Everyone seems to despise meetings these days. And for good reason. Countless hours are spent holding our top-paid executives hostage, often spending more time than necessary and including people who really don't need to be there. Meetings, however, are a reality for all businesses. The challenge leaders face is to increase productivity in the workplace by ensuring that each meeting they hold is great. The good news is that any leader can hold a great meeting by taking three simple steps.
Determining the Type of Meeting
As I explained in my post on the three types of meeting, meetings are generally going to fall into one of three categories:
- Oversight - a group of people who are responsible for something, such as a board of directors or a sub-committee.
- Decision making - this type of meeting is utilized when a group of people, rather than one person, are required to make a decision.
- Communication - this type of meeting includes both training and general communication meeting, such as an HR meeting discussing the new health insurance benefits.
Once we determine the type of meeting we are holding, it is important to create a path that will get us to where we want to be. This is usually done by establishing an agenda.
Setting the Agenda
An agenda can be the single most important tool a leader can use to ensure the goals of the meeting are accomplished. The reality is that meetings can always go a number of diffferent ways, some which are productive and many which are not. When effectively used, an agenda acts as a road map, or compass, to ensure that the meeting stays on course.
When a topic or discussion begins to enter a meeting that really isn't a primary goal for the meeting, a leader can resort back to the agenda to keep the team on track with what needs to be accomplished. When setting an agenda, it is often a good idea to allow time for additional discussions or topics that may arise during the meeting. However, I often find it beneficial to specifically designate time (new business) at the end of the meeting to do this.
If off-topic discussions takes place during the course of the meeting, or in the beginning, one of two things will happen: the meeting will last longer than it was scheduled for or 2) the goals of the meeting will not be accomplished. By setting an agenda where new business is discussed at the end of a meeting, this ensures that the goals of the meeting are accomplished, but also allows time for other concerns or topics to be voiced. What often happens, however, is that by the time the meeting gets to the last few items on the agenda, people are ready to go and the discussion is much less than what it would be had the discussion taken place in the beginning of the meeting.
The most important step in planning a meeting is to determine what we as the meeting leader would like to accomplish from the meeting. While our goals may be tied to our agenda, some of our goals may actually be known by only us.
For example, if a goal of the meeting is to find a venue for a live event, this would be listed on the agenda. As a secondary goal, you know that your VP of Marketing has a family farm that would be perfect for the event. Your hidden goal would be to have your VP volunteer to use the family farm for the event.
The reality is that each of us often go into a meeting with our own objectives. If I as a leader do not have clear goals I am trying to achieve, it is likely that someone else may achieve one of their goals, possibly at the expense of my goal or vision. Therefore, being pro-active in setting goals for our meetings helps us to ensure that our meeting is great.
What tricks have you taken to ensure that your goals are met during a meeting?