“Another hour of my time wasted,” you think, as you’re leaving yet another meeting that went nowhere.” That’s very often what staff members think when their leader doesn’t take charge of a meeting (virtual or face-to-face) that he scheduled.
If you are that leader, you need to set the agenda and give clear instructions before the meeting – what people should do to prepare and what outcomes are expected. Participants will end up frustrated when they don’t know what the next steps are.
Who Needs to Attend?
Weekly staff meetings are a way for people to share information – but not always. Do individuals need to be at the meeting if the bulk of the time is devoted to a progress report on a project that doesn’t involve them? Are there clear lessons for everyone to be learned from the progress report?
A good leader will respect everyone’s time. If Sarah doesn’t need to be there, she can always get up to speed from the meeting review memo. (You do circulate the meeting review/recap within 24 hours, don’t you?)
Everyone dreads mandatory staff meetings when there is nothing of great importance to discuss. People are so busy they will be relieved if they have that extra time to work on their own projects. If possible, don’t make attendance at weekly staff meetings (virtual or in-person) mandatory.
While you may have your own agenda, ask individuals on a team if they would benefit from advice and input from other members. They may be new to the group and not up to speed on everything they need to know.
Solicit feedback throughout the meeting before you move on to the next item on the agenda. During the meeting, get constant feedback. Ask, “Did I clearly explain the new assignment?” and “Are their any questions?”
By your example, you can create a culture within the group that encourages individuals to feel safe when sharing their concerns.
Schedule Next Steps
It’s important to start the meeting on time. Don’t wait for late-comers. They will soon understand that their constant lateness wastes everyone else’s time. Ensure that you have everyone’s attention by requiring that that they put their cell phones aside and close their laptops.
End the meeting on time and state clearly who is responsible for what by when. Keep a flip chart near you to record a time line and jot down important information that surfaces during the meeting. Then write down assignments with their due dates.
Encourage discussion to reveal if someone needs extra help with an assignment. If necessary, pair a new team member with someone more experienced on a project.
Turn the discussion into a learning experience for new as well as experienced team members. You’ll also find out who is willing to help as well as identify the “prima donnas” who think they know it all and are not interested in working with others.
Praise is a great motivator but use it sparingly rather than acknowledging someone for simply completing an assignment. That diminishes praise for truly outstanding work.
Distribute a meeting review memo with the assignments as soon as possible after the meeting (this could be assigned to someone at the meeting). Be sure to complete any assignment you’ve taken on. Always lead by example.
Follow up with team members as appropriate. You don’t want to micro manage very busy people. They are already over saturated with emails and conference calls. Encourage them to contact you if and when they need help.
Meetings are embedded in the corporate culture. You will be regarded as a truly outstanding leader if you recognize that meetings should be scheduled when they are necessary to have and not simply because they are nice to have.