Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How to make meetings even better.

Don’t end on time – end early.

This is also borrowed from Bill Hoogterp.

Prepare for the meeting:   Even if it’s a regular meeting, even if you only prepare a few minutes.
  • What is the goal?
  • Who really needs to be there?  Much of the time, you don’t need as many people.
  • Does anything need to be read in advance?
  • If the meeting is not as important as it might have been, cancel it.
Start on time:   Set the tone and begin on time, even if everyone is not there, you will get a reputation for starting on time and people will begin to show up a couple minutes early too.

At the beginning of the meeting… clarify the goal and agenda at the beginning with the group
Think about all the meetings you have been in during the last month. Raise your hand if every one of those meetings had a completely clear goal and what needed to be accomplished that everyone in the room understood.

  • Propose time parameters on each part of the agenda to begin, and then be flexible on them.
  • Ask the group an open-- not closed-- question on the agenda as you begin.  A closed question allows a yes or no answer.  “Is the agenda OK everybody?” is a closed question, which leads to little involvement. 
  • An open question allows a multitude of answers, “What can we do to make this agenda better?” elicits more responses and involvement.   If people say, let’s make this section a few minutes longer or this section shorter, that’s good—it engages the group and improves the agenda.
  • For junior leaders, an agenda is a list of things to talk about until time runs out.  For senior leaders, an agenda is a map—guiding the group towards a goal.
  • Be firm on the goal and flexible on the strategy/agenda.  If you are not asking the group to improve the agenda and improve the strategy, then you are driving the agenda too much.  That means you don’t really need the group on this topic, you didn’t need the meeting.
Get a starter thought from each person:  At the beginning, go around the table and ask everyone to give one starter thought, just a sentence, on the topic at end.  This lowers everyone’s filters, gets them engaged and doubles the effectiveness of the first portion of the meeting.

Track action steps:  Give people roles, like keeping time, keeping us on topic, and tracking and writing any action step that individuals or the group commits to.

Keep checking with everyone.  If someone says nothing for a while, ask what they are thinking.

Close with action steps and summary.  Don’t end on time.  End early.  Ask people from time to time, what could we have done to make that meeting better?

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