, to do so.
- Not clarifying in advance the means by which decisions will be made. Are you planning to take everyone’s wisdom and input into consideration and then make the decision yourself? If so, clarify that in advance. Otherwise, you may hear familiar rumblings of “Why did she ask us in the first place if she wasn’t going to do what we said?” from those who thought the decision was theirs to make.
- Allowing meetings to end without clear next steps for each item discussed. What needs to be done? Who is responsible for doing it? What deadlines has been agreed upon? (Sometimes, it is nothing, and that is okay. Just be explicit about it.) Getting commitments nailed down before the meeting ends will save time later rehashing the same issues and will give participants a sense of satisfaction that something was accomplished.
- Not holding participants accountable for the agreed upon actions. Encourage the group to keep a record of the action items and deadlines that were agreed to and follow up to ensure closure. (Or, to set an example at first, do it yourself.) Noting and honoring one’s commitments will become routine as team members come to expect to be held accountable.
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