This is a follow-on to my recent rave against the time-wasting, dysfunctional debating society events that masquerade as meetings in many corporate settings. My drive to momentarily stay on my "effective-meeting" soapbox was galvanized yesterday, when I spoke with a good friend who had just started a new job. Her first day coincided with an operations meeting that she described as an all day rugby scrum where everyone got bloody, but no one scored.
In no particular order, here is my incomplete, but growing list of Leader's Guidelines for Running Effective Meetings:
-Don't use meetings for decision-making. (If you disagree, read my post: The Meeting is Never About Decision-Making...)
-Eliminate most of the meetings that you sponsor and most that you attend. Yep. It's amazing how much more productive you are when you are not sitting in someone else's ineffective meeting.
-As a leader, you likely have one or two "don't miss unless you are dead and dying" meetings. Make certain that your people understand the import of these meetings. Make certain that you understand the same for your manager's events.
-If you are taking over a new team, the time is ripe to establish new meeting standards and protocols. If you are seeking to improve with an existing team, start communicating the why and how about your new approach to making meetings more productive. It takes time and consistent reinforcement of new practices to change a meeting culture.
-Create tight agendas for operational meetings, and ensure that all participants understand their responsibility to contribute content to the meeting.
-Keep the focus narrow. Operations meetings are not strategy meetings and vice-versa.
-Always assign a timekeeper and a scribe for meeting notes.
-Meeting notes are not intended to be transcripts. Conclusions or follow-on actions only please.
-From the school of the obvious: create and communicate a crystal clear meeting agenda well ahead of the meeting. Again, ensure that everyone understands the nature of the meeting, their responsibility for input, time allotments and expected decorum.
-Manage the clock and the agenda maniacally.
-Stop debates in their tracks. Create a discipline that includes stopping an in-meeting debate, asking if the topic merits additional consideration, ask the debating parties to connect outside of the meeting and indicate that their feedback and conclusion and actions will be expected at the next meeting. After a few times through this process, the team will get that you are serious.
-There must be clear accountability for in-meeting deliverables and follow-on action. If you waffle on these points, you've lost the moral high ground.
-Meetings can end early. This may come as a shock to some managers.
-Meetings cannot run late. Another shocker!
-Talk with non-compliant meeting participants outside of the meeting about their performance and about your expectations for their change.
-Ask your team members to begin adopting similar meeting practices.
-Show up unannounced at your associates meetings once in awhile and monitor their meetings for effectiveness. Provide real-time feedback and reinforce your feedback on performance evaluations.
-Every once in awhile, create meetings without boundaries for brainstorming, idea generation, market discussions etc. Operations meetings and process meetings must run like clockwork. Creative meetings are essential to feed the energy of the organization and the boundaries should be relaxed for these occasions.
Your team members will thank you, your organization will benefit and you will find the opportunity to focus on the real issues of leading if you stamp out unproductive meeting practices. Imagine, time to lead, strategize and innovate. Sounds frightening, doesn't it?