Meetings: you either love them or hate them. There are many schools of thought when it comes to having meetings. Some say it is necessary and important. Others think it is a waste of time. Meetings sometimes become so undesirable to people that they tend to “drift off”, even before the meeting has started!
So when did meetings gain such a bad reputation? And more importantly, how?
The largest problem to meetings is the inability to stay focused to the topic, and thus not being able to reach any conclusion or goal. This causes the perception that meetings are
- Time consuming
This may harm any discussion or brief you want made, and in the long run, trust amongst team members.
Meetings are not necessarily evil. In fact, when done right, it can help better align your people, disseminate key information quickly and achieve your aims.
How? Here are some key principles and tips to remain focused in a meeting.
State the Objectives
There are tendencies to always miss these out. State clearly what the objective of the meeting is going to be, and what you wish to achieve from it. Do this at these two times:
- In your meeting invitation: This helps people you have invited come prepared.
- At the start of your meeting: Repeat the objective of this meeting and what you hope to achieve from it. The verbalization of objectives will help get the meeting off to the right start.
In fact, management experts argue that “If you can’t say what your meeting will accomplish, you shouldn’t have it”. Be clear of your objectives, and express it.
Do you have the right people attending this meeting? This is crucial to any good meeting. If you require a decision made, make sure key personnel or key decision makers are there to make the meeting productive. Understand clearly what each member’s role and contribution is going to be, before you host the meeting.
Timing is Crucial
Start on time, and insist that others respect that as well. Nothing is worse than an over-run meeting. Plus, it’s pertinent that you stick to the agenda. While discussions can sometimes go off-course (and it’s natural that that happens), here is a nifty trick to put everyone back on track.
Say these four words: “Let’s take this offline.”
Four words: simple, powerful and also polite. This helps to ensure the issue is still being addressed, but just not during your meeting.
Give a Summary
With all the talk and discussion, sometimes key points may have been missed out by the time the meeting ends. Give a summary of what was discussed and some key action plans to be carried out. The summary will help your team members have an understanding of what was discussed. You certainly don’t want them to say “So, what was that meeting all about again?” when they leave the boardroom.
Address Differing Behaviours
Sometimes your intentions are good. You do want to have a focused meeting, yet you realise your team is diverse with various forms of behaviourial tendencies. Staying focused can be difficult when you have:
- People who tend to the shy and quiet side
- People who often have something to say
- People who often sit on the fence
- People who strongly makes a point
- People who do not like change
- People who welcome change
Yes, it can be difficult to manage a meeting with such differences. Yet diversity is always a boon than a bane. You will need someone who can see both sides of the coin. You will need someone who questions the need to change. And you will need someone who can challenge you in your ideas.
Don’t crack out a whip. Embrace the diversity you have. Instead, use team norms, or a set of pre-agreed rules, to help your team members respect each other’s role in the meeting.
A well-run meeting begins with focus. Following some of these basic principles can help you achieve the meeting you dream of. Remember that your team is diverse and have differing thinking and behaviourial preferences. Recognising how your team ticks is the first step in harnessing their potential.
Now go have a good meeting!