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It’s hardly possible to run a team effectively without having regular meetings. At the same time, meetings often turn out to be counterproductive and become time-wasters for the team.
However, in most cases, not running meetings at all is not an option.
So, what steps can a manager take to get more value of meetings? For a start, let’s see what you might be doing wrong that leads to turning each meeting into a distraction for everyone involved.
What Makes Meetings Unproductive
No clear agenda
We prepare for each meeting, but sometimes the agenda is still not clear enough. If so, participants tend to lose focus and often leave without being sure what the meeting was about, or what their next step in the project should be.
That can also happen if you haven’t updated your agenda for a while. As the company grows and its goals change, so should the work and meeting process.
Another scenario is also possible: everyone attends all meetings and seems to be part of the process. However, people are mostly not engaged. Only 1-3 participants actively take part in conversations, brainstorming, decision making, feedback, etc.
That makes it pointless for everyone else to be there. Also, you as a manager miss out on a lot going on in the company when you don’t hear what everyone on the team has to say.
Too long meetings
Unclear agenda and low engagement level lead to one more problem: meetings take too much time. Especially this happens when an important decision needs to be taken and everyone’s presence is necessary.
The result is, drained energy and depleted motivation.
As people’s attention span is short and too much information at once is overwhelming, it undermines performance and distracts the participants from the project they are currently working.
Now, let’s talk about some solutions to this.
How to Run More Effective Meetings
1. Ask yourself if it’s necessary
You don’t want to just run a meeting. What you want is to create a highly engaging and effective process, with employees who are focused on the task at hand, don’t get distracted, join the conversation, and actually take action once the meeting is over.
If there are no valid reasons for a discussion, consider not running a meeting at all. That’s the foundation of the ‘work smarter, not harder’ approach. That doesn’t make you a bad project manager but an essentialist.
Each meeting should have a purpose. That is, to know exactly what you’ll talk about and ask during it, and leave people with ‘next steps’ or ‘food for thought’.
Another thing to consider is who to invite. Sometimes managers send out invitations to everyone while that’s just not necessary. Make sure you don’t distract your colleagues from doing their job.
2. Make meetings shorter
Make it a habit to track time spent on meetings, and you’ll be motivated to make them shorter. Not only will that make everyone feel relieved – it will help participants stay focused on the agenda.
It’s proven that when given a deadline, our brain gets much more action-oriented and even creative. With shorter meetings, participants tend to be more engaged, generate more ideas, and get more done as a result.
3. Have a clear agenda
Thoroughly prepare the agenda and put on paper what needs to be discussed. Think through the process in detail – it will help save time and avoid pointless discussions.
Organize your documents, have a checklist with a fixed time for each item, and be prompt when asking participants questions.
4. Set expectations
Get your colleagues prepared for the meeting too: let them know its agenda and main points in advance.
Give people time to prepare, and let them know what ideas they can contribute or which aspects of the work process should be covered this time. This way, you’ll prevent participants from discussing irrelevant topics.
5. Summarize the main points at the end
Dedicate the last 5 minutes of the meeting to going through the key points, conclusions, ideas and next steps one more time. Focus on actions and next steps for everyone in relation to the topics you discussed together.
Now you know what to do in order to run productive meetings. The five tips above will also guarantee you only hold effective ones and get more done.
Over to you now. How can you better prepare for your next meeting?