How many times have you been in meetings where you show up because your name was on the invite but you have no idea what the meeting was going to be about? More than I want to admit.
How many times did you try to do research or ask someone about the meeting details before showing up? Depending if I feel comfortable shooting from the hip so let's say 50% of the time. I wish!!! I bet it's more like 10% of the time. Okay, this is getting really uncomfortable for me as I write this blog.
Okay, how many times have you been in a weekly meeting but you don’t get anything out of it? It happens when meetings are done out of routine not effectiveness.
There is enough here to say that meetings can make or break a team’s success.
In the invite, list out the agenda with times to when you will start/end each topic. Help each participant to understand clearly the main focus for the meeting. This meeting will be successful "WHEN" this is accomplished. I’ve been in thousands of meetings since starting my career and the ones that feel the most productive are the ones with clear agendas. Why? It makes everyone feel confident in where the team is going during the meeting. It’s best to have one person who is keeping the agenda moving. We call this person THE INTEGRATOR in our company. Each person has to determine the correct amount of time to spend on each topic. I would make sure you budget yourself extra time in case you need a little more. Make sure the person keeping everyone on task is feeling supported by the team when they hold everyone accountable.
I was part of a men’s bible study, Bible Study Fellowship, where I led a group discussion. Each question required me to think ahead on how long I would allow the group to spend on it. This was the best way I learned time management when you have a lot of questions but a time limit to answer them all. In meetings, take time to plan out how long you can allow for each focus area. It’s okay to have a timer with a warning when it’s 5 minutes till ending. This gives everyone in the room a clear understanding that the current topic needs to be wrapped up and a new focus area is coming to the discussion.
It’s important that each person showing up knows what they need to do ahead of time to be prepared. This will make your meeting flow! Otherwise, you might find the meeting getting stuck because someone didn’t know they needed to bring information that would help the conversation move forward. In our weekly executive meeting, our team comes prepared to share their numbers for Sales, Marketing, Finance, Services and Operations. There is a scorecard that we go through that has categories for each VP to share the latest data. The leaders know what they need to bring to the meeting to make it flow well. You also want to be sure there is a recap going out after the meeting with clear direction for next steps. The best meetings are the ones that prepare before and after so the moment doesn’t stop. Often times a great meeting doesn't carry over because there was a drop in action plans, assignments and defined deadlines.
How many times have you been in a meeting where the topic gets hijacked by another topic that takes up the entire meeting time? Yep! It’s easy to do and often times it’s not a deliberate mistake. As leaders we face a lot of hurdles. Sometimes the hardest hurdle is finding time to meet with others leaders so you pack other topics into the one meeting scheduled. It takes one point that opens the door for an entirely different topic to come in and take over. I think this happens in all businesses and probably personal conversations as well. Our minds and racing all over and it’s easy to get off track. We have found that having that one person, THE INTEGRATOR, can help bring the whole meeting back on track by saying these words “Team, we need to take this topic to another meeting. It’s important but we need to get back to this meeting’s main goal.” It might be frustrating for some but everyone will agree to get back on track.
Meetings are absolutely needed but they can be draining. How can you turn your meeting into a fun and energetic one? We have done a few things to help bring out the creativity. Schedule the meeting at a restaurant with a private room. I understand some topics need to be kept private and you want to avoid too many distractions. We have booked meetings at country clubs, restaurants and recently a VRBO. Yeah, it was cheaper and more space to rent a VRBO for our two day offsite vs. a conference room with no windows. Another idea, go walking around the building or by a park or in our case, by Lake Michigan. I was told last week that some of the most productive meetings for Services happened while walking as leaders around the local marina. It allowed the team members to get air, exercise and have a new view. I don’t think you have to change every meeting location but definitely switch it up.
I wanted this to be my last point because under the DISC profile I am an “I” to the edge. We are dangerous in meetings because we love to share new ideas, ditch the details, bring in way too many stories and we want a personal connection to be made in each meeting. This might drive the “D”’s in the room crazy because a successful meeting is getting through the set agenda on time. Over the years, my personal desire to build relationships with others in the meetings has been carried over by others. I’m proud to say that even though I don’t run our executive meetings, our President does give each person the opportunity share the best WIN for work and personal at the start of each meeting. This gives all the people in the room a view of the team member’s heart and life. Running a meeting does require all of the things I listed above but you also need a team that can fight for each other. Build the bond between your team members so they want to help others win not just themselves. It’s about building a team unity, but it starts with caring for each other. Help each team member feel valued and cared for by bringing some personal connection to the meeting.
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