10 Proven Ways to Run Great Meetings
Poorly run meetings are like garbage strewn along the organizational highway. Useful meetings are like the Sumatran Tiger, powerful but nearly extinct.
Great organizations have great meetings.
7 reasons meetings suck:
- They’re too long.
- They lack purpose and outcomes.
- The wrong people are in the room.
- Participants aren’t accountable for results.
- Participants engage in turf wars.
- Few participate; many observe.
- Going along is honored while constructive dissent is stifled.
Bonus: Too many meetings suggest people aren’t aligned or authorized to act on their own.
The main reason meetings suck is the chairperson is inept.
10 Ways to run great meetings:
Chairpersons are responsible for leveraging the talent in the room and using everyone’s time effectively.
- Determine and explain the purpose of the meeting. “We are here to…”
- Prepare the agenda. Short is better. Ask for feedback on the agenda the day before.
- Make agenda items outcomes not topics.
- Place priority items first.
- Rush through “the small stuff” at the end not the beginning. They take too much time if you address them first.
- Invite people who actually do the work to participate.
- Interrupt people who talk too much. It’s better to speak to them privately but if they don’t get the message, interrupt. “Before we go too much further, I’d like to hear what Mary has to add.”
- Invite quiet people to speak. “Bob, do you have anything to add?” Yes, put them on the spot, if necessary.
- Allow conversations to stray but always bring them back to desired outcomes. “This conversation is useful but a bit off topic. Let’s come back to it another time. We’re determining the …”
- Time limits are valuable but allow long discussions on important topic. New ideas and breakthroughs take time.
How to Quickly End Useless Meetings
Contributions on Facebook.
How do successful chairpersons run meetings?
What are the biggest mistakes ineffective chairpersons make?
Great! Dan, your post is getting into the nerve of some organizations known for performance index defined as “attendance of x no. of meetings” – as if sitting around is the thing to do (but not contribution at meeting).
I must confess Juddy, this topic kicks my butt, too.
Physically present does not confirm engagement.
A recent phenomenon is people ‘faux multi-tasking’ by responding to texts and emails while in a meeting. Then days or weeks later, they may say, ‘did we discuss that in the meeting, was I there?’ You were there, but you weren’t there. Then you have to be brought back up to speed, or worse, mitigation needs to occur to remedy the deficit, both of which are a waste of resources. Too harsh?
every meeting should end with action items assigned
Thanks Bill. If action isn’t necessary probably the meeting isn’t either.
Pat Lencioni wrote “Death by Meeting”, an excellent read. And speaking of turf wars, he also wrote “Silos, Politics and Turf Wars”, another interesting read.
They are all focused on purpose. Sounds a lot like 1 above: Determine and explain the purpose of the meeting. “We are here to…”
Thanks for adding resources to the conversation… always helpful.
My consulting work focuses on making projects successful. You could change the word “meetings” to “projects” and this post covers 80% of what a project needs to do to be successful. Good post.
Thanks for extending the conversation. I was so fired up about meetings it took your comment opened my eyes to other applications.
Great point Glenn, some of the project management tools would fit very well with Dan’s 10 tips.
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Another great Leadership Freak post. Change the word “meetings” to “projects” when you read it.
Ah, meetings – the Achilles heel of otherwise skilled leaders! An observation about meeting dynamics: meeting attendees show up with varying expectations about the meeting process. Some think they are present to expand/brainstorm/create options. Others think their role is to critique/narrow choices/give thumbs up-or-down approval. Of course, most meetings have a blend of both.
Effective meeting leaders help people understand the *process* they will use to guide discussion – answering for meeting attendees, “are we in expansion or contraction mode for this part of the discussion?”
Another great post on one of my hobby-horse subjects 🙂
I believe as you do that the agenda should be published beforehand to allow people to prepare their thoughts, and indeed to request any specific preparation by specific people.
I also agree the agenda should be timebound (Point #10) item by item (with some flexibility allowed if discussion is pertinent), and that agreed actions should be logged, assigned to someone specific and should also be timebound.
billgncs is right. The only value any meeting adds is in outcomes and agreed actions (sorry, I know this is teaching you to suck eggs). I observed a meeting recently where they seemed proud of the fact that they agreed 3 actions – but the meeting took 3 hours and 8 people were present! You can guess how long it took me to point that out to them. Reminds me, I need to go back to that meeting (it’s monthly) and see if it improves.
Best regards …………..
I really enjoyed this post, thanks. I have a big meeting tomorrow and actually the main point I will take from this is for the agenda items to be made into outcomes rather than the topics that we are so used to using. thanks!
Adding on to your sending out the agenda in advance, with the minutes and set the expectation that both will be reviewed prior to the meeting.
How wasteful is it to have 10-20 people do solo/individual work in a group by reading minutes to identify corrections/changes at the beginning of the meeting? 10 minutes X 20 people = 3+hours wasted. X12 months.
If you want to push the envelope, have corrections submitted by email prior to the meeting as well.
Ooh! That’s a good one. Thanks docdisc
Oh my! I always say this about how many meetings we have in our hospital. I feel like the only thing getting done is the meeting itself!
At our church, we have great meetings but poor follow through. How can we encourage follow through with volunteers? Paid people have immediate accountability because of their paychecks. Volunteers are a whole different story.
11. Periodically align/remind agenda items with organizational vision, mission, values.
12. At beginning of meeting, 3-5 minutes of recognitions, props & kudos. (Can include ‘lessons learned’)
Most of this applies to meetings I would call “informational”, and I agree with it.
However, there are other common kinds of meetings – idea generating meetings, problem solving meetings, and decision-making meetings. These require somewhat different treatment.
For such meetings the aim is NOT to make the meetings short, but to make them JUST LONG ENOUGH to achieve the meeting objective. The corollary to this is that JUST LONG ENOUGH should also be AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE (OK, so oxymorons are my specialty).
When I run a brainstorming meeting, I canvass the group before the meeting to have them submit ideas. I summarize and collate the ideas submitted to combine like ideas and eliminate duplication. At the meeting, the ideas already produced can be supplemented by new thoughts sparked by the existing list. When doing a SWOT list, for example, this saves hours or even a day!
For decision making meetings, I ask everyone to come to the meeting having already reviewed the alternatives and ready to support one of them or to make concrete suggestions for change.
Brainstorming, problem-solving and decision-making meetings that address shared and substantive issues can be very powerful tools to align people around key decisions. When the right preparation is done before the meeting, they can become high-leverage activities that strengthen the team and make very efficient use of people’s precious time.
LOVE this post. Thank you! This is going in my “check this every couple weeks and make sure you’re hitting the bullet points” list! 🙂
One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is we have 3 generations in the work place right now — Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y — and each generation has different preferences and styles on meetings. How do you adjust to that in your company?
Great question Devan. I’m going to ask my facebook family. http://www.facebook.com/LeadershipFreak
Love the list! Do you listen to the Manager-Tools podcast. Those guys have a similar list. You know all great leaders need at least some management acumen.
Hi Dave, thanks for the good word. I don’t listen to manager tools but I think I better check them out.
Similar to the post about Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y all coming together for a meeting, a meeting can also be challenging to meet the needs of different personality types and preferences.
One meeting might bring together participants that are action oriented, task oriented, strategy oriented and people oriented. Each personality type has its own personal preferences. For example the task oriented person will have their needs best met with an agenda provided prior to the meeting, everything kept on time during the meeting and detailed minutes provided after the meeting.
I like your simple lists to help claim focus to the meeting and hopefully meet the needs of all personality types.
A good post, and some excellent points (most of which have already been discussed :)). Just one thing I would add – rushing through small things is, IMO, never a good idea. If you have so many small things to rush through, then they probably deserve a meeting in their own right.
One mistake is to allow side convos to go on for too long. They distract from the focus as well as being disrespectful to the person that has the floor.
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10 Ways to run great meetings